Sunday, June 22, 2014

Food Allergy Resources for the Elementary Teacher

Preparing for Food Allergies in the Classroom

Helping you prepare for a safe, and inclusive school year. I have gathered my favorite materials, books, snack lists, links, safety information, and training for the classroom teacher.  As a former teacher and a food allergy parent, I know how overwhelming it can be for everyone.  I hope this list makes it a bit easier for you, your child, and your child's classroom teacher.

List of Accommodations:

Your Child's 504 Plan
Make sure that your child's teacher has a printed copy of the accommodations that are necessary to keep your child safe, and included in the classroom.
If you do not have a 504 Plan, make sure that you do have an Individualized Health Care Plan (IHCP) in place with an included Emergency Plan. Have that printed out and given to your teacher as well. Make a list of accommodations needed for safety, and inclusion in the classroom, and go over the list with the principal, and teacher to make sure that it is all agreed upon.
Wondering what plan is best for your child?  Here is a great Q&A on the topic of 504 Plans and IHCPs from FARE

Printed Emergency Plan:

FARE's Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan (also included in 504, or IHCP)
FARE's plan outlines the symptoms of mild allergic reactions to anaphylaxis, and lets the teacher know what to do for each possible type of reaction. This can be printed out for each teacher, nurse, food service, and staff member who will be watching your child.   *I use wallet sized photos (school photos may work) to attach to each plan. I like the idea of having a color photo on each as they are more recognizable.

Printable Handout on Anaphylaxis  From Kids With Food Allergies (KFA)

Print out a copy for the teacher Handout on Anaphylaxis

Book for Preparing Student, and Teacher:

The No Biggie Bunch's "Everyday Cool With Food Allergies"
This is a great book for food allergies as it teaches your child food allergy safety, as well as illustrating food allergy safety points for the teacher.  It explains why reading labels, hand washing, safe snacks and other safety measures are important for your child, and teacher. It is written the highly respected food allergist Dr. Michael Pistiner.  This book can be read by the teacher and child together to make sure that they both know the food allergy safety rules, and why they are important.

Downloadable book for the Teacher:

From the NEA Health Information Network (HIN) National Education Association 

Hand Wipes or Hand-washing:

You may want to supply the classroom with Wet-ones hand wipes if sinks are not easily accessible.
If there is not a way to wash with soap and water before or after eating, hand wipes can remove food proteins.  Here is an article about removing food residue and why antibacterial hand sanitizer does not work for food allergies.

Posters for the Classroom:

Order, or print off a few posters yourself for the classroom
My own Free Printable 8x10 peanut/tree-nut free, or dairy free posters
From FARE: Be a Pal poster for team building, and allergy education
From KidsCanHaveFun: Free printable signs for almost any food allergy, table signs and more
From Cool Allergy Awareness Posters 

How to Read Food Labels for Food Allergies: 

Print this out for your teacher:
From FARE: Printable pages "Tips for Avoiding Your Allergen"

Safe Snacks/Treats:

A list of safe snacks that your child can have complete with brand names and a notice to check each label every time as companies can change ingredients at any time.
* For Peanut, Tree-nut, and Egg Allergies has a great routinely updated list of safe snacks, treats, and candy. 
* For other allergies, make your own list of safe snacks, candies, and treats, and update it as needed.
* Attach list to safe box of snacks and treats for the classroom.
* Keeping a stash of shelf stable treats in the safe snack box, or frozen cupcakes at the school is an easy way to stay prepared for school birthdays if food treats are served.
* Candy is often used as incentives or prizes, so having a bag of safe candy in the safe snack box is also a good idea.
You can also add a handout like the one I made to be put into the sub folder, and printed for specials teachers: Food Allergy Alert
*Safe Snack Box: A box, or plastic container with a lid for safe snacks, and treats.

Food Allergy Books for the Teacher to Read to the Class:

Joey Panda and His Food Allergies Save the Day: A Children's Book 

The Bugabees: Friends With Food Allergies 

Nutley, the Nut-Free Squirrel 

Mangos for Max 

Patty's Secret: A Tale About Living with Food Allergies  

Food Allergies and Me: A Children's Book

Food Allergy Videos for the Class:

Arthur: Binky Goes Nuts (2007) 

Alexander the Elephant Who Couldn't Eat Peanuts (Human Peanut Allergies) (1994)

List of Possible Allergens in Classroom Materials:

Make sure the teacher has this list printed for them:

Letters to Parents of Classmates:

For severe allergies, you may need the teacher to send home a letter to the other parents. The letter can explain the severity of the food allergy, and the accommodations that they can help with to keep your child safe and included in the classroom, class parties, birthdays, and projects.  If needed, it can also include a list of safe snacks, and/or food free treats.  After reading a few samples, I wrote my own, and emailed it to the teacher who made it her own with slight changes, approved it, and then it went out to the parents in my daughter's classroom.

