Every parent feels anxious when their child starts school. You can't be there every moment of the day to check on their safety and wellbeing. It's even more stressful when the child has an allergy. So, how can you make sure that your child - whether they're a tot or a teen - stays safe, healthy and comfortable when they're at school?
Allergies in Children
Children can be allergic to anything. Milk, nuts, latex and dust are key offenders. Reactions are diverse too. Contact with an allergen can bring on an asthma attack, diarrhoea, nausea, rashes, runny or stuffy nose and eczema. Every parent's worst fear is an anaphylactic reaction, which can even result in death.
Talk to the School
Communication is a must when it comes to preventing an allergic reaction at school. Talk to the Head Teacher and work out two action plans.
A Day to Day Plan - This might include what needs to happen at meal times, break times and during certain lessons - like art or PE. Always try to avoid drastic action, such as seating your child away from other children at mealtimes. Children with allergies are normal children! It's important that they don't feel isolated or 'different' from their peers.
An Emergency Plan - Who will hold your child's medication? Who will call emergency services? Ensure that everyone is aware of the early signs of a reaction and knows exactly what to do when they see them.
Talk to your Child -Empower your child without frightening them. Encourage them to speak up when they're not sure if something is safe. Peer pressure can be a powerful thing. Talk about ways to turn down foods or activities without 'losing face.'
Take care around balloons, art materials and even stickers - frequently given to young school children as rewards. Bananas, kiwi and other fruits that may have had a sticker on their skin should also be avoided.
Some schools operate a 'nut free zone', but there are pros and cons to this. Your child might develop a false sense of security and stop checking everything they eat. You could supply your child with a packed lunch, but it's possible that they could get safe and healthy meals from the school canteen if you've discussed your child's allergy fully with the Head Teacher and catering staff. Don't forget to make sure the Food Technology Teacher is aware of your child's allergy, so that potentially dangerous ingredients and kitchen equipment can be eliminated.
There are plenty of dairy-free alternatives on the market nowadays, so talk to the school about making dairy free drinks, desserts, treats and meals available. Make sure your child is aware that milk is sometimes hidden - in pastries, batter, pies, bakes and cakes.
Always make sure your child wears the appropriate insect repellent. Talk to the school about having insect repellents in the classroom. When it comes to school uniform, talk to the Head Teacher about ways your child can stay covered up with long sleeves and trousers, without looking 'different' from other children, or breaking school rules.
Asthma is not an allergy, but it can be triggered by certain foods, such as milk, or by dust. Be aware of your child's triggers, and discuss them with school staff. Make sure your child always has an inhaler to hand and ensure staff know what to do in an emergency.