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BACK TO SCHOOL ALLERGY GUIDE WITH THE NUT JOB MOM

By: Frieda Schweky



When the time comes to get your food-allergic child ready for school, it is normal to feel nervous or overwhelmed. Whether it is the first time at a new school, or even if your child has been in the same school, there are new teachers and new kids in the class. Newness can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. It is extremely important to be prepared and have a solid, organized system. The Nut Job Mom, Paulette Cohen, was happy to share some tips, ideas, and information to ease the process along.

Communication & Preparedness

The first step to minimizing back to school stress is communicating with your child’s school beforehand. That means making sure the teachers and staff are aware of your child’s allergies, as well as the protocol that’s set in place in the event of an allergic reaction. It’s also a good time to make and put a plan into place for trip days, and to make sure any snack that’s given is checked with either the nurse or you beforehand. If your child hasmultiple allergies, it is a good idea to give a list of safe snack options to the teachers, so they can give the list of safe snacks to the parents of fellow students to help minimize the risk of accidental exposure. Paulette suggests to purchase a large container of a safe snack to have in class at all times, in case someone does bring in a snack that is not safe. It’s always a good idea to have backup options readily available.

How to Prepare Your Child

Just like the school needs to be prepared, so does your child. The first thing you should do is to communicate with your child and let them know that you and the school are on the same page, and are working together to keep your child safe. Children want and need to feel safe. They shouldn’t worry that when they go to school, a place where they spend the majority of their time, that they won’t be safe and protected. If you’re a teacher reading this, I urge you to take extra precautions to make sure you keepthese kids safe. Please don’t ever single them out or make them feel like they are different. They already know they are different. It’s important for their social/emotional well-being to embrace them and make them feel like every other child, but you cancommunicate to them that you will take care to be extra safe with them. If you’re having difficulty with a class event or snacks, communicate with the mom. Most of the time, the mom is ready and willing to help out and give the teachers tips. Back to parents: I would take your child to the supermarket and teach them how to read labels. This is a skill they will use forever! If they are of the age where they can read and can be responsible for their own protection from allergens, this is a game changer. This can help your child feel a sense of control. And children with food allergies need to feel like they have some say in the matter.

Carpool & Transportation

If your child is in a carpool or will be going on a bus, you need to inform the other carpool moms and the bus company of your child’s allergy. Be sure to tell the bus driver to please make sure to be cautious that no one is eating on the bus. Most bus companies have a strict rule about no food on the bus. Let the bus driver know to have extra eyes out for this. If your child is in carpool, create a group chat with the mothers and help them by reminding them of your child’s allergies so there’s an open line of communication in case anyone has a question.

Benadryl and EpiPens

Never forget to send your child with their Benadryl and EpiPens! Those should go wherever your children go. On that note, be sure to also train anyone that is going to be responsible for your child in how to use your child’s EpiPen. This doesn’t have to be scary. The AUVI-Q auto injector happens to be a helpful device for this because it actually speaks to you and tells you the instructions on how to use it, which hopefully won’t be necessary. Most of the time, people just need to know exactly what your situation is. Create carpool safety rules and let the kids know what the rules are. It’s important to speak to your children about food allergies. Food allergies are very common now, and the more knowledge we as parents share, the more understanding the children will be.

Snacks, Snacks, Snacks

Whatever you do, always be sure your child has backup snacks with them! This can come in handy, especially in situations such as after school programs. If your child is young and has multiple allergies, offer to buy snacks for special events andafter school activities. Again, this is where group chats with the mothers is key. Use them to your advantage. Go out of your way to help out in any way you can.

Send your child’s school a list of snacks that are safe for your child. For example, Wise brand snacks are all sesame and nut-free. This can help the parents be more aware, and will help to take the guessing game out of shopping for school snacks. Try and give your number out to the class so if they have questions about a snack, they can text you a picture of the snack and the ingredients label. This will go a long way. When people are open to helping you out, they see that it’s less of an inconvenience than they would think.

Lunch

Paulette suggests, if possible, choosing a school that is accommodating to your child’s allergies. Some schools provide lunch that is nut- and sesame-free. This is the ideal situation, as it takes a lot of stress off your shoulders and your child’s as well. If your child has multiple allergies, I would recommend first trying to work with the school to find suitable options to serve your child. If you simply cannot find safe options for your child, it’s best to send your own lunch every day. Paulette doesn’t believe in sitting allergic children at a separate table. Every single action can have a profound effect on children. What she recommends is to seat the child next to their closest friends and let them know not to share, touch, or give them anything. It’s also good to teach them to be clean, and wash their hands right after they eat. These are great ways to keep the kids feeling included and safe.

Be Considerate of Emotions

As important as it is to take these precautions to keep your child safe, it’s equally as important to keep a lot of the “work” of it under wraps from your child. You never want your child to think they are a burden, so always have a positive attitude when it comes to their allergies. Their emotional well-being should come hand in hand with keeping them physically safe. Keep that communication going throughout the year and make sure to check in with them often. It’s normal for children to go through a stage of feeling different or left out because of their allergies. Most of the time, a good heart to heart with their parents can fix this. If you suspect anything negative is going on in school, such as bullying or someone making fun of your child’s allergies, contact the school principal and guidance counselor right away.

A Note from
The Nut Job Mom

To any parent reading this, whether you understand what it’s like to have a child with food allergies or not, please keep in mind that we did not choose this. Hashem gives everyone what they can handle and we are just trying to keep our children safe and happy just like you are. Please be respectful and understanding, especially if there is a child with food allergies in your child’s class. If you do, your children will follow suit, and hopefully it will help make this easier for all!

Allergy-Friendly Snack Brands to Look Out For:

Enjoy Life

Skinny Pop

SchoolSafe

Jell-O

That’s it

MadeGood

Wise