Sure, no one wants to think about back-to-school in the middle of July. Depending on where you live, your kids may have summer reading and math assignments they’ve not quite cracked open yet. They’re at least several weeks away from finding out who their new teacher will be. No one has even thought once about whether new backpacks need to be purchased or what will be worn on the first day of school. This is as it should be. And yet, there is also work to be done in these long, hot days of summer to get your food allergic kid ready for a new school year.
Check-Ups & Paper Work
Whether your child is starting Pre-K this fall or heading into their final year of college, now is the time to coordinate with your allergist on paperwork to support accommodation requests. Don’t put off making an appointment with your physician. Summer is a busy time at the allergist office as their entire roster of school-aged patients are vying to get in.
If your student’s school has specific paperwork to be completed, bring it with you. The doctor may ask you to leave it with her to be picked up at a later time. Ask questions. Get advice on what reasonable accommodations you should ask the school for. Get your doctor’s input on what your child is and is not ready to self-manage regarding their own allergen management.
Think Beyond Lunch & Snacks
Between your child and their allergist, identify accommodations that may be needed at school that go beyond lunch and snack time. For example, hands-on science experiments may rely on items that may contain food-based ingredients. Allergy accommodations should extend to plan to manage those potential scenarios.
Residential college students with animal allergies may need documentation from an allergist regarding allergies to certain pets to ensure they aren’t paired with a roommate who has gotten permission to have a support animal living in the dorm. They may also need paperwork completed to have access to air conditioned housing to help manage seasonal allergies and asthma or access to a kitchenette or larger refrigerator to be able to make their own meals if necessary.
Plan Your Stash
You know those school staff members that you have been in touch with to coordinate an allergy management plan for your child? Ask them if you can keep some safe snacks either in the classroom or in a freezer in the teacher’s lounge or nurse’s office. These will be treats your child can go retrieve if something’s brought into the classroom that they can’t have.
If you’re able to build a small stash of alternative items, take the time now to plan out what they may entail. It could be safe cupcakes you bake the week before school goes back and freeze in individual containers. It could be a safe donut hole alternative that gets divided up into serving size baggies. It could be a box of chips and dried fruit you know your child will enjoy. Work with the school and your student to identify what you’ll prep and where you’ll store it.
Summer is a good time to help your child further develop their own allergy-management skills. Work with them on reading labels, asking questions, and making choices. Role play scenarios they may encounter and guide them through how they might make a safe and responsible decision.
If you and your allergist agree that your child is ready for it, give them the opportunity to self-carry their own auto-injector. Right now, while you’re present to double check and remind, is the time to get them in the habit of responsibility for their medication and what they eat.
Try New Things
Sometimes it can feel like your food options are limited when you’re living with food allergies. The truth, however, is that with a little experimentation and willingness, you probably have a whole lot more options than you realize. Now is the time to research some alternatives and experiment with safe meal and snack options that are lunchbox friendly. Take some recipes for a test run and start a list of lunch options that can be incorporated into your school year menu.