It’s natural to have a twinge of anxiety when the kids head off for the first day of school or daycare. We hope they’ll like their new teachers and classmates, not to mention their lunches, and come home excited about the months to come. But what if they have serious food allergies?
Alexandria Durrell knows all about it. She is mom to a child with life-threatening allergies and allergy blogger for YummyMummyClub.ca. She also gets the gold star for readiness as her kids, Story, 7, and Mason, 4, go back to class at the start of September. “Mason is allergic to nuts and peanuts, and has environmental and animal allergies, too,” Alexandria explains, adding, “Obviously the food allergies are our biggest concern.”
They are a big concern for many parents, schools and school boards. “Food allergy is one of the leading causes of potentially life-threatening allergic reactions and a growing public health concern in Canada, especially among children,” according to Anaphylaxis Canada. “About 300,000 Canadian children under 18 years have food allergies,” this non-profit organization reveals. What’s more, “Peanut allergy in Canada affects about [two] in 100 children.”
And, especially when they’re little, diligence at school is crucial. Mason, a sweet-faced wee guy, is going into senior kindergarten. “To prepare him for SK, we will have a meeting with his teacher and the classroom EA to discuss their emergency anaphylaxis plans and training,” his mom remarks. “His school has a file for each child with allergies, but it’s not much good when that lives in the school office.” In case of an emergency, Mason will be carrying an Allerject and an EpiPen to school in his backpack. “His school is nut- and peanut-free, so I’m confident he will be ok,” Alexandria says. It really helps that he’s already well educated about this health issue. “He knows to not share food with anyone, to never eat anything we haven’t approved, and to be very clear about his allergies to others.”
Still, this allergy blogger and mom-in-the-know says there have been a number of close calls. She lists “his birthday party magician who gave him a donut without our permission, family members giving him chocolates containing peanut butter, and others laughing off the severity of his allergies. Thankfully, he’s never had an anaphylactic reaction, but we are always prepared, and ever diligent in screening everything he eats.”
Are you worried about your kids’ safety at school? There’s a lot you can do, right now, to smooth the way and make the school-year transition easier and calmer for everybody. “My advice is to prepare in advance by writing down any questions you want to ask the staff. Don’t fear asking too many! It’s always better to err on the side of caution,” Alexandria notes.
“Be very clear about your expectations and what you want the staff to do (or not do!) for your child,” she adds. “And be absolutely sure the staff is trained to recognize the early symptoms of a severe reaction and that they’re prepared to act appropriately if the situation ever should arise.”
For more information, check out yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/alexandria-durrell-irritated-by-allergies, idontblog.ca/irritated-by-allergies and www.anaphylaxis.ca.