Back to school! Making sure kids with allergies stay safe and have fun
This month, around 50 million children in the U.S. are sharpening their pencils, digging out their lunch boxes and maybe having a reluctant final haircut as they gear up for a return to school. It’s a time of excitement and anticipation for everyone. But for the estimated one in 131 children who have a food allergy, around two per classroom, there’s also a little nervousness – school can be a less controlled environment than home when it comes to the potential for allergen exposures that spark a reaction.
Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness about the importance of handwashing and good general hygiene. But let’s face it, kids aren’t always the best at doing what they’re told, whatever the situation. Accidental exposure can happen, any time.
So, what should parents of children with food allergies do to make sure their little ones stay safe while having fun?
“Be prepared” is the most important piece of advice from Anita Roach, VP of Community Programs & Education at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). “Speak to your allergist or pediatrician to make sure you have your child’s epinephrine autoinjector prescription filled,” she says. “Check that all school forms are completed, including a food allergy emergency care plan. And talk to the school, so that you know their guidelines, policies and allergy training provisions and they know your child’s specific needs.”
You can find out more and get some great tips from both kids and parents at the FARE website.
There’s a saying you’ll hear a lot around the food allergy community at large these days: ‘education is the best medicine’. “This is a key part of our role at FARE – making sure as many people as possible know about the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, their potential severity and frequency, how to respond and so on,” Anita says. “Not just those in the food allergy community, but society at large. The more people who understand food allergies, the better we can manage them. So, we’d urge everyone who has a child going back to school to find out the role they can play by visiting our website and using our resources.”
Education, awareness and empathy are FARE’s top priorities, she explains. Making sure students with food allergies feel safe and included at schools and other places is a top goal. You can find out more about FARE’s advocacy, research and education initiatives here.
“School is all about giving our children confidence to develop and thrive, to live their lives and create opportunities that will help themselves and others,” Anita says. “As a society, working together, we can better ensure that they are all given a solid chance, regardless of their health issues.”