For Parents

Information and advice for a parent or carer of a child living with allergy.

Back to School Hub

Through talking to parents, we understand the anxiety they live with when their children are away from the home environment, and it is important that schools understand this anxiety and are able to reassure parents that their children are safe at school and that school staff are able to manage their children’s needs and respond to emergency situations. We understand the challenges parents face and aim to provide essential advice and strategies to help safeguard your child’s well-being while at school.

On this page:

Communication is key

Talking to the school

Establish open communication channels with your child’s school. Inform teachers, administrators, and the school nurse about your child’s allergies, triggers, symptoms, and emergency action plan. Ensure that they understand the seriousness of allergies and are prepared to handle any potential allergic reactions.

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
  • Potential risks both inside and outside the classroom, such as activity lessons, school trips, games, and physical education.
  • 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 AAIs are kept and how accessible are they.

Regularly update information: Keep all information regarding your child’s allergies up to date and be sure to inform the school of any changes in your child’s condition or medication.

Stay involved: Stay actively engaged with the school community. Attend parent-teacher meetings, school events, and allergy-related workshops if available. Building a supportive network within the school can help make sure that everyone is educated and attentive to your child’s needs.

Build a network: Connect with other parents of children with allergies. Share experiences, tips, and resources to create a supportive community.

Talking to your child

We understand that often for younger children, it may be difficult for them to understand their allergies and how to avoid potential triggers. When your child suffers from allergies, as parents or carers, you can ensure their home is as safe as possible, keeping allergens out of the home as much as possible. When starting a new school, in an unfamiliar environment, this is not always as easy.

Empower your child to advocate for themselves. Teach your child about their allergies, including what they are allergic to, how to recognise symptoms, and how to avoid allergens. Encourage them to speak up for themselves, read food labels and seek help if they feel unwell or notice potential risks.

Once your child has settled in, encourage them to openly talk about their allergies with a close friend and/or teacher, so others in the classroom are aware of what to do if a reaction occurs.

If your child is experiencing anxiety with starting school, download our factsheet below on understanding anxiety.

Starting a new school

Starting a new school

Starting school, whether primary or secondary, can be a daunting experience for both parents and children. If a ‘new starter’ has an allergy however, it is essential that both the child and their parents are confident that this will be managed effectively.

Childhood allergies: Understanding anxiety

Childhood allergies: Understanding anxiety

Starting primary school, changing classes, or even a change in routine, can cause some anxiety for children. If your child’s also living with an allergy, these changes might feel overwhelming and leave them worried about how their condition might be affected.

Adrenaline-auto injectors and medications at school  

If your child has a severe allergy, it is essential to provide the school with two Adrenaline-Auto Injectors (AAIs) as well as any other allergy medication your child may need. All medication should be in date and expired ones should be replaced. Medication should be kept with your child at school and not locked away where it is not easily accessible. In an anaphylactic reaction, seconds count. When your child is younger, ask for their medication to be passed between activity to activity if they change classrooms at all.

When your child is old enough, they can carry it with them in their bags. Any teacher or staff member in contact with your child should be trained to use all Adrenaline-Auto Injectors, if this is not currently the case, training will need to be organised/provided. It will also be beneficial to check if the school has spare Adrenaline Auto Injectors on site.

All members of staff who would supervise your child at any time should be aware of the warning signs of an allergic reaction. Download our Anaphylaxis and Severe Allergic Reactions factsheet to share with the school.

Policies, legislations, and plans

Develop an allergy management plan

Work with your child’s healthcare provider to create a comprehensive allergy management plan. This plan should include information on allergens, symptoms, emergency contacts, and the proper administration of medication, such as adrenaline auto-injectors if necessary.

The British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) has produced a range of allergy management plans, which can be used for this purpose, and can be downloaded below.

Legislation and school policies

Familiarise yourself with your child’s school allergy policies and procedures. Make sure that they align with your child’s needs and advocate for necessary accommodations if they do not. 

In 2014, the Children and Families Act 2014 made it a legal duty for schools to make arrangements for pupils with medical conditions – this includes children with food allergies. All pupils with medical conditions – including food allergies – should have an Individual Healthcare Plan agreed between the parents and the school. Where a pupil has been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) for use in an emergency, teachers and other non-healthcare professionals are permitted – but not obligated – to administer an AAI under existing legislation.

