Our Top Tips have been written for parents, teachers and older children to help make the transition back to school less stressful. They include ways to deal with difficult scenarios, what information to share and the processes that can be put in place to lessen the risk at school.
Top Tips for Parents
Parents of children living with allergies can help the school care for their child by keeping staff informed about their child’s allergic condition(s) for example you can;
- Inform the school that your child has an allergy at the time they are enrolled or when the diagnosis is made by your child’s health care professional.
- Work together with staff to develop a risk minimisation plan that is specific to your child.
- Provide the school with your child’s up-to-date allergy action plan that has been signed by your child’s doctor.
- Provide staff with an emergency medical kit for your child including any prescribed medications such as an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI).
- Regularly check the expiry date of any required medications.
Talking to Staff
When talking to teachers and staff about your child’s allergies, discussions should cover the following;
- Causes, symptoms and treatment of your child’s allergy.
- How staff identify students at risk of allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.
- What preventative measures are in place and what they would be willing to adapt on if they are currently not suitable to your child’s needs.
- The school’s first aid and emergency response procedures.
- The staff’s role in responding to an allergic reaction.
- Where medications such as AAI’s are kept and how accessible are they.
Top Tips for Teachers
All school employees should be familiar with the type of foods that commonly cause food allergy, the signs and symptoms of allergic reactions and the management of allergic reactions. Schools should:
- Develop an allergy and anaphylaxis management policy with information on what staff can do to provide a safer environment for children with food allergies.
- Provide allergy and anaphylaxis first aid training for staff that includes the use of adrenaline auto-injectors. This training should be updated on a regular basis.
- Identify children with allergies currently enrolled or due to be enrolled.
- Ensure that parents provide an emergency medical kit for their child that contains any medication required and an allergy action plan.
- Have an alert system for expiry dates of each child’s adrenaline auto-injector to ensure that it is still in date.
- Ensure they are easily accessible and that all staff know where these emergency medical kits are kept.
- Write an emergency response plan that describes exactly what to do and who to contact in the event that a child has an allergic reaction.
Some parents may not want their child’s identity or allergies shared with the wider school community and some children with allergies may not want to be singled out or seen to be treated differently. Discuss with each child and their parents/guardians what they feel works best for them and whether they agree to have their child’s name, photograph and relevant treatment details displayed in staff areas, canteens or other communal areas.
Bullying is a problem that can affect all children and children with food allergies are no exception. Children may tease, taunt or try to trick them into eating a food or threaten them with the food they are allergic to.
If you are told about or discover this sort of behaviour, your school is likely to have general strategies in place for dealing with bullying situations and these should be followed. However you can also tailor your reaction to this specific situation as follows;
- Talk to the child performing the bullying and explain that an allergic reaction, especially anaphylaxis is extremely serious and possibly life threatening.
- Emphasise to the child that any behaviour or attempts to harm a child who has a food allergy with the allergen they are allergic to is treated as a serious and dangerous incident and managed accordingly.
- Remind the child about the ways children with food allergies can he helped.
Many teachers and childcare workers use food treats to reward children when they have achieved something or been especially well behaved. If you have a child with food allergies in your class/classroom, avoid using food treats where possible. However if you do decide to use food treats, make sure that you offer treats that do not contain any of the allergens that children in your care are allergic to.
If you would like to hold an assembly or create a display using Allergy UK resources, contact our helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01322 619898
Top Tips for Older Students
Moving on from primary school brings different challenges. No longer is there just one classroom with one teacher, so it’s important that students feel empowered to speak up and know how to access help and support if needed.
Key to this process is explaining your allergies and helping others to understand them. You can help others learn about allergy and anaphylaxis and understand the effects it can have emotionally and in everyday life. Deciding who to tell about your allergies varies from person to person. But when it comes to telling teachers and those who care for you, not telling them isn’t an option. A few simple messages for fellow students are;
- Always take allergies seriously, severe allergies are no joke.
- Be respectful of another student’s medication.
Know what your friends are allergic to and if they are having symptoms of an allergic reaction, get help immediately.
- Do not pressure your friends to eat food that they are allergic to.
- Do not share your food with friends who have food allergies.
- Wash your hands after eating.
Dealing with peer pressure
Unfortunately, many children have to contend with some sort of bullying. However, bullying children with food allergy can take on a new meaning if behaviour potentially causes a life threatening event.
If you have feelings of either negative peer pressure or bullying because of your allergies, act early and turn to a trusted adult (a parent, guardian or teacher) for guidance.