Food Allergy Awareness Week: Managing Allergies at School…
About 2 months ago, I put Mr. D in full day daycare/preschool. It was a extremely difficult decision and to took me several discussions with people and a meeting with the school to finally take the leap of faith that these people I was entrusting my son to would be able to take care of him should something happen. In one conversation in particular I voiced my fear that if he goes to preschool and some kid gives him a cupcake I am going to be making a trip to the ER. With out a doubt, I am confident with his preschool teachers because one of them herself has the same allergy. I was relieved to find that information out with in the first 5 minutes.
While I know that I can not keep him in a “bubble”, I have to trust that what I am doing is the best for him while ensuring that I do everything possible to make sure he is safe. I also have a travel card of items to avoid which have milk in them that I found here and printed out for his lunchbag, backpack and his teacher. These travel cards came from this website http://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/blog/hidden-names-for-milk-on-labels-avoidance-list-for-milk-allergy I have the PDF version of the cards I use here Milk-Allergy-Avoidance-List-Travel-Cards. You can see more of how I started prepping for Mr. D at school on this post: thismamaslife.com/soy-sunday-128-food-allergy-must-haves-daycare
Because Mr. D is allergic to Dairy, I am going to mostly focus on that area. However some information is useful no matter the allergen you are working around. I found multiple sources of information on the internet but one of the most comprehensive websites was http://www.foodallergy.org/ (also known as FARE) It has information for not just the top 8 allergens but also for many other allergens, like insect stings, which my mother and daughter have a reaction to. The information below is directly from their website and it is what I refer to when I have questions.
Please note that I have no affiliation with FARE, Foodallergy.org or AllergicLiving.com and that all opinions in this post are mine. I have received no compensation for any information provided and some information belongs to the owners/ writers of the foodallergy.org or AllergicLiving.com websites.
Managing (Dairy) Allergies at School: 4 Steps to Success
Longtime food allergy advocate Maria Acebal, a director of FARE, the food allergy research and education organization, and former CEO of FAAN (its predecessor), sets out four essential steps to safeguarding your child at school.
1. Get a Doctor’s Note.
A written food allergy and anaphylaxis emergency care plan must be filled in and signed by your child’s physician and given to the school administration.
For dairy allergy, it should distinguish the condition from intolerance and emphasize the seriousness of a reaction. If your child takes part in a school meal program, a medical diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening dairy allergy will also set the wheels in motion for dairy-free meal accommodations.
2. Train Staff.
Every school year, all staff who might interact with your child (including specialty teachers for art, language, gym and librarians) should be instructed on how to avoid allergic reactions, how to recognize one if it happens and what to do if an emergency occurs.
3. Establish Epinephrine Access.
Auto-injectors for your child need to be on hand with the school, and all staff must be made aware of their availability. Let the school know that, under the 2013 School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, they are encouraged to keep stock epinephrine auto-injectors on hand.
4. Create a Food Allergy Policy.
Work with your child’s school to create a written policy that addresses how food allergies will be managed in the classroom and lunch room, covering everything from surface sanitization to how birthdays will be celebrated. Address non-food items that may contain milk protein, including art supplies and dustless chalk, which can get on hands or into the air, promoting respiratory issues.
Managing Milk Allergy at School
By: Susan Clemens. Susan Clemens is the moderator of AllergicLiving.com’s Talking Allergies Forum. Join her for discussion under the “Schools” thread.
KEEPING THE CHILD SAFE
First, meet the principal.
It’s best to do this before school starts, and this step is essential for a first year at a school. You need to make sure that the principal understands the issues involved with dairy allergy. Make a good first impression; be reasonable, clear and encourage mutual respect. Know what you want to achieve. But, let the principal and/or vice principal speak first and explain the allergy procedures the school has developed. This fosters a positive atmosphere, and then you’ll only have to make the case for a few important items.
Be aware of the minefields.
Direct dairy sources at school include: milk programs, pizza parties, chocolate, goldfish crackers, cheese strings, yogurt and bread. Cross-contamination or contact reactions can result from old Play-dough, toys, faucets and door knobs. In the younger grades, children still place fingers in their mouths or noses and accidental ingestion this way can cause reactions.
Focus on reducing the risk.
Some schools will make a specific classroom “allergy-friendly” and restrict dairy products to protect an allergic child. But milk in the form of whey, casein or modified milk ingredients is in so many foods that completely restricting it in a school would: not be practical, cause an uproar, and be impossible to police. Still, according to several anaphylaxis laws and policies in the United States and Canada, a principal is required to devise and communicate the plan to minimize a food-allergic child’s exposures. If there is a milk program, discuss how your child will be accommodated (e.g. special table, no straws).
SPECIFIC TIPS ON MILK ALLERGY AT SCHOOL
- Request water and fruit/vegetable snacks if possible. Added bonus: less mess and more nutritious.
- Firmly request a “no-sharing” policy.
- Get the school behind: a hand-washing policy. Pupils with food allergies should wash their hands before eating and everyone should wash afterward.
- Discuss the dairy-at-school issue with your allergist. Get that advice in writing. A note from a medical specialist will carry weight.
- Work with the teacher; act as a resource. When the principal asks about dairy issues, don’t get defensive. Sometimes he or she just needs more information to help explain to other parents.
- Join the parent council; volunteer for events. You will be able to offer safe solutions to allergy issues that others fail to notice.
- The more dangerous times are non-routine days, including: substitute teacher days, outings, celebrations, snow days and guests in the classroom. Have a plan for these occurrences.
- Field trip awareness: What is the planned activity? Where will it happen? Who will be there? Will there be food present? If so, what is it – and who’s responsible for it? Will there be supervision by someone who is trained on symptoms and how to administer the auto-injector?
- Don’t discuss food issues with irate parents; remind them that changes are at the discretion of the principal.