In 2017, the law to allow schools to obtain, without a prescription, “spare” AAI devices for use in an emergency, if they so wish. Spare AAIs are in addition to any AAI devices a pupil has been prescribed and bring to school.  The spare AAI can be used if the pupil’s own prescribed AAI’s are not immediately available.

Model policy for allergy at school

Allergy UK and Anaphylaxis UK have worked with the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) and the Medical Conditions in Schools Alliance, supported by the Department for Education (DfE), to develop a Model Policy for Allergy at School guide. It has been designed to support schools to develop a ‘Gold Standard’ policy to manage children’s allergies safely, so that children and their parents feel reassured that a robust policy is in place. The Model Policy for Allergy at School draws on lessons learnt from Prevention of Future Deaths reports where children have sadly died as a consequence of anaphylaxis while they are at school.

Please take this document to your school and encourage them to work with you to develop a robust policy for your child, so that you can feel reassured about your child’s safety whilst attending school. 

Teach emergency preparedness

Educate teachers and staff on how to recognise allergic reactions and administer your child’s medication in case of an emergency. Encourage the school to conduct regular allergy awareness training for staff.

Model policy for allergy at school

Model policy for allergy at school

This Policy, which has been reviewed by leading allergy clinicians, contains advice on the storage and use of allergy medication, bullying in the school setting, what to do in an emergency and much more. Encourage your child's school to work with you to develop a robust policy for your child.

Anaphylaxis and Severe Allergic Reactions

Anaphylaxis and Severe Allergic Reactions

This page provides the most up-to-date guidance on anaphylaxis and AAIs. Knowing how to recognise the early signs of anaphylaxis and administer AAI’s can save a life. Find out more with our factsheets, how to videos and leaflets.

Adrenaline Auto-Injectors (AAI's)

Adrenaline Auto-Injectors (AAI's)

This factsheet has been developed to highlight the importance of carrying your adrenaline auto injector. It will also cover the different types and brands of adrenaline auto injectors available in the UK as well as how to care for your adrenaline auto injector.

Food allergies in school

Food allergy is common – on average, most school classes in the UK will have one or two children with a food allergy. Schools need to consider how to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction, in line with the statutory guidance ‘Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions’. Parents need to work with the school in trying to reduce the potential risks.

  • Bottles, other drinks and lunch boxes should be clearly labelled with the name of the child for whom they are intended.
  • If food is purchased from the school canteen, parents should check the ingredients of foods by speaking directly to the catering manager.
  • Many children of primary school age are able to check with staff and read ingredients labels and one way to help your child learn is to take them shopping with you, and ask them to read ingredients labels to spot the foods they are allergic too.
  • Food should not be given to food-allergic children in primary schools without parental engagement and permission (e.g. birthday parties, food treats).
  • When planning out-of-school activities such as sporting events, excursions (e.g. restaurants and food processing plants), school outings or camps, think early about the catering requirements for food-allergic children, and emergency planning (including access to emergency medication and medical care).

School meals and catering  

Schools should make reasonable adjustments for pupils with particular requirements, for example to reflect medical, dietary and cultural needs. The Food Information Regulations 2014 requires all food businesses including school caterers to show the allergen ingredients’ information for the food they serve. This makes it easier for schools to identify the food that pupils with allergies can and cannot eat. More information about food allergies is available in the allergy guidance for schools. Schools should also comply with the requirements for labelling of allergens on prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) food that take effect from October 2021.

During your meeting with the school, discuss what current processes are in place with minimising risk to children with food allergies. You can then raise any concerns you may have and make any suggestions about how your child, and any others with food allergies, can be kept as safe from risk as possible. If you are planning for your child to eat school dinners, you may also want to organise a meeting with the catering team. It may be beneficial to provide the team with a copy of your child’s management plan. In addition, ask if there is a specific member of the catering staff who will help your child each day and give them the required ‘safe’ prepared meal.

