As the kids get ready to head back to school soon, it is time for food allergies and sensitivities to become a major topic of discussion again. Whether it is your child with a food allergy or sensitivity or a child on the bus, in the classroom or on the team, it is important that we as parents work together to keep all of our kids healthy and safe.
Here are a few tips for managing food allergies and sensitivities at school or in a group environment whether it is your child who is affected or a classmate that is affected.
Identify Allergies and Sensitivities
Communicate with your child’s teacher(s) and coach(es) and let them know of any food allergies or sensitivities your child may have and what the expected reaction if they ingest the allergen will be. Also find out if there are any other students that have allergies and the reaction so that you can eliminate sending in that allergen with your own child. Some kids are so allergic to an item that residual oils on someone’s hands can trigger the reaction or even just the smell. You would want others to be considerate and mindful of your own child in this situation, so be mindful of others. Food allergies and sensitivities are real, can be life threatening at worst or can just make a child very uncomfortable at best.
The first thing I always ask when a child comes to our house or rides in the car with us is, “are you allergic to anything?”
Talk with Your Child
Talk to you own child about the dangers and issues related with food allergies and sensitivities. We are in the process of identifying food sensitivities in one of my children and she was worried about how to act if offered a cupcake at a party (since we are eliminating gluten with her right now, since we have a family history and after removing it from my diet 3 months ago, I feel awesome). I explained to her that in her case she had to make a decision – she could politely say no, or she could choose to have the cupcake but know that she may feel bad afterwards. The same applies to a child with a peanut allergy – they may choose the peanut butter sandwich, but depending on the severity of their allergy, the consequences of that choice could be dire!
Let your child know that no one should make that decision for them! Nor should they ever pressure someone to eat something, especially if they have already said, “No” or have expressed that there is an allergy.
Also talk with your child about the importance of good hygiene and how cross-contamination can be dangerous for kids with allergies and sensitivities.
Use Care When Preparing Food
If you are aware of food allergies in your child’s classroom, take extra care in preparing your child’s lunch. Wipe down your preparation surfaces and make sure your containers have not come in contact with allergens prior to being sent to school. If you have a child with an allergy or sensitivity, make their food first to ensure the cleanest surfaces possible. On a side note, when we were at a Japanese Steak House recently I let the cook know that I am allergic to shrimp. I was so impressed that he cooked my food on the grill completely and served it to my plate before a single shrimp was put on the grill. Use the same concept when preparing your child’s food when you have an allergy to deal with.
When in Doubt, Leave it Out
If you are not sure if there is a peanut allergy or other common allergy in your child’s classroom, leave it out of your child’s lunch box. They can have the peanut butter cookie when they get home after school! It is just not worth the risk in my opinion.
For more information on children’s food allergies and sensitivities, visit:
- Kids With Food Allergies Foundation
- Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Food Allergies Resource Page
- Kid’s Health Food Allergies Resource
- Food Allergies in Kids More Common Than Thought
- Top 7 Food Allergies in Children
- Food Allergy Initiative
Here is wishing you and your children a happy return to the classroom!