Back to school: A parent’s guide to managing allergies in a school setting
Just when you finally got used to the summer routine (or lack thereof!), somehow school decided to work its way back into our lives once again. The sun-kissed beach days, family cookouts, and relaxed structure were a nice change of pace for a while, but it’s time to face reality.
Yes, school time is here again!
Many of us are already packing lunches, filling up calendars with sporting events, music lessons, and booster club meetings (all while keeping up with our own hectic work schedules too!) The planning can really make a parent’s head spin. Can you say “logistical overload”?
Let’s face it, the beginning of a new school year can make us all a bit panicky….how will my child adapt to his/her new teacher or school? What time do we all need to get up to make it on time? Will my child get enough rest even though his internal summer clock is now on the same schedule as Jimmy Fallon’s? Yikes!
For the parent of a child with allergies, the questions and concerns are far more serious. Will my child be safe this year and how can I ensure they stay as healthy as possible?
While we can’t exactly help you with your night owl, we can offer up some great tips for your allergy sufferers (both food and seasonally affected). Keep our checklist handy along with those awesome school supply lists your child keeps nudging in your face.
Tips for kids with food and seasonal allergies
Ensure they are up to date with vaccinations and allergy shots. This is a biggie. If you can squeeze in your pediatrician/allergist appointments before school starts, even better.
While you are at the allergist’s, ensure you are adequately stocked up on Epipens for both your child’s backpack and the school nurse and/or teacher (depending on your particular school’s regulations). Make sure they all know how to use them. Also provide the school with any relevant medications your child needs. Also, check your supply; with the recent shortages, some expiration dates have been extended. We’ve provided more info on Epipens on our website.
Start getting them in a routine again, especially with sleep! Your child’s immune system functions way better on a good night’s sleep. If you’re not sure how much sleep your kiddos need, click here for a handy chart.
Communicate with nurses/teachers and basically anyone who has contact with your child (does the bus driver need to know? Then, by all means, tell her!) Make sure your child’s teachers know the basic details of their allergy and the signs and symptoms to look for too.
Know the rules at school. Is there a peanut free table or room for your child?
For your child with asthma be sure to stock up on inhalers, keeping one in the backpack at all times. If possible, provide the school with a written allergy management plan from your child’s doctor, such as a 504 plan.
Since you’re already a pro at reading those food labels, be sure to also check expiration dates on all of your child’s medications and the ones you keep at school. Expired meds can be less effective.
Empower your child, even at the earliest age possible. Make sure they never share snacks with their buddies, even if it’s something innocent like a carrot stick. Did Susie’s mom use the same cutting board for the walnuts she chopped earlier? It’s never too early to teach your child to speak up!
Sometimes, food allergies may crop up for the first time while a child is at school so when in doubt, ask for an allergy test from your allergist. Tests may include a skin prick test, blood test or patch test. Following up with your child’s allergist for a panel test and blood work every six months is also a great idea.
Summer is over and life as we know it is now going to resemble a tornado on steroids. It’s OK! If you find yourself desperately seeking a parental timeout, just close your eyes and go to your summer happy place….sipping ice cold lemonade on your hammock, where school lunches magically make themselves and kids can Uber to their music lessons and soccer practice.
Parenting a child with allergies sure keeps us on our toes, with some extra planning and clear communication with your child’s team, it is possible for your kiddos to have a safe and healthy school year.