You might have got new shoes and uniform that fits, but have you checked your child’s adrenaline pens are in date and updated their Individual Healthcare Plan? This is our handy guide to preparing for school with food allergies, whether your child is just starting out in reception or moving up to secondary school.

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Starting Reception with allergies

If your child has food allergies you might feel a bit daunted when it’s time for them to start school.

Allergic disease is the most common chronic medical condition in childhood so it’s likely that your child’s school will have experience of managing allergies but there are lots of things you can do to navigate this milestone.

Here are some tips from families who’ve been through the process, we’ve also created a checklist to help you prepare. 

1. Book a meeting with the school

Try to arrange a meeting before the new term gets underway, ideally at the end of the summer term before your child starts. If you don’t feel the school is being very responsive, don’t panic! Sometimes teachers will be really busy at the end of the summer term and some schools do not allocate teachers to classes for the next academic year until the end of the summer term.

As well as your child’s new teacher, you might want to request that someone from the senior leadership team and catering team is at the meeting.  

Good communication is at the heart of keeping pupils with food allergies safe and so it’s important that you share everything about your child’s allergens, medication, and past reactions with the school. Caterers, sports staff, class teachers and those organising school trips can only respond to the information they have and so make sure it is always up to date and that any new diagnosis or change of medication is divulged too.

2. Sign up to The Allergy Team's Starting Primary School course

We’ve developed this online course for parents and carers to support you through the process of your child starting school. It includes bite-sized modules on building a good relationship with the school, navigating school mealtimes, school trips, managing anxiety and much more. Plus, we hold special online monthy meet-ups, throughout the year, for the families taking part in the course so we can all share experiences and swap tips.  

3. Medication

Check your child’s allergy medication is in date and replace antihistamine or adrenaline pens as necessary. Remember to make sure you have enough adrenaline pens to keep two at home and two at school.

If age-appropriate, consider reminding your child how to use their medication. Watch our refresher videos here.

4. Paperwork and personalised video

Ensure your child’s Individual Healthcare Plan is up to date and appropriate for any new setting and ensure their new school and/or teacher has copies of their Allergy Action Plan (you can find copies of this on the BSACI website which your GP or allergy clinic should fill out).

Lots of parents and carers are also making one of our award-winning Me and My Allergy personalised videos for their child and adding it to their Individual Healthcare Plan. You need to be a Family Member of The Allergy Team to make a video. Become a Family Member here.

5. Mealtimes

You might be weighing up whether your child with allergies should have a packed lunch or school meals. Your decision may well depend on how you and your child are feeling about the new school year and how confident you both feel about the procedures for mealtimes. Caterers should be able to accommodate most allergens but if you or your child feel particularly anxious, it’s fine to take things at your own pace. You could consider starting the new term with a packed lunch and then you can change to school meals once everyone is feeling more confident. Sometimes, removing any extra element of stress while everyone settles into a new environment can help.

6. Managing anxiety

Speak to your child about how they are feeling about starting school. Discuss all the measures that have been put in place to keep them safe and consider supporting them with breathing exercises or more specialist support if needed. Make sure you take time for yourself too. Sometimes having a child with food allergies can feel extremely isolating and advocating for them constantly can be exhausting, but you are not alone and with good communication and planning, September will feel a lot easier.

Clinical Psychologist Dr Karen Murphy has put together a great Guide to managing anxiety around school which is free to Family Members of The Allergy Team.

Starting Secondary school with allergies

When young people move on to secondary school they may face new challenges. Family Members of The Allergy Team can download our new Starting Secondary Checklist which is packed with tips.

Here’s some things of the things you need to consider:

1. Medication

It’s likely your child will be expected to carry their own medication at secondary school. Try and prepare them for this in advance and encourage them to practice administering adrenaline if they’ve been prescribed adrenaline pens. If they still take liquid antihistamine, consider moving to capsules as they are do much easier to carry around.

Encourage your child to practice delivering adrenaline using a trainer pen. Watch our videos here

2. Mealtimes

Talk to your child about navigating a busy dining hall and remind them to speak up and tell catering staff about their allergies. You might want to remind them how to check for allergens on menus and explain how allergen matrices work.

3. Peer pressure and socialising

Teens often take more risks and “feeling different” because you have allergies might feel more challenging at secondary school. Discuss with your child how to manage this and the importance of finding “allergy allies”, friends they can rely on who understand their condition and will help advocate for them.

Talk about socialising with allergies, the impact of alcohol and managing personal relationships. For example, kissing someone when you have allergies means checking what they have been eating or drinking first.

LOOKING FOR MORE INFORMATION?

We have lots of resources to support you including:

WATCH Q&As about getting ready for school and managing anxiety.

MEET other families to share experiences and swap tips.

READ our first person article about school trips and residentials.

LEARN how to support your child to become more independent in managing their allergies.

SUPPORT your child’s school by sharing the Schools Allergy Code with them.

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