2. Educate your child and other people in your life

Talk freely to your child about their food allergies, in an age-appropriate way, of course. Do not try to protect or shield them from this important information - we cannot emphasize this enough! Food allergies are something your child will live with for the rest of his or her life (unless they outgrow it – please consult your doctor for more information). The more you educate your child, the better he or she will be at protecting themselves when they are away from you. In the same spirit, talk about food allergies and how to keep your child safe to all immediate family members, extended family, friends, neighbors, teachers, babysitters, and caregivers. You must inform the people in your life so that they can help if there is an emergency.

This won't happen overnight. It might take years before some people actually “get” what you're trying to tell them. The point is that having a food allergy is NOT something to hide and is not something to be taken lightly. If people in your life do not know about your child's food allergies, they will not be able to react quickly in an emergency situation. The result could be tragic.

If someone is caring for your child when you're not there (babysitter, play date at a friend's house, daycare, school, summer camp, etc.) you MUST tell them about your child's allergies, the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and provide them with an EpiPen if your allergist has prescribed one. Demonstrate how to use the EpiPen and instruct them to have it nearby while your child is in their care. If you are not comfortable doing this, please do not leave your child unattended in someone else's care.

What to do about school:
Unless you home school, there will be several hours each day when your child is not with you. You have to tell your child's teacher and the school nurse about the food allergies. Ask what their policy is for handling allergic reactions. If you don't like what they say, then educate them and work, in a non-confrontational way, on getting the policy changed.

Give them an EpiPen to keep in case of an emergency, and ask the nurse to demonstrate for you how they would use it. Make sure they are using it correctly.

Ask where it will be stored. Epinephrine must be stored at room temperature; it cannot be refrigerated, left in direct sunlight, or placed somewhere that is too warm. Please refer to the instructions that came with your EpiPen and click here for more information about epinephrine.

Pack a lunch for your child everyday with safe foods. Do not let your child buy from the cafeteria. Make sure your child knows that they cannot eat anyone else's food. Teach them that if you didn't pack it, then they don't eat it.

You'll probably have to give the school written permission to speak freely about your child's food allergies
School teachers and staff have a duty to protect your personal information to preserve your privacy, particularly as it relates to medical conditions. But for the food allergic child, silence can cost your child their life. There are an endless number of scenarios we could present to you where kids are simply being kids but the result is that your child eats something that could cause them to stop breathing. The most important point is that you work with your child's teacher to open up the dialogue among your child's classmates so that they and their parents are aware and can make an attempt to help reduce your child's exposure.

To be able to work with your child's teacher to keep the classroom environment safe for your child, you will likely have to beg them to tell the other students in class and their parents about your child's allergies. We encourage you to do whatever you have to do to raise awareness about your child's allergies at their school. Again, if you do it in an educational way – not in a threatening or confrontational way – you're likely to be pleased with the result.

Learn more about this topic
Two of our favorite websites, The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (“FAAN”) and Food Allergy Initiative, have great recommendations about keeping your food-allergic child safe at school. Please click on Food Allergy Resource Links for more detail.


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