Back to School with Food Allergies

Back to School with Food Allergies

IF YOUR CHILD has food allergies, the start of the school year requires extra planning. In addition to packing allergy-free lunches and snacks, it’s important to speak with the school’s nurse and your child’s teacher to make sure they’re aware of his or her allergies and what to do if the food in question is accidentally eaten.

Milk, egg and peanut are the mostcommon food allergies for school-age children. Others include wheat, soy, tree nuts, shellfish and sesame.
For those parents who are new to sending a child with food allergies to school, we’ve put together some guidelines. Even if you’re an old hand at this, read on to learn about resources and possible treatments.

Schools have different policies about food allergies, so your first step is to find out what guidelines your child’s school has in place and tell them about his or her needs.

Children with a food allergy need to have access to an auto-injectable epinephrine (EpiPen or AUVI-Q) to treat emergency reactions. For younger children, the auto-injector is generally kept in the school nurse’s office.

The school nurse and your child’s teacher should have a copy of your child’s food allergy emergency care plan, which you and your child’s doctor fill out. This plan explains what your child is allergic to; what his or her food-allergy symptoms are; how to use the auto-injector; your child’s emergency contacts; and when to call 911.

It’s rare for a child to be so allergic to peanuts, for example, that they cannot be in the same room with another child eating a peanut butter sandwich. But some parents prefer their children eat lunch at a nut-free or allergen-free table. Find out if your school sets aside space for children with food allergies.

Ask the teacher to alert you ahead of time if there will be a celebration at school that involves food so you can send your child to school with his or her own treat.

The group Food Allergy Research and Education ( has information for schools on food allergies that parents can share with school staff.

This includes national guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on managing food allergies in schools; training on how to keep students with food allergies safe and included; and a checklist for teachers with students diagnosed with a food allergy.