Summer is coming to an end and another school year is upon us. While many parents are busy making sure their child has the necessary school supplies to succeed, some parents need to make sure their child will be safe at school with a food allergy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about two students per class have a food allergy, and those allergies are on the rise.
“Milk, eggs, peanuts, soybeans, wheat, fish, shellfish, sesame, and tree nuts, such as walnuts and cashews, cause 90% of all allergic reactions in children,” said Judith Prairie, a physician at the Family Care Center of Mooresville.
A food allergy occurs when the body mistakenly identifies a protein in a particular food as a foreign invader and the immune system attacks it. This immune system response results in a sudden release of chemicals, such as histamine, which causes an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction vary in severity and are not always the same every time. A child having an allergic reaction may experience itching or swelling of the mouth or throat, an itchy rash, nausea, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, weak pulse and chest pain, for n to name a few.
The sudden appearance of more than one of the above symptoms may signal a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. These symptoms worsen quickly and can be life threatening, so medical attention is needed immediately. To control a severe reaction, an immediate injection of epinephrine (EpiPen) is needed.
For families with children who have food allergies, a new teacher and routine can be stressful and uncertain. Below, Prairie provides some tips that can help you prepare for the upcoming school year.
Make an appointment with your child’s primary care provider before returning to school.
It’s important to see your child’s healthcare provider before they start school to discuss if their symptoms have changed or if they have any new food allergies.
“Your primary care provider can also assess your current food allergy action plan and update it as needed. Another reason to see your child’s provider is that the medications are expiring. So a new prescription may be needed,” Prairie said.
Contact the school.
You and your child’s school want your child to be in a safe and healthy environment, so partnering with the school is essential to successfully managing your child’s food allergy.
You can start by contacting your child’s school and asking to make an appointment with the school nurse. Then you and the school nurse can develop an individual plan that includes a list of your child’s allergies, possible symptoms, medications prescribed, how often treatment should be given and who is responsible for giving it. , along with details of emergency procedures.
During this meeting you can also discuss how class parties and field trips will be handled and how the school will handle a severe allergic reaction.
Your child’s school will then share this information with teachers, bus drivers and others who will be caring for your child at school.
If your child has a severe allergy, such as an airborne peanut allergy, you must make an appointment with the school nurse before the first day of class to ensure your child’s safety.
Get your child involved.
You need to make sure your child understands that he is allergic and that certain foods can make him very sick. According to Prairie, you should also teach them the names of foods they are allergic to and point them out at the grocery store or even in books or online.
You should also tell your child to only eat food that you or another trusted adult has given them, and encourage them not to share food with their friends. As they grow, you can show your child which ingredients to watch out for on food labels.
Most importantly, teach your child to find an adult if they start to feel sick.
Also, always be on the lookout for signs that your child might be bullied at school because of their food allergy. Some signs of bullying include refusing to go to school, depression, upset stomach, changes in sleeping or eating habits, drop in grades, loss or breakage of objects and personal effects or unexplained injuries.
Create a support group.
As the parent of a child with a food allergy, remember that you are not alone – many parents are in exactly the same situation. Create a support group with other parents. There are several groups on social media where you can connect and share stories and advice with parents who also have children with food allergies.
“I encourage my patients to tell everyone about their child’s allergy. This includes not only school staff, but also family members, childcare providers, babysitters, co-curricular and extracurricular program staff, and parents of your child’s friends for playtime or sleepovers.” , Prairie said.
Prairie is convenient to the Family Care Center of Mooresville, located at 653 Bluefield Road on the second floor of the Iredell Mooresville facility. If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Judith Prairie for you or your child, please call 704-360-6580.