Back-to-School with Food Allergies: 7 Must-Have Tools

in Managing Allergies, Parenting & School
Photo: Getty

Updated August, 2022: Back-to-school season is a big deal in every student’s life. But when a child has food allergies, a parent must be super-organized and communicate well to ensure that the school is on top of anaphylaxis prevention measures and safety protocols. Also essential is that your student gets to be a full participant in school life, including class activities or outings. To help guide you through achieving these goals, Allergic Living provides:

7 Must-Have Tools for School with Allergies

1. Every allergic child needs an Emergency Care Plan for anaphylaxis.

If you haven’t got one yet, do make it a priority. A doctor will fill out and sign this important tool that details your child’s allergies, sets out the symptoms of anaphylaxis, and reminds school staff members of when to give epinephrine and the emergency steps to follow promptly in case of your child has an allergic reaction.

Here are:
American Academy of Pediatrics’ Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan
AAAAI’s Anaphylaxis Emergency Action Plan
FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan
In Canada: Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan

2. Know and act on your allergic student’s rights to accommodations.

In U.S. schools, all students with a medical condition should have an IHCP or Individual Health Care Plan. Beyond that document is the individualized 504 Plan, which includes measures to ensure that students with “disabilities” have equal access to education in public schools. Many food-allergic students have 504 Plans. Allergic Living recommends seeking one for strong clarity on accommodations – from the class to the lunchroom to the bus to the field trip. Read about how to get one here.

When seeking a 504 Plan, learn what to do – and the big mistakes to avoid – in this excellent article by food allergy consultant Gina Mennett Lee.

In Canada: See national laws and policies on food allergy accommodations here.

3. CDC’s guidelines for managing food allergies in schools and daycare centers.

These are an excellent resource, covering everything from seating at lunch to field trips, bus driver training and avoiding food as classroom rewards. Make sure your child’s principal is aware of the guidelines. Here is the CDC’s downloadable document. (Particularly helpful are the charts on pages 43-46.)

posters24. Allergic Living’s Free Educational Posters and Resources.

Our popular posters are great factual and visual reminders to share with your child’s school.

Six That Save Lives; I Am a Child with Food Allergies; and more.

5. Exclude the Treats, Not the Child in the Classroom.

This article by Allergic Living contributor Gina Clowes offers superb strategies to get past the recurring classroom cupcake skirmishes, and onto fun, food-free celebrations. Read it here. Also don’t miss her article on “course-correcting” with the school through an allergic student’s academic years, including when to be that mom. Read it here.

6. Food Allergy Bullying: How to Spot and Prevent

We know that about one-third of food-allergic children are bullied because of their allergy. In this article, two experts address how to spot if your child is the target of food allergy bullying, how to help your child or teen, and how to talk to school staff and prevention approaches. Read more.

7. Kids and Their Auto-Injectors: Important points and experts’ advice.

Be sure to have a plan with school administrators and your student about where epinephrine auto-injectors will be kept. Given the need for quick-acting in an anaphylactic emergency, it’s wise to have the injectors with the student (or with a teacher with young children). Remind tweens and teens that the locker is NOT an appropriate place to keep auto-injectors, as that’s behind a lock and the student may be at a distance.

Ask the Allergists Q&As:
How Do I Know Exactly When to Use the Auto-Injector?
When is a Child Old Enough to Self-Inject?
How to Effectively Clean Allergenic Foods Off a School Desk

Related Reading:
Back to School with Food Allergies in Pandemic Times – Start Talking!
Food Allergies at School: Plans and Laws to Keep Kids Safely Included
Guide to the Food-Allergic Student’s Safe Transition to Middle or High School
Field Trips & Food Allergies: Staying Safe Beyond the Classroom

Other Resources:
FARE: Back-to-School Headquarters
FAACT: Back-to-School 2021 Podcast  
Beyond Celiac: Information for Schools
Kids with Food Allergies: Dr. Michael Pistiner’s Back-to-School Tips