A few years ago, I wrote a children’s book “Starting School with a Food Allergy: Tips for a Peanut Allergic Kid.” It covers the rules a boy named Ricky needs to follow to keep himself safe at school. Ricky will eat his own food from home and will sit with friends eating safe lunches. Ricky will learn to read and will love recess!
My kids are annoyed with all the back-to-school sales and ads. But it is that time! If you are sending a food allergic child to school for the first time, this can be a very busy stressful time for you! Here are some important decisions you need to make:
- Who can provide my child with food?
- Does my child need an allergy free table?
- Is my child mature enough to tell a teacher if he or she feels sick?
Who can provide my child with food?
Along with peanuts and tree nuts, our son has some less common allergies to chick peas, lentils and other foods. At home we avoid any foods that may contain traces of peanut or tree nuts. We decided it was safest for him to only eat food from home while at school. Even if a teacher or cafeteria lady or friend thought the food was safe, it was not allowed.
Every child with food allergies has a unique situation. Research the cafeteria food. Decide now what is right for your child this year, and then be consistent with your child, the teachers and the cafeteria workers.
Does my child need an allergy free table?
This again depends on your child’s situation. My son’s friends yelled with their mouths full, especially in K and 1st grade. Sitting next to them was interesting! At times I had to swab off my face. So yes, we did and still do have a peanut free table.
Unfortunately, a severe milk or egg allergy can be more isolating than nut allergies. Some schools have a dedicated desk that is covered, except when the specific food allergic child goes to lunch. The child uncovers the desk and pulls it up to the main table.
Plan to go to lunch several times that first week of school. You need to see for yourself how things are going. This is easier and more reliable than trying to extract info from your child after a long day. Is your cafeteria plan working? The ideal situation is for your child to be safe and not socially isolated.
Is my child mature enough to tell a teacher if he or she feels sick?
Accidents happen. Reactions occur. Your child needs to tell an adult if they feel unwell. Encourage your child to speak up. If they have their hand up to go potty, they can wait to be called on. If they feel symptoms of an allergic reaction, they should be able to get immediate attention from a teacher or aide. They don’t need to sit and wait to be called on. Give them permission to break the regular rules and get out of their seat to ask for help.
More to come soon on Kindergarten kisses, cafeteria trash cans and classroom helper jobs!