It’s your child’s first day of school. Nerves are high and you’re running a little later than you would like and then it hits you—your child has a food allergy, and you have no idea what the school cafeteria will be serving for lunch.
As the parent of a child with a food allergy, you can probably relate.
Dealing with food allergies can be hard enough at home, so what’s a parent to do when it comes time to send your child to school and you simply don’t have the time to consistently prepare his or her lunch every day?
The first step is to obtain a copy of the school’s menu schedule. In doing this simple first step, you can see when you’ll need to “fight your battles” so to speak because you now know what options your child will have for lunch and whether or not food allergies are going to be a concern.
If the food allergies that your child is suffering from are severe, a good plan of action is to develop a strong relationship with your child’s teacher and inform them of the allergy and potential side effects; thus, adding another “layer of defense” in combating your child’s food allergies while they are away from home.
Did you know that federal law requires schools to provide allergy specific meals? In the instance that you have a physician’s note regarding your child’s allergy, a school can actually lose funding if they do not comply with these dietary guidelines*.
The reality is this—you want to keep a good relationship with your child’s school for obvious reasons, but you also want your child to be able to enjoy lunch without having to worry about potentially severe side effects of his or her allergy.
Knowing the school’s menu schedule will let you know which days you can “get away” with not packing your child’s lunch and having an informed teacher by your side will help reduce the risk of unwanted flare ups.
No matter how many precautions you put in place and how large the team is that is watching out for your child’s food allergies, the ultimate battle comes with self-management. Your child must be aware of his or her allergy, as well as the consequences of not respecting the allergy because no matter how failsafe your prevention plan is, the choice ultimately lies with your child.
Aside from school lunches, also be aware that your child’s classroom may have a party, or special curriculum theme that involves food that won’t be listed on your school’s lunch menu. In instances like these, you may be in a position to volunteer to help, which will allow you to spend time with your child while also being another barrier of defense in combatting your child’s food allergies. As mentioned previously, keeping open communication with your child’s teacher will help you stay aware of when food will be available in the classroom, other than at lunch time.
Friendly reminder: always ensure your child has an epinephrine pen available in the nurse’s office.