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Allergy Today Advice Article: Back to school tips for children and young people with food allergies

Do you have children starting or returning to school this year who have food allergies? Take a read through some of these tips and resources for helping keep them safe at school. iStock-181086033-975
  1. Anaphylaxis Action Plan: check it is still current and if not, ask your child’s doctor for a signed, updated one, including details of prescribed/recommended medications e.g. EpiPen®, antihistamines, asthma inhalers. Insert a recent photo of your child. Provide copies to the school. Go to https://www.allergy.org.au/health-professionals/anaphylaxis-resources/ascia-action-plan-for-anaphylaxis for Action Plans. 

Information about anaphylaxis has now been translated into Te Reo, Samoan and Tongan as well as a range of other languages. These are available on: https://www.allergy.org.au/hp/anaphylaxis#ta5

  1. EpiPen®: check the expiry date on your child’s EpiPen(s) and replace if necessary. If one has been left at the school, ask to see it to check the date and that the adrenaline is clear (if discoloured or cloudy it will need to be replaced). Remember, if you register with www.epiclub.co.nz they will send you a reminder when your EpiPen® is due to expire. They’ll also send you a free training kit.

*Your child might be eligible for a free EpiPen® under the FundaPenTM  Initiative. See the FundaPenTM Update in this issue for more information

  1. Sort out a container for your child’s medication, including their EpiPen®, to be kept at school. It will need to be clearly labelled with your child’s name and include a copy of their Anaphylaxis Action Plan. If your child is going to carry their EpiPen® with them, check out the adrenaline auto-injector pouches available on Allergy New Zealand’s shop online: http://www.allergy.org.nz/shop/Shop+online/Adrenaline+pouches.html
     
  2. If you haven’t already, arrange to meet with your child’s teacher, school or public health nurse, and other staff as appropriate, to discuss a healthcare plan. This is to establish policies and procedures to minimise the risk of your child accidentally ingesting the food to which they are allergic. These will need to be age-appropriate, in context with the school and facilities, and take into account locums, school outings, class events, sports and other activities.

Resources you can suggest to the school include:

  1. Check that school staff, including your child’s teacher(s), have received training on anaphylaxis including regular (annual) updates. If they don’t currently have access to training, recommend they do the free ASCIA online course, which is available on: https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/anaphylaxis-e-training-schools-and-childcare . Schools can also register with www.epiclub.co.nz to receive a free EpiPen® education kit. You (and your child if old enough) could do the training too.
     
  2. Teach your child the key safety steps in managing their food allergy.
  • Check the school has a policy of ‘no sharing of food or drink’, and how this is implemented and monitored. Reinforce this with your child. Insist that you will be contacted in advance if an event involving shared food is being planned.
     
  • Help your child talk about their food allergy and have the support of their classmates. Suggest the idea of role-playing to the teacher e.g. if the child had a reaction while playing, what should they (and their classmates) do.
  1. For teenagers, it is a good idea to request a review of their food allergies and anaphylaxis action plan by their doctor or specialist prior to starting secondary school. This could help identify concerns they may have including peer pressure and bullying; and health issues such as anxiety. Strategies for dealing with these could then be discussed and passed on to the school if appropriate. 

There is a great interactive website for teenagers and young adults to get information and share experiences with others with food allergies https://250k.org.au/

  1. 250K also has resources for schools – pass these on to the teachers, as a great way to raise awareness and educate the school community: https://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/Allergy_Aware_presentation_primary_school_FINAL.pdf https://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/Allergy_Aware_presentation_secondary_school_FINAL.pdf
     

Penny Jorgensen, Allergy Advisor, Allergy New Zealand
January 2020