Back to school with food allergies

food allergyA back-to-school checklist for parents whose child has a food allergy can set the stage for a safe and happy school year. It’s important to focus on communication with key people, being sure to ask questions. If the answer is uncertain or unclear, continue to ask until it is clear.

Read on to see what questions to ask.

  • The school nurse
    • Is there a full-time school nurse?
      If not, what is the protocol for managing reactions if a nurse is not available?
    • Are school staff trained to recognize symptoms of an allergic emergency?
      Are they trained to respond? Who is trained? Are lunch and recess monitors trained?
    • Who should be alerted if a child has a reaction?
    • Are trained teachers or other school staff allowed to look for signs of anaphylaxis?
      Can they administer epinephrine to a student with a known allergy?
    • Find out policies.
      Does the school have peanut-/nut-free tables? Is it a peanut-/nut-allergy friendly school? It is extremely difficult to maintain schools that are completely peanut-free, particularly if other students are bringing in food from home.
    • What measures are in place to prevent accidental exposures?
  • Teacher
    • Does the school allow outside food for celebrations like birthdays?
      Many schools are turning away from this toward healthier and safer options.
    • If food is brought in from home, how is it checked for safety?
      Ideally, parents of children with food allergies should be notified and provided time to check ingredients. If not, request a system for advanced notification.
    • Keep a safe treat at school in case there is any uncertainty.
  • Doctor
    • Make sure there are unexpired EpiPens with your child’s name at school.
      Schools typically ask for two injectors that won’t expire during the school year.
    • Review the Anaphylaxis Action Plan.
      Make sure to have and understand the written plan to give to the school.
    • Review the new instructions for EpiPen.
      The biggest change is needing to hold the EpiPen against the leg for only three seconds instead of 10 seconds.
  • Your child
    • Remind her not to share or accept food, unless you approve it.
    • If she is having any symptoms, it is her job to tell an adult immediately.
    • Bullying or teasing about food allergies is not acceptable and should be reported. Remind your child to tell you if she feels bullied, and be sure to report any bullying or teasing to your child’s school.

Register for the Boston Children’s Hospital Food Allergy Symposium.


Get the Massachusetts guide Managing Life Threatening Food Allergies in Schools.

For schools in other states, check to see if your state has written guidelines, or refer to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Guidelines.