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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Food Allergy Binder - Some Simple Ideas to Make Your Back to School Transition Easier

My past few weeks have been focused on 'Back to School' preparations.  As much as I wish it wasn't true, having kids with food allergies, especially life-threatening ones, adds additional stresses.  Besides new supplies, new clothes and new schedules, we add in annual meetings with the teachers, the Principal and the school nurse.  

Food Allergy Preparedness For School
Here is my biggest take away from the past week.  Not only get your paperwork in for the school office and nurse, but put together a simple binder for your child's teacher.  This is what I am going to put in mine:
1.  COPY OF YOUR FOOD ALLERGY ACTION PLAN, AND A PICTURE OF YOUR CHILD.  Here are two food allergy actions plans I like:
2.  COPY OF YOUR 504 PLAN OR WRITTEN MANAGEMENT PLAN (possibly an IHP [Individual Emergency Health Care Plan]), if you have one.  This addresses the specifics of how your school will manage food allergies throughout the school, such as in the classroom, lunchroom, recess, bus rides and school trips.

3.  A LIST OF SAFE FOODS YOUR CHILD CAN EAT.

4.  CONTACT PHONE NUMBERS/NAMES/EMAILS, including yours and friends' you can depend on in case of emergency.  These may be included on the 504 Plan or IHP, but I am going to have a separate page with these clearly and largely typed.

5.  REFERENCE ARTICLES and specific guidance on your child's specific previous reactions:  Here are 3 I am adding to my binder.
  • Food Allergy Symptoms - National Jewish Health
  • Preparing to Send Your Food Allergic Child to School - National Jewish Health
  • Food Allergy Symptoms and How A Child May Describe a Reaction - FARE
  • I am going to have a type written sheet outlining what they can expect to see, based on my child's previous exposures, to certain foods.  They are quite different. For example: 
    •  Milk Reaction = mildly itchy mouth
    • Kiwi = Small cold-sore like bumps on inside of lip
    • Fish Reaction = itchy mouth & throat, vomiting within 90 seconds
    • Peanuts = Anaphylaxis; coughing, slowed breathing, itchiness in throat, disorientation, vomiting; could be slow or fast moving - administer benadryl and EPI
Have a container with extra SAFE snacks for your child, such as popcorn, granola bars or cookies in their classroom.  I have pre-baked, iced cupcakes or a dessert of some type marked and available in our teacher's lounge freezer.  This is a wonderful option, if you can do it.  Just remember to tell the teachers!

We are bestowing a huge responsibility and trust on teachers as educators and caretakers of our youth while they are at school.  The least we can do as parents, is to provide them with the resources to help them feel more confident and prepared to manage any challenges they may come across in helping our food allergic children.  

Be patient and work together.  Making sure everyone is on the same page is challenging.. remember that NO matter how organized you think you are, it is going to be a work in progress for the first few days.. possibly the first few weeks. 

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