For children with allergies, starting school takes an extra degree of planning.
Until you and staff are comfortable with care, discuss the possibility of attending the school with your child. This provides support for the teacher while they are settling into a new school year.
10 point allergy action plan for starting school:
- Notify the school about your child's allergy as early as possible. Be clear about which foods or other allergens may trigger an anaphylactic reaction.
- Provide the school with a written diagnosis and an individual management plan from your treating doctor. This should include details of prescribed medications such as adrenaline or antihistamines.
- Supply necessary medication and ensure it is clearly labelled, stored correctly and kept up to date. Ensure an adrenaline auto-injector (such as an EpiPen®) travels with the child at all times between home and the classroom; while a second, back-up unit is stored in an unlocked cupboard in the school office.
- Visit the school and enquire about any other potential risks. For example, are children exposed to food allergens during cooking and craft lessons? What can the school do to reduce the risk of insect stings?
- Ensure teachers and other staff are aware of prevention strategies and ensure they are implemented. Especially plan ahead for special events such as excursions, sports days and parties.
- Work with the school to develop an emergency action plan. Ensure appropriate staff members are trained and confident to administer medications.
- Teach your child from a young age not to accept food from others. Provide a lunchbox that is clearly labelled and remind them not to trade food with friends.
- Be creative in providing safe food treats for your child. Ask the school to store some of your cupcakes in the staff room freezer so your child can join in with birthday celebrations.
- Encourage your child to become independent. Remind them to always take their medication to school. It can be kept in an insulated lunch bag, together with a copy of the emergency action plan.
- Record and check expiry dates of auto-injectors used at school and at home and ensure each unit is replaced prior to expiry.
Revise the emergency care plan if there has been:
- a change in the child's condition
- an at-risk situation
- an anaphylactic reaction, or
More tips for starting school
Help teachers identify your child
- Some parents are concerned about all teachers knowing the identity of their child with severe allergy while at school. While it is important for the child not to feel isolated, some parents opt for a different coloured hat in the first year or two of schooling, until the child is more able to communicate and teachers are more aware of his/her needs.
- Provide a copy of your child's requirements, details of the emergency action plan and a recent photograph of the child (dressed in school uniform) to all staff members and find a suitable place in the staffroom and tuck shop to display it.
- A medical information bracelet or chain is recommended. This is important as the child becomes more independent.
Educating casual or relief teaching staff
- Ask your child's permanent teacher to place a note or information in the roll book that will alert casual staff to your child's allergy.
- Supply a laminated copy of your child's requirements, details of the emergency action plan and a recent photograph of the child (dressed in school uniform) to their teacher so this information can be placed where casual staff will notice it.
Avoid sharing things
- Teachers can support food allergic children by asking the other children in their care NOT to offer any food to your child.
- When dealing with young children a simple explanation using the key phrases… "she/he gets very sick" and "has to go to hospital" if she/he eats someone else's food... have a big impact on little children and helps them understand how important it is not to share food with your child.
School tuck shop and drinking fountains
- Place photo of child inside the tuck shop with notice to inform workers on canteen duty that your child should not be given food. This decision may change, as the child gets older, with permission from parents.
- When using drinking fountains allow water to run over bubbler before drinking from it. Encourage children not to put their mouth directly on the fountain.
Sharing a pencil is riskySome children have the habit of sucking or chewing the ends of pencils and pens; this poses a risk to the anaphylactic child. Ensure your child has his/her own pens/pencils and does not share them.
Sports days & excursions
- Ensure child/teacher carry the emergency kit on school excursions/sports days and special days.
- Remind teacher/carer of the importance of having a mobile phone for emergency contact if required when away from school.
- Gently inform parents and carers of your child's anaphylaxis.
- Suggest safe foods for afternoon tea, ie. fruit. Discuss possibilities with them and come to a joint agreement of management in this environment.
- You may educate with literature, videos and advise people to visit Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia for further information.
Allergy awareness resource for primary years Teacher resource Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia