Back to School (the Allergy-friendly Way)
Summer is almost over, which only means one thing -- time for the kids to be going back to school! Allergies are on the rise, so whether this is new for you as a parent, or if you are an expert at keeping your kids safe from allergies, we have some back to school tips to keep your kids happy and healthy!
Avoiding cross-contamination is a challenge for students of all ages -- from preschool to college, but those challenges will be very different depending on age.
For children in Preschool, Kindergarten, or Elementary School:
Being such a young age, it is often difficult for children to understand why they can't eat like other kids, or understand why they are different. Protecting children of this age can be difficult because you can't always be there! The most important part of avoiding contact with allergens is making sure your child's teacher understands the illness and the severity of the allergy. Understanding Celiac disease can be very difficult for those who aren't educated about the illness -- it is important to do your best at giving teachers the resources they need to keep your child safe. If your child has a life-threatening allergy, consider contacting the principal directly to work out how to keep school a safe place. This resource has great letter templates for Celiac disease, but can easily be altered for any allergy! The next important step is to talk with the doctor to be sure that your child carries an Epi-pen if necessary. Make sure school officials know where it is kept if needed and how to use it.
Your child will face many challenges with their allergies, but packing lunches that are healthy and enjoyable can help your child feel more like other kids. Finding packable items for lunches can be difficult as a parent, but you will be able to ensure their food is free of cross-contaminants. If you know there will be an event at school (or outside of school) with treats, try baking allergy-free treats for your child and others, or pick up a Raised Gluten Free goodie that is perfect for sharing. Empower your children, help them to understand why they can’t share food from others’ lunches, and encourage them to ask if they are unsure what is safe to eat (at home or at school).
Keep in mind that this is only a small list to keep your child safe, and there will be unexpected obstacles along the way, but being as prepared as possible is the best way to handle allergies.
Celiacfamily.com has great resources to keep you prepared for whatever may come your way!
For children in Middle School, High School & College:
The older children get, it is important for them to be more aware and protect themselves from their allergies. It will become the child’s responsibility to carry their Epi-pen, read food labels, ask restaurants about what is safe to eat, etc. High schools may still be willing to enforce a campus-wide rule to not allow peanuts (or other severe allergies), but this cannot be expected of all schools. Your children’s friends should be aware of the allergies to prevent cross-contamination. Furthermore, eating on a high school or college campus can be very limiting and difficult. It is still important to bring food from home when possible to be sure that this is not an issue. In college this can be a huge struggle. Oftentimes students are left without grocery options (because of the lack of transportation or budget), and many cafeterias do not offer a great healthy selection. Being confined to a dorm can make cooking and eating options even more limited. Keep non-perishable snacks on hand for when they are necessary, and be sure to carry a snack in your backpack just in case!
Keeping your child safe in the outside world is not easy, but we hope these tips can be helpful! Have a happy and safe school year from all of your friends at Raised Gluten Free.