There is just something about that hint of autumn that reminds me that summer is nearly over. Luckily, this is 2013 and NOT 2012, so I won’t be heading back to school this year. Phew!
But when Alicia Woodward, editor-in-chief of Living Without magazine, asked if I would like some Back to School tips for families with food allergies, I said sure!
As an adult in college, I often had mini meltdowns trying to find quick, easy, and portable food options. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for a busy family on the go!
Alicia’s expert tips:
Develop a plan - Meet with your child's pediatrician and/or allergist to develop a plan, then review it with the school staff: principal, school nurse, teachers and lunchroom monitors.
Determine whether the school already has food allergy protocols in place - Leverage existing policies, modifying them to meet your child's specific needs. For life-threatening food allergies, consider championing for new protocols, such as a nut free school environment or Epi-Pens in the classrooms.
Educate your children in an age appropriate way - Teach children about their food allergies and empower them to speak up for themselves. Ensure they know what their symptoms feel like and how to communicate possible symptoms to an adult. Teach them how to read labels and to ask about ingredients in every snack and meal. Remind them to adamantly refuse their trigger foods.
Prepare for an emergency - Create an Emergency Action Plan outlining your child's symptoms and what to do if they occur. Keep medications nearby and ensure that school staff knows how to administer them.
Communicate with other parents - Ask the school to distribute a letter letting parents know that a student with a severe food allergy is in their child’s class Educate classmates' parents about your child's food allergy and explain if it's a life-threatening condition. Ask for their cooperation and outline what they can do to help keep your child safe.
Request modifications for special celebrations. If your child's class celebrates birthdays and other holidays, ask the teacher to notify you in advance so you can send in a safe treat for your child to eat. Advocate for non-food related activities - e.g., giving out small toys or stickers instead of cupcakes - so that everyone can be included.
Be appreciative - Thank school staff - and other parents - for their continued efforts to keep your child safe at school. Praise them for things they're doing well and be politely persistent if further changes are necessary.
While exposure to gluten for someone with Celiac Disease doesn’t warrant an Epi-Pen, the above tips are still helpful for gluten free folks. What the tips stress to me, are the importance of planning ahead, and communicating clearly with others about your food allergies or intolerances.
For my gluten free lifestyle, I’ve always tried to take time and plan a few meals that I know I can make quickly and can travel well.
Easy to make ahead and easy to store in the fridge until you’re ready to travel.