It’s that time of year again! It’s nerve wracking for any parent to watch their child walk into school on that first day. However, if your child has severe allergies, you have even more to worry about. This post is for you if this year will mark your child’s first ever day of school, whether it be pre-school, kindergarten, or they’re just starting out at a new school. We’ve put together a step by step guide of good rules to follow to make sure your star student has a safe and allergy friendly school year.
Let’s jump in!
It all starts with you. The very first thing you should do before sending your child back to school is do your research. Each province has their own Anaphylaxis laws and policies that apply to schools. Do your best to familiarize yourself with the policy that applies to you and your child.
For example, in Ontario, publicly funded schools operate under Sabrina’s Law: An Act to protect anaphylactic pupils. This law makes it so that each school board that operates in the province of Ontario create and sustain and anaphylaxis policy. It also deems that all principles establish an individual emergency anaphylaxis plan for every student that may be at risk.
An important first step is organizing a meeting with your school’s principal to ensure that they are not only aware of your child’s condition, but to make sure all the necessary paperwork is filled out. Every school will have their own list of forms that need to be signed before the child returns to class. This will ensure that their personal emergency plan can be implemented in the case of anaphylaxis.
Take this opportunity to also ask any questions you might have about the school’s procedures. What options do they have for things like pizza days and field trips to make sure your child is safe? Will the other parents be informed so they know to bring allergy friendly treats to the classroom for a special occasion like a birthday? This is your chance to gather as much information as you can.
These meetings are just as important as your original meeting with the principal. Your child’s teacher will likely be the first person who will need to respond in case of an emergency. He/she will also be the person that is supervising your child for the majority of the day. So it’s extremely important that they are educated on what your child can and cannot eat, as well as the proper way to administer emergency medications if necessary.
Keeping an open and active dialogue with your child’s teacher’s is an important part of making sure they stay safe at school and don’t come into contact with any harmful allergens (link to allergy 101 article).
Once you’ve learned everything there is to know about the school’s policies and emergency plans, it’s time to sit your child down and explain all of the information you’ve just gathered to them in a way they can understand.
It’s important to educate your child on what foods are safe and what foods are unsafe for them to eat. Encourage them to never share food with other children, and if food is brought into the classroom for ANY reason, they need to ask a grownup if it is safe for them to eat.
These lessons should extend beyond conversations between you and your child. Try to get involved in the classroom. Teach the other children about allergies and what terms like ‘cross contamination’ mean. This is an opportunity for you to really get involved in spreading awareness about the importance of keeping allergy friendly spaces at your child’s school.
If your child is at serious risk of anaphylaxis and you have been advised by your healthcare practitioner that they should be carrying an epi-pen, make sure you check to be sure that they have it on their person each day before they leave for class. Make sure teachers and supervisors know where your child keeps this important tool so they can find it quickly and easily in an emergency and administer it.
In addition to this, a medic alert bracelet is a great way to make sure that first responders are able to quickly identify if your child has any allergies and how to appropriately administer any type of treatment correctly in the case of an emergency. There are many brands who make fun, colourful and trendy versions of the bracelets that your child will enjoy showing off to friends!
Just because your child has allergies doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy fun and delicious allergy friendly snacks!
Make sure you research brands that take allergies as serious as you do. Look for certification badges and research what they mean. Be diligent about looking for brands who keep up to date with third part certifications.
Third party certifications usually require brands to go through an annual audit of their manufacturing facility to make sure that they are all held to the same standards. Whereas brands who make self-declarations, are essentially holding themselves to their own standards, which might be much lower.
MadeGood Foods for example, is a brand that takes allergies seriously, and consistently keeps up to date with all of their certifications.
Here’s an example of some of the certification badges this brand proudly displays on their website.
No matter what snacks or brands you choose, make sure you’re thorough in your research. We recommend MadeGood products because their certifications are sourced from a third party as mentioned above, and are not self-declarations.
If you’re interested in giving MadeGood a try, below are some of our favourite snacks:
These bars come in 6 different flavours and are 100% vegan! The flavours to choose from are Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate Banana, Chocolate Chip, Mixed Berry,Strawberry and Sweet and Salty. Each bar contains one full serving of vegetables and are packed full of fibre, which we all know is essential to gut health. They’ve also been manufactured in a facility free of the eight most common allergens: peanut, tree nut, soy, dairy, egg, fish, shellfish, gluten, and sesame. These are a great option to check out if you’re looking for an allergy friendly back to school snack for your child.
A healthier alternative to the traditional version, these fun and colourful snacks are tasty, and packed with a full serving of vegetables. Just like the Granola bars and Minis, these squares are made in a facility that is clear from the most common allergens, are organic, vegan and gluten-free. With originals such as vanilla and chocolate chip and newly added strawberry and caramel choices MadeGood crispy squares come in a wide range of flavours for your family to choose from.
Overall, the best way to make sure your child is safe at school is to make sure that not only you’re well informed, but include all staff and students in the conversation. Spreading allergy awareness starts with you. Stay involved, talk to teachers and keep your child equipped with the snacks and tools they need to be safe. Once everyone is on the same page, you can all work together to make sure the entire school is an allergy friendly space!