‘No nut’ policies and allergen bans

Many parents and schools try to implement a ‘ban’ certain foods (such as nuts) from school premises. However,  we do not recommend a ‘no nut policy’ in schools, as it is not possible to guarantee and enforce a nut free zone, as staff cannot monitor all lunches and snacks brought in from home. A free from environment creates a false sense of security and does not safely prepare children for environments where nuts may be present. The school would need to consider other children with different food allergies and it is not practical to restrict them all. Therefore, the school should have procedures in place to minimise risk of reaction via cross contamination.

School activities, birthdays and trips  

It is essential that your child is included in all activities and trips outside the classroom. No students should feel isolated due to having an allergy. School activities such as cookery, art lessons and physical education could all have allergy risks for your child. Be sure to raise any concerns with the school and if it is recommended for your child not to participate, be sure to ask the teacher about alternative activities available to prevent your child from feeling left out.

For student birthdays, arrange for special snacks or birthday treats to be stored in a labelled tin for teachers to bring out when other children are celebrating a birthday. If you are made aware of any birthdays in advance, you may be able to send in your child’s own allergen-free cake. It is important that every trip, from day trips to short breaks are enjoyable for your child without any, or minimal risk of allergic reactions. Ensure all members of staff on the trip are aware of your child’s allergies, medication, and management plans.

Residential trips

Your child might be invited to go on a residential trip with their school or a club. This is a trip where they’ll sleep over for one or more nights. This may be the longest amount of time they stay away from home alone at this age, so preparing them for a trip like this is an important step in building their confidence and independence.

  • Ask for an itinerary of the trip, go through this with your child and discuss with them if there are any activities that might trigger their allergies.
  • Arrange a meeting with the teacher/club leader to review their allergy management plan and discuss how the accommodation will manage their needs e.g. mealtimes, administering medication, avoiding triggers etc. Include your child in these conversations.
  • If your child feels uneasy about going on the trip, try not to pressure them. Reassure them that it’s okay to say no and not go. But maybe suggest they spend the night away from home, at a friend’s house or another family members home, to see how they feel being away from home, before making their decision.

‘Back to school’ season

When a new school terms approaches, sending your child with allergies back to school may bring about various concerns and considerations. Ensuring a safe and supportive environment for your child is essential.

Returning to school can be an anxious time for those living with food allergies as they negotiate unfamiliar environments, school lunch halls and new classmates and teachers. It can also be a stressful time for teachers who perhaps have a child with allergies in their class for the first time.

Here are essential tips to consider when sending your child with allergies back to school.

  1. Speak to your school before September. Every school is set up differently, so it’s impossible to know exactly what they’re planning without asking.
  2. Review your child’s allergy management plan with their new teacher. New measures within the school may mean that your child’s plan needs to be changed slightly, this will also give you opportunity to check staff are trained in allergy management.
  3. Make sure you are stocked up on medication and that Adrenaline Auto-Injectors are in date before the term begins.
  4. Buy a product that notifies people of your child’s allergy, such as a medical ID bracelet. These products can be bought online and include bracelets, lunchboxes stickers etc.
  5. Ask if the school can raise awareness of allergies amongst staff and pupils. This doesn’t mean singling out your child, but educating everyone on allergies in an assembly, class activity or fundraising event.

Returning to school with allergies can be a smooth and safe experience by taking proactive steps and fostering effective communication between parents, school staff, and your child. By collaborating and staying informed, you can help create an environment where your child feels supported, understood, and safe throughout the school year.

Frequently Asked Questions for Parents

Every year our Helpline receives hundreds of calls from anxious, concerned parents and carers in the lead up to the new school year. Here you will find responses to school related questions which have been directly created from parents’ concerns.

Find out more

Parent Pathways

In 2023 Allergy UK launched Parent Pathways, a digital destination for parents and carers to provide support in helping their children navigate the path to independence while managing their allergies.

Find out more

Additional support

Our helpline offers support to parents like you, helping to provide peace of mind and guidance on navigating allergies in a school environment. For further advice and resources tailored to your child’s specific needs call us on 01322 619898, email or use our web chat service to talk directly to one of our advisors.

Navigating allergies in a school setting requires collaboration, understanding, and proactive measures from parents, schools, and the wider community. By working together and staying informed, we can create a safer and more inclusive environment for children with allergies to thrive academically and socially.

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