Why does it always feel like the new school season sneaks up on me, even when I’m thinking that I’d welcome the return to routine? Some of you have already gone back to school (either yourself or your kids), and some are heading back shortly. Even if you don’t have children and school is the furthest thing from your mind, it’s still a great opportunity to review the systems you have in place to control your special dietary and medication needs.
1. I know it is stressful to put your child’s life in someone else’s hands. But remember that this may be an educational journey for the staff you’re speaking to. It is imperative to work through the issues positively but firmly and recognize that it may take several meetings and contact on your part to implement an appropriate plan. Having all staff who will deal with your child present at the same meeting is helpful but also ensure that part-time staff or teacher substitutes are included in the staff plan. If you are in a workplace environment, take the time to educate your boss and co-workers. Don’t assume that because someone has dealt with your same medical concern before, they know everything about the condition and treatment.
2. As a former elementary teacher, I really appreciated having the parent of the child with medical concerns (food or otherwise) provide me with some helpful information and tips that I should be aware of. This could include suggestions for healthy lunch ideas for the class that don’t include the allergen, facts about the food allergy he or she will deal with, providing safe treats to keep in the classroom and perhaps offering to come in and speak to the class about your child’s allergy. Back to school is an incredibly busy time for teachers so taking away the burden of doing their own research about the allergy is appreciated and gives them something to refer to throughout the year.
3. If the school does not already do so, create a bright, colorful poster with a picture of your child on it, what they are allergic to and the steps to take if a suspected reaction occurs. Consider making several posters for the office, the staff room and any classroom your child will be in. This is one situation where it is okay for your child to stand out; it may save their life. Dorm rooms and offices where allergic adults are should be considered for this as well.
4. Now is the perfect time to ensure that your epi pens are up to date, any antihistamines required are stored with the epi pen and instructions have not worn off the side of your epi-pen.
5. If you do not yet have an alert bracelet or necklace for yourself or your child, now is the time to get one. If you don’t want to get a medic alert brand bracelet, you can find what you need at your local jewellery store and have it engraved as to your medical condition. If you already have a bracelet, check that any engraving has not worn down and is still readable by emergency personnel.
6. Do you have any old epi-pens or an epi-pen trainer? If not, get one. This is the time to refresh yourself on the use of the epi pen at the same time as teaching any new people in your or your child’s life from teachers to daycare providers and bosses to friends.
7. Make sure your child is well prepared. For us, this meant a lot of instruction on hand washing and setting ground rules for not sharing food, etc. Include them in their choices of safe treats that will be kept at the school so they always know they’ve got something yummy should an unexpected food event occur, like another child’s birthday.
8. Speaking of hand washing, make sure that your school has appropriate soap and towels (we had to get the school board to put up liquid soap dispensers) and that your child always has ready access to running water with ample supplies. Hand washing before eating is much easier to control then having all surfaces washing consistently.
9. Be prepared to be involved at school with everything from baking/bringing safe treats for parties to field trips and participating on the Parent Council. It’s time consuming but worth every second.
10. Finally… be good to yourself. Worry and sleepless nights take their toll on not only you but your allergic child. Take the time to spend extra time with your allergic child doing something fun just for the two of you; you’ll be glad you did.
Do you have some of your own tips? Be sure to add your comments.