Gluten-Free Resource Directory

10 Tips for Keeping Your Food Allergic Child Safe in the Classroom

girl sandwich

Making healthy choices for our children is important.

This time of year, making sure they have nutritious school lunches is at the top of the list! But for children with food allergies, eating lunch at school is more than “just lunch”. It can easily turn into a mine field of allergens.

Of course, that doesn’t have to be the case. With careful preparation and planning on our part, we, as food allergy parents, can insure safe, nutritious days ahead for our school age kiddos!

For example, something as simple as talking to our child’s teacher to learn about (and to help guide) classroom policies regarding food and food-related events can help our child, as well as others in the future by raising awareness about food allergy safety in school.

Use this check list to start a conversation with your child’s teacher or school administrator about how food issues are handled for those with food allergies at your child’s school.

10 Tips for Keeping Your Food Allergic Child Safe in the Classroom

1 – NO SHARING – Ask your child’s teacher to implement a “no food sharing or trading” rule. While sharing is usually encouraged, especially in the classroom, for a child with food allergies – in particular younger children or those newly diagnosed with a food allergy – the innocent act of sharing a sandwich or cookie can be a dangerous.

2 – KEEP IT CLEAN – Check out the classroom to see if there is a hand washing station children can use before and after eating. Not only is this important for your child’s cleanliness, it is critical that ALL children wash up after handling and eating lunch or snacks. This helps prevent the spread of allergens around the classroom, to supplies, etc. If no hand wash station exists, suggest sanitizing wipes, which are far more effective than hand sanitizing gels when it comes to removing food allergen proteins.

3 – WIPE IT DOWN – Tables, chairs, door knobs, and anything else little hands can hold on to need to be wiped down with sanitizing wipes or sanitizing cleaner and paper towels each time food is introduced into the classroom. Also, in the case of severe food allergies and those where skin contact triggers a reaction, you will want to ask that the classroom, especially your child’s area – is wiped down each day before the start of activities. (Yes, it’s asking a lot, but this is your child’s health!)

4 -KEEP IT WRAPPED – Instead of homemade goodies and treats for birthdays and holidays, ask your child’s teacher to request all treats and snacks be sent in individually wrapped with an ingredients label so that there is no question about what is in the food being served.

5 -SUPPLY IT – Unplanned festivities will likely occur. For those times, be sure to send safe snacks for your child’s teacher to keep in a special place in the classroom. If your child’s teacher has a variety of sweet, salty, crunchy snacks, fruit cups, etc. on hand, your kiddo will at least have something they like to snack on when these unexpected treats show up.

6 – SNACK SMART – Provide your child’s teacher with a list of kid-friendly “safe snacks” they can add to the snack list rotation if the class has one. That way, your teacher can include those items on the list of suggestions when it’s sent out to all parents.

7 – NON-FOOD REWARDS – Instead of handing out candies or other treats as rewards, ask your child’s teacher if they could use stickers, pencils or other fun non-food items to reward children. You may even want to suggest a Treasure Chest where parents make a small contribution of age-appropriate, safe, and inexpensive non-food items. (Dollar stores and craft supply stores are great spots to look for items to contribute!)

8 – POST IT – provide a quick reference list of your child’s allergens clearly stated, along with the symptoms of their reaction and signs to look for. Also write your phone number and another emergency contact on the reference list. While this is kept on file in the nurse’s office in most schools, you can’t be too careful, and when it comes to allergic reactions, seconds matter!

9 – EDUCATE – Offer your time to educate the entire class (teacher included!) about food allergies, focusing on your child’s allergies and symptoms. Kids understand more that we give them credit for, and most are very willing to be an “allergy buddy” to help keep a friend safe.

10 – DON’T SINK THE SUB – Prepare a special folder about your child and her/his allergies, including any information that would help a substitute teacher who does not know your child. This can go a long way in keeping your child safe and the sub sane!

Of course, these are not the only steps to take to help keep your child safe in school, but these will go a long way in keeping your child’s food allergens at bay in the classroom.

Always consult the school regarding their policies on classroom and cafeteria procedures in handling students with food allergies, and speak to the school nurse, as well as any other pertinent staff about your child’s specific allergens.

For more information on children and food allergies, be sure to visit the Food Allergy Research and Education website. 

And don’t forget to take advantage of the free resources I have for you here in the Knowledge Section as well as the gluten-free, allergen-free recipes in my Recipe Index.

If you’re looking for a listing of gluten-free allergen-free products, you’ll love the comprehensive collection at The Gluten Free Resource Directory!

xo,

Gigi ;)

About Gigi Stewart

After more than 25 years of living with unexplained chronic pain and a frightening array of misdiagnoses ranging from lupus to leukemia, I took my health into my own hands by seeking real, fact-based answers to heal my body naturally. Through my academic research, scientific studies and my personal experiences, I gained a unique understanding of how properly managing diet directly impacts our overall health and wellness. It is my passion to share this information with you because I know many of you are facing health challenges similar to those I overcame through proper diet and nutrition. My goal is to support your journey to optimal health with real answers, advice and tips that work.

View all posts by Gigi Stewart →

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  • Dawn Robertson: The only tropical relief I have found is from Biofreeze. Every few hours I spray my itchy splotchy rash and I get a few hours of peace. Icy Hot or other products will menthol may work too. View Post
  • Peggy Schulz: Hello, I am trying to find a doctor or dermatologist in Oregon (preferably Medford area) that specializes in DH/Celiac. After going to 5 docs over a couple years, all think I have eczema and even athlete foot or food allergy, spent over $3000 out of pocket for allergy tests etc., I figured out what I have via google! Oh did I tell you I always told my doctors I have celiac. And I always said I have a feeling it an internal issue, not an allergy. And always told them the itch is not normal, it itches to the bone! Not one ever mentioned DH! Apparently I am getting cross contamination, so now staying home for every meal, not eating out, even at friends homes. I would sure like a doctor who 'get's it'! Thank you for this site! View Post
  • Peggy Schulz: Hello, I am trying to find a doctor or dermatologist in Oregon (preferably Medford area) that specializes in DH/Celiac. After going to 5 docs over a couple years, all think I have eczema and even athlete foot or food allergy, spent over $3000 out of pocket for allergy tests etc., I figured out what I have via google! Oh did I tell you I always told my doctors I have celiac. And I always said I have a feeling it an internal issue, not an allergy. And always told them the itch is not normal, it itches to the bone! Not one ever mentioned DH! Apparently I am getting cross contamination, so now staying home for every meal, not eating out, even at friends homes. I would sure like a doctor who 'get's it'! Thank you for this site! View Post