Sample Letters:

List Of Food Free Treats for Birthdays and Rewards:

Print a list of ideas for your child's teacher, and other parents.

Food Allergy Training for Classroom Teachers:

This is a great training module for you to share with the teacher!
It is from

Educating the Whole Class, and Team Building:

Email your child's teacher a link to this program!
FARE's Be a PAL: Protect a Life education program is a wonderful way to teach the entire class about food allergies, and looking out for each other!

I hope that you have a fantastic, fun, safe, and inclusive school year!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Guest Blogger for Neocate Formula!

Recently I was invited to write a guest blog post for Neocate's Food Allergy Living Blog. As many of you know Neocate is a formula for infants and children with food allergies.  I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to write a guest post for them as they help so many in our food allergic community.

You can read it here at Neocate's Food Allergy Living Blog:

Check it out! I give tips on keeping our kids with severe food allergy sharp and ready for the new school year: "Preventing Summer Brain Drain for the Food Allergic".

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

School Nurses are Invaluable to Our Allergic Kids

These flowers are for school nurses everywhere. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

The last day of school has come and gone. My daughter will be a second grader next year, and I am surprisingly excited for her to return to school in the fall.  Even with her severe food allergies, GERD, asthma, and eczema, she had a fantastic year because of the wonderful school nurse.  It eased my mind to have a medical professional on hand to assess any possible asthma or anaphylactic reactions that may happen at school.

We are so lucky to have a nurse at our school every day.  Many schools have a school nurse only part time, or not at all.  I have read that less than half of students have a school nurse every day, all dayWith the high rate of childhood asthma, severe allergies, and climbing rates of other health issues like childhood diabetes, the school nurse is needed, and invaluable.

In talking to the school nurses in the district I have learned that they are part-time, but some stay until the end of the day as they feel that they are needed, and even though their pay is part-time, they work full time hours to make sure that the children with medical needs are taken care of. I suspect ours feels this way as she is usually still there giving breathing treatments, cleaning up vomit, calling parents and checking temperatures at the end of the day. 

Our school nurse had my daughter in her office so many times this year for allergies, asthma, and anxiety, that I have developed a good working relationship with her. When I have gone into the nurse's office from time to time, I have noticed how busy she is, and how much she has on her plate. She has so many children going into her office each day, and is responsible for treating everything including minor lacerations, daily medications, insulin shots, asthma attacks, breathing treatments, anxiety attacks, and broken bones... Just to name a few.

Even with her hectic daily requirements, the nurse made my daughter feel welcome, and took all of her visits seriously, even if it was just an itchy eczema spot on her leg, itchy eyes, or a Band-Aid. So when my daughter had more serious issues, such as a possible food allergy reaction, or an asthma attack, she felt very comfortable going to the nurse for help.

In reading about school nurses around the country, and our state, I have found that many are over worked and underpaid, with some schools only having a school nurse available for a couple of days a week, or not at all. Many are expected to take attendance, and dole out daily morning medications at the same time, all while monitoring their students with serious chronic medical needs, and the daily multitude of childhood illnesses and injuries.

We need to give more to our school nurses. We rely on them for so much, and they are not given what they are worth.  If only every school had a full time nurse with full time pay for the countless hours that they put in to keeping our children safe at school.

What can we do to support our school nurses?  As parents who rely on the school nurse for our highly allergic children, we know how invaluable they are.  How can we help our school nurses?

I don't know the answer, but one suggestion is to partner up with other parents and take your concerns to your school board. 


Continued reading on the topic: 

In the News: Student dies of asthma attack, no nurse at school

Insightful article on the dangers of nursing shortage in schools: School Nurse Shortage May Imperil...

Here is a great article about the recent trend of cutting school nurses: When Schools Cut Nurses

Description of what a school nurse's job entails from NASN: Role of the School Nurse