Food Allergies in School

Is your allergic child about to start school or already in school? Here are some recommendations to facilitate their integration and make it safe.

First of all, it should be noted that there is no legislation in Quebec governing the care of allergic children in schools. Therefore, each school board must develop their own allergy management guidelines that their schools will implement to the best of their ability. In this context, it is all the more important to communicate with your child’s school and to establish good safety habits. Allergy Quebec works to raise awareness among elected officials to advance public policy and better respond to the concerns of school employees and parents of children with allergies. In addition, our association has collaborated in the drafting of a guide to good practices, intended for primary schools, with many Montreal representatives of the public and private school network and the health network, all grouped together by the Public Health Department of Montreal. Consult the guide in question:

Tools and guidance for your child’s safe integration into a school environment

Before the start of the school year…

  • Find out about the school’s food allergy policies.
  • Have your allergist sign an individualized emergency plan.
  • Contact the school to discuss the individualized emergency plan.
  • Make sure your child knows what to do to avoid an allergic reaction (for example, washing their hands before and after eating, using a placemat from home, only eating food that was prepared at home, avoiding to share not only food but also drinks, dishes, utensils, and bottles, avoiding to use the school’s microwave, etc.).
  • Make sure your child is able to recognize the symptoms of an allergic reaction and knows how important it is to notify someone immediately if these symptoms occur.
  • Obtain medical identification, such as a Medicalert® bracelet or necklace.
  • Purchase a thermos and a placemat for school, as poorly cleaned microwaves and tables can be a source of contamination.
  • Be sure to identify your child’s lunch box, thermos, bottle, etc., so employees can ensure that your child is eating their own meal.

From the very first day of school…

  • Provide at least one auto-injector (un-expired). If your child is too young to wear it at the waist, the school should store it in an accessible place.
  • Take note of the auto-injector’s expiry date and replace it at the right time.
  • Discuss your child’s allergies with the teaching and daycare staff to make sure they know how to recognize the symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to use the epinephrine auto-injector. Also, discuss with them any special arrangements that have to be made for activities, celebrations, and field trips during the year. Plan alternative solutions, such as non-perishable snacks kept in class for special occasions.
  • Ask the school principal to notify you when there is a substitute (in the classroom or at daycare) so that you can confirm that they have taken note of your child’s allergies.
  • If your child is of adequate age and maturity, have them carry their auto-injector at their waist; this will allow for a faster response in case of an allergic reaction.
  • As soon as your child is of adequate age and maturity, teach them how to use their auto-injector themselves.
  • € Communication with your child and with those in their environment is often the best way to ensure their safety.
  • Watch these tips for a Safe Start to School (2016) (in French).

*UPDATE* Taking antihistamines in a school setting can be problematic for several reasons. Their administration may require training beyond that provided to the school staff. If your child is used to taking them, discuss it with the school nurse or designated staff. In addition, in cases of anaphylaxis, antihistamines are sometimes administered INSTEAD of epinephrine auto-injectors delaying the use of the right medication in a time sensitive situation. An epinephrine auto-injector is the ONLY medication that treats anaphylaxis.