As a parent of a food allergy kid, I’m constantly worrying. Especially when it comes to school.
Last year was a learning experience for me. I learned our preschool wouldn’t allow us to keep L’s Epi Pens in his back pack. This meant I still had to carry a set with me to and from school while a second set stayed in his classroom, thus using up most of our refills to make sure we had enough Epi Pens where we need them. I learned that when parents read or hear “Nut Free School” they assume they just can’t bring in the obvious culprits like trail mix or peanut butter crackers.
Even though the preschool and L’s teachers knew that L has been advised to stay away from products that “may contain” peanuts, he was still given a treat with that warning. I only found out because at pick-up his teachers told me he didn’t eat his snack because someone brought in cupcakes — as the parent walked out with said cupcakes I knew weren’t okay. I wasn’t happy about it.
Nut Free not only means the obvious peanut or almond, it means the food can’t have the possibility of containing nuts at all.
This year I did some of the same things as I did last year: I filled out the health history form spelling out what L can’t have. I mailed his Action Plan in along with his health form. I emailed L’s teachers before school started and explained what L needs to avoid, and asked that if they have any heads up on treats to let me know so I can pack something special for L that day. At his open house, I reiterated again on what he can’t have and that includes anything with potential cross contamination.
Thankfully, this year L’s teachers seemed to have a better understanding of what I was telling them. They had good questions for me, which made me feel more at ease. They said they had issues with parents thinking they were above the rules last year, so they’re trying to crack down on the policy more this year. This year they aren’t giving out food without labels.
While that’s a step in the right direction for a nut-free school, I don’t see parents reading ingredient lists in addition to allergy warnings, or finding alternatives for something that may or may not contain an allergen. And because I know a few parents who love bringing in random treats, I decided L needed more than just his Epi Pen at school this year. So, I told L’s teachers that he would be bringing in a small food allergy kit on his first day of school.
His Food Allergy Kit contains his Epi Pen, Emergency Care Plan, Benadryl, and a fun snack for him to have in case a treat is brought in that is questionable. These are the supplies I used for our food allergy kit:
- Plastic Container (I really like these from Target)
- Epinephrine injector
- Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan (2 copies)
- Safe snack(s) (check out my list of nut-free foods for a few ideas)
- Packaging Tape
- Name Labels
I make copies of L’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan when we get a new one each year. One is mailed in with his school health forms and one is kept with each box of Epi Pens we have. For this kit, I had two copies: one to put inside the box and one to cut up.
The top half of the form lists symptoms of an allergic reaction and what to do if a person is experiencing them. I cut this out and taped it to the top of the box for easy reference. Our plan is filled out on a Virginia-specific form from the allergist, but FARE has a good one as well that is available in both English and Spanish. The symptoms graphic could be used for the box lid if you can’t make copies of your plan.
Since a few symptoms can be helped with a dose of Benadryl and a watchful eye, I decided L should also have that at school this year.
For the snack, I tried to find something that L wouldn’t be getting on a regular basis. I managed to find some mini granola bars that didn’t have peanuts warnings or ingredients listed (a rare find!).
Everything went in the box, along with a full copy of L’s Emergency Care Plan. Then I slapped on a few name labels. I’m confident he’s the only one with a food allergy and the green Epi Pen box is pretty obvious, but I thought it would help identifying the kit a little easier. Next year, I plan to have allergy-specific labels to put on it.
TIP: make sure that all medications and snacks have an expiration date that is AFTER your child’s last day of school.
I’ve been the person who assumed “Nut Free School” only meant no peanut butter or something just as obvious, so I can’t assume people will read labels and act accordingly. Just like last year, I’m praying L won’t ever need the medicine and I hope he comes home in May with all his treats. But if he doesn’t then I’ll know his teachers and I did what we could to make sure he felt included and safe this year.
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