Back to School with Food Allergies

Preparing to go back to school can be filled with mixed emotions for parents of a child with food allergy.  This can be particularly anxiety-provoking for parents of kindergarteners or those attending a new school.  Becoming familiar with the school’s food allergy policies and speaking with the school nurse can help set your mind at ease.

Communication with the school is key.  Notify the school of your child’s allergy, and provide a Food Allergy Action Plan.  This plan should outline your child’s allergies, when to treat a reaction, which medication(s) to use, and emergency contacts.  It is generally signed by your child’s allergist.

Educate your child on how to self-manage their allergies, appropriate to their level of understanding.  This includes knowing what they are allergic to and knowing to tell an adult if they think an accidental ingestion has occurred.  Discourage food sharing or eating anything with known allergen or unknown ingredients.  Consider a medic alert bracelet for your child to help remind others of the allergy.

Ensure life-saving medication will be easily available when needed.  Also be aware of the procedure for administering medication at school, and ensure adequate staff training. Most schools are now authorized to stock epinephrine for use on any child with a life-threatening allergic reaction, but legislation varies by state.  Regardless of your school’s policy, it is best to provide epinephrine autoinjectors prescribed specifically for your child.  If old enough to self-administer, provide written notice, allowing your child to carry their medication with them.

Ask about the school’s food allergy policies regarding classroom snacks, lunch tables, and food bullying.  The decision about whether or not to have your child at a special lunch table for those with food allergies is a very personal decision and should be based on your family’s comfort level.

Regular communication with your child and the school can aid in successful food avoidance throughout the school year.

For more tips, check out our other posts related to allergies or listen to our PediaCast.


Amber Patterson, MD
Amber M. Patterson, MD, works in the Section of Allergy and Immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. As a wife and mother of 3, she is passionate about harnessing efficiency to create time. Her current projects to make allergy care more efficient include: researching intralymphatic immunotherapy (a new form of allergy shots), innovating allergy/immunology education, and inventing better ways to test and treat for allergies. Dr. Patterson wants to teach her patients how to feel better quicker and stay healthy longer. The Pattersons enjoy being outdoors (playing, biking, swimming, gardening), reading, and rooting for the Buckeyes. OH-!

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