For most families, the thought of that first school trip away can stir up mixed emotions. For a child it signals a week of non-stop fun with friends, but also no mum or dad around should there be a problem. For parents of children with allergies, just the thought of your child going away for the first time can cause huge anxiety – you might feel desperate to help your child grow their independence, but worried about how they will manage their allergies.

So, as parents and carers, what can we do when the time finally comes for our (slightly bigger) kids to fly their wings for a few days? How can we alleviate any anxieties that our kids – and we – may have?

Lotte, whose son Freddie, 11, has multiple food allergies and asthma, says making a plan before his first school residential helped her to keep calm.

“Freddie was going to Devon for a week. He was really excited about going somewhere with his buddies for the first time,” she explains. “But as a mum of a child with potential anaphylaxis, there is always that worry they could eat something they shouldn’t, or people won’t know how to treat them if they fall ill.”

She adds: “I’ve always been careful monitoring Freddie’s allergies to eggs, nuts and seeds but it’s not realistic to expect someone who doesn’t know him to be as vigilant. For me, it was about finding the right person to hand over that control and making sure they fully understood everything about my child’s allergies.”

One proactive step to take, suggests Lotte, is arranging a face-to-face meeting with the person who will be responsible for your child.

“I had spoken to Freddie’s teacher but I wished I had spent more time going through things with the other person who was going to be in charge of his medication. I met that lady for the first time on the actual morning of their trip. There simply wasn’t enough time to go over everything in detail,” Lotte explains. “I would have preferred discussing his EpiPens and daily inhalers with more time to spare.”

It can also be helpful to speak to your child’s school well in advance in case they request documentation from your GP or an up-to-date action plan.

Lotte also decided to call the venue where her son would be staying: “It was an educational centre so I was relieved to discover that they were used to dealing with dietary requirements. Even though the school was supposed to alert them to Freddie’s needs, knowing that allergies were already on their radar definitely helped me to feel more at ease.”

Once children are old enough to understand their allergies, it is also a good idea to remind them not to share snacks with friends and to check with supervising adults if they are unsure about any food they are offered.

“By the age of 10, Freddie was much more aware of his allergies because we have always discussed them together at home. For example, if one of his mates was eating nuts next to him, then he knows to move away or wash his hands,” Lotte explains. “I also feel happy knowing Freddie’s friends have started look out for him as well. By openly talking about his allergies with other families for years, they know that Freddie can’t eat certain foods.”

Ultimately a school trip is always a balance between allowing children freedom and staying safe. Lotte is grateful her son enjoyed his time away: “For him, the most important thing was trying to keep things as normal as possible and being part of the gang. It’s good to know we have passed that milestone and that we can do it, especially as Freddie starts to ask for more independence as he approaches his teenage years.”

School residential planning checklist

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Stay up to date on upcoming events in your child’s school. The more time you have the prepare the better.

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Print out a list of allergens and an up-to-date action plan to give to teachers.

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Request a meeting with teachers and/or the person who will be responsible for your child and their medication. You need to work as a team to keep your child safe.

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Make sure all medication is up to date ahead of the trip. Ask who will be responsible for making sure your child’s medication is near them at all times? This is a great opportunity for children to take on some ownership and carry their own, but a member of staff should be monitoring this and having overall responsibility.

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Call the venue where your child will be staying to discuss dietary requirements and to check i what they do to monitor allergens on-site. For example if they operate as a nut-free premises, how do they ensure this policy is followed.
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Remind your child about not sharing snacks with friends or to ask adults if they are unsure about any food they are offered.

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Children can sometimes be reluctant to mention they are having symptoms of an allergic reaction for fear of creating a scene. Remind them to ask for help if they need it as quick treatment is essential.
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After the trip, consider contacting your child’s teacher to discuss what went well or anything that might need to be changed in the future.

Pictures: Children playing RDNE Stock project