Has your little one started school or a new setting this September?

As parents of children with allergies, we understand the jumble of emotions that you may experience when your child starts or returns to school and nursery.

Every child starting school is a huge and important life event. It can become even more worrying when you throw allergies and other additional health needs into the mix.

All of the control that we have had previously as parents, we hand over to their new setting and staff and hope that they listen to our concerns and take the best care of our precious little ones.
If your little one has started school this September, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed.

In this blog post, we will be sharing tips and advice to make that settling-in process as seamless and easy as possible.

Firstly, picking the right school.

For any parent, this decision is of extreme importance.

Going in ahead of time, meeting the staff and having a look around the school is a great way to get the ‘feel’ for the place. This will help you decide if this setting is the right one for you.

During this visit, you could also mention your child’s additional health needs and begin to ask any questions you may have about how they currently manage allergies within the setting.

Once you have chosen your school, it is a good idea to arrange a meeting with the staff that will be working with your child, as well as office staff, first aid and members of SLT. During this meeting, you could take along your child’s health care plan, a list of the things they are allergic to (both food and environmental) and any medication they have. Staff can then have a look at the medication or have training on how to use it. You can share a list of symptoms or things that you would like them to look out for, in particular, that are unique to your child.
You can also use this meeting to ask questions such as where will the medication be kept, how will you manage meal and snack times and what happens in an emergency.

Knowing the answers to these questions and any others that you are particularly worried about will help you to give you confidence and also build up a relationship with the staff at the school.
Depending on the type of allergies and reactions your child has, will affect how these questions are answered. Though an important question to consider when managing IgE allergies, is considering where the medication will be kept.

If your child carries adrenaline and/or has inhalers, their medication needs to be easily accessible and travel with them as they move around school.

It is important to stress the importance of adrenaline auto-injectors and inhalers staying with your child at all times. Reactions and attacks can happen quickly and children can deteriorate very fast. It is important to eliminate the risk of staff members rushing back to classrooms, first aid rooms or offices to locate medication in an emergency.

Allerpack children’s bags are great to have at school.

The handy wristlet makes them easy to carry around and the bright colours make them easily identifiable.

Children can personalise their bags further to include badges to represent the medication inside or add information cards to include important information on the outside of the bag.

There is also a handy transparent sleeve on the back of each Allerpack, for Allergy Action Plans to be stored and easily and quickly accessible if needed.

Deciding whether your child will take a packed lunch from home with them to school or whether they will enjoy a lunch prepared at school is a very personal choice.

Most school catering teams will cater for allergies and prepare something safe for them daily.

Additional things that you may then want to consider is:

  • How will they identify your child?
  • How will they manage cross-contact within the kitchen?
  • Will there be a member of staff watching over your child over the lunchtime period?

The answers to these questions will differ from school to school. Still, the important thing is that you feel comfortable with how they will manage allergies over lunchtime. If you are unsatisfied, keep asking questions until both parties understand the expectations and are happy with the management over lunchtime.

If you decide that sending your child to school with a packed lunch is best for you, there are also several things to consider.

It was not until my own children started school that I realised the immense importance that nobody else in their class has the same lunchbox or water bottle. A mix-up of food could have urgent consequences. Perhaps consider buying a personalised lunch bag or discuss with your child how they can ensure they know which lunchbox belongs to them.

If your child reacts on contact to food, consider asking the new setting how they will manage this and prevent reactions when there is such a great mix of food around in the canteen. It is also good to ask where medication will be kept during lunchtime and which staff member would manage a reaction at this time.

Allerpack insulated bumbags are perfect for lunch and play times.They allow adults to carry medication whilst still keeping both hands free. This eliminates the risk of medication being forgotten during these transition times and ensures that the medication is kept safe and easily accessible.

From personal experience of being on both sides of the classroom door, home-school books are a fantastic resource for communication.
If your child has lots of medication, including antihistamines and inhalers, recording each dose in a home-school book is a great way to keep on top of medication.

It is also handy to take along to future medical appointments. It can be very busy at the school gates before and after school, and often difficult to have important conversations with teachers daily. The home-school communication books are an easy way to communicate efficiently and pass over messages regarding medication and other medical related notes.

Last tips:

  1. Make sure everything is clearly labelled, from lunchboxes to water bottles, to medication bags.
  2. Communicate your expectations with the class teacher and/or other staff.
  3. If starting nursery, contact your health visiting team to see what additional support is available to you.
  4. If your child is starting school, contact the school nurse.

Have a clear procedure in place in case of an emergency and consider things such as:

  • Who will they call first?
  • Who will travel to the hospital with your child?

Have a nice brew ready for when you get home, and maybe even something spicier for the first evening after they have started their new setting.

After all of the hard work that goes into starting school with additional health needs, you certainly deserve a treat!