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Back To School Tips for Kids with Food Allergies

August 23, 2022 3 min read

New backpacks, clothes, and school supplies - there’s a lot of thought that goes into your back-to-school planning. But when you have a child with food allergies, there can be a lot more trepidation about this exciting time of year. 

From swapping snacks with classmates to field trips and parties in classrooms, there is a lot to consider when sending your child back into the classroom. 

That’s why at SpoonfulONE we’re here to help alleviate some of your worries and help you send your little one off to school with confidence. Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks for managing food allergies in school.

How to prepare for school if your child has food allergies

Whether your little one is stepping into a classroom for the first time or is heading back for another school year and you need a refresher, follow along with our food allergy checklist for school:

1. Take a deep breath

Giving up some control over your child’s diet and nutrition can be a scary thing. You are not alone. Nearly two children out of every classroom have been diagnosed with food allergies, but with rising prevalence, comes rising access to resources and education.

Schools, classrooms, and cafeterias are more aware of food allergies than ever before, and are there to collaborate on how to keep your child safe and confident with food. 

2. Make or review your food allergy emergency treatment plan

Many pediatricians provide a food allergy emergency treatment plan for parents. Also called a 504 plan, these plans include what foods your child is allergic to, the symptoms to recognize in an allergic reaction, and what actions should be taken if it were to occur.

If you do not already have one, it is important to create an emergency treatment plan that you can then share with your child, school, and other adults in their life. 

3. Have a discussion with your child

One of the most important things you can do is have a deeper discussion with your child about their food allergies. Share with them their food allergy treatment plan, and encourage ways that they can self-manage their food allergies. 

Remind them to:

  • Only eat foods given by a trusted adult
  • Understand the symptoms of an allergic reaction
  • Seek out an adult immediately if they feel sick or in need of help
  • Not swap and eat foods from classmates
  • Tell others about their food allergy whenever food is presented

If they are old enough, teach them to keep their emergency medications with them, how to self-inject epinephrine, as well as how to read and understand labels.   

4. Have a discussion with your child’s school

Get in touch with your child’s school and share their food allergy emergency treatment plan. Some schools will have additional paperwork for food allergies, and use this to open up a conversation with applicable school personnel such as teachers, administrators, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, coaches, and the school nurse

Be sure to ask questions such as:

  • Where will your child’s epinephrine be stored if they cannot carry their own?
  • What non-food incentives can be offered in the place of candy and snacks?
  • If they are receiving school meals, what is the protocol for your child?
  • How will field trips and classroom parties or celebrations be handled?

Provide up-to-date contact information in case of emergency or if a teacher or staff member has questions about particular foods. 

5. Discuss routine cleaning and hand-washing

Increased cleaning and handwashing can help reduce the potential risk of children having contact with a triggering food or protein.

Teachers and administrators need to know that hand sanitizer does not remove food allergens. Water and soap is the safest way to clean the skin of any food particles that could cause a reaction. Speak to your child on the importance of hand washing, and with teachers and administrators on thorough disinfection of eating areas.

6. Discuss alternative snacks for the classroom and field trips

You and your children’s teachers should agree on a clear and agreed-upon protocol for snacks in the classroom. When there are birthdays, holidays, or classroom parties - snacks or candies may be common in the classroom. 

To help your student stay a part of the celebration while also staying safe, you may wish to provide the teachers or staff with some safe snacks that they can keep in the classroom.