As the summer ends and a new term looms, parents across the country are preparing their little ones for starting school. Stressful enough at the best of times, but if your son or daughter has allergies, then the pride, excitement and panic are likely to be joined by genuine concern for their safety.
In this week's guest blog, Emma Amoscato, author of Living With Allergies: Practical Tips For All The Family, shares her experiences of preparing her kids for starting school.
As I organise my daughter's school uniform and listen to her excitedly plan for her first day at school, I also check her medication bag and help her try on her allergy alert band.
My two children, who have multiple allergies, asthma and eczema, are busy enjoying the last few weeks of late nights and water fights but as we approach the end of the holidays I'm thinking about keeping them safe at school.
Whether your child is just starting reception, changing schools, or simply moving classes, the new school year can be an anxious time when you are handing over their care to someone else. However, there are lots of things you can do to make sure their school can look after them effectively.
Before the term starts, double check you have everything you need and are ready for your child's first day. Here are a few things to think about doing:
- Check all medication is in date and file new prescriptions, if needed
- Note down the expiry dates so you know when you need to restock school supplies
- Get an up to date photo for your child's care plan
- Talk to the caterers to go through the new menu
- Order an medical alert band
- Stock up on safe treats to leave at school
It is important that your child's school has a clear management plan for their allergies, asthma or eczema. This will include a care plan from your doctor or school nurse, outlining any medication and what to do in an emergency, but ideally should go beyond that. It should answer questions like:
- Where is your child's medication stored?
- Who is responsible for transporting it to different locations on or off site?
- Who is able to administer it and do they have the appropriate training?
- How are mealtimes handled with food allergies?
- What is the policy for food in the classroom or on school trips?
- How will crafts, baking or other activities be kept inclusive?
Sit down with your child's school teacher to go over this in detail and address any questions or areas of concern. Even if your school has a strong management plan it is a good idea to revisit it each year and refresh their knowledge.
Adrenaline injector and inhaler training
All staff need up to date and comprehensive training on allergies and asthma. They should know how to recognise the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction or asthma attack and what to do. It is important that they are confident in administering medication without the need to contact a parent first, as this could delay treatment.
This will usually be delivered by the school nurse or as part of a paediatric first aid course. Make sure this is kept up to date and delivered to any new staff, including those who are part time or temporary.
Educate your child
As well as the teachers and staff being well informed, it is important that your child knows how to keep themselves safe. This is possible from the time they start school but will obviously expand as your child gets older. They should be able to:
- Communicate their allergies, asthma or eczema clearly
- Apply simple safety measures such as: never share food and always check ingredients
- Understand what a reaction or asthma attack feels like and when to tell someone
- Know what their medication is for and how to use it
Emma's book about parenting children with allergies can be found here:
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If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.