Back to School Tips: Kids with Food Allergy
Children with Severe Food Allergies
Got children with severe food allergies? Having a child with a food allergy brings extra paperwork and preparation during Back to School time! Whether your child attends daycare, preschool or grade school, Emergency Action Plans are a valuable resource for anyone who may need to give emergency medication to your child. Be sure to check with your physician during your child’s physical. Additionally, your child’s school or daycare may have additional medication authorization forms that need to be filled out annually (or more frequently).
Savings programs currently offered by the makers of EpiPen and Auvi-Q can help reduce your out-of-pocket costs when providing emergency medication to your child’s school. Remember that the purpose of the dual-packs is to have two doses of medication with the child at all times – it can be tempting, in an attempt to save money, to split the dual-pack by keeping one dose at home and one dose at school. In the event of an exposure, epinephrine can wear off before you are able to get to the Emergency Department and a life-saving second-dose may be needed. Take advantage of these savings programs to keep your costs down, but more importantly to ensure that each dual- pack remains together. To start saving (for most insured users), visit Epipen.com and click on the “$0 copay” link to print out your EpiPen co-pay card, good for multiple uses (maximum $100 per two-pack) and valid until 12/31/13. The new Auvi-Q has a similar $0 co-pay program (maximum $100 per two-pack) with their own savings card, also good for multiple uses and valid until 12/31/13. Visit www.auvi-q.com/support-and-savings for additional information.
As a mother to a child with a severe nut allergy and an emergency room nurse, I urge you to also take the time to ensure that anyone who has contact with your child, especially in their time away from you, is knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and how to respond appropriately. We live in a rural area with a volunteer EMS agency so I always encourage shouting for help to have someone immediately calling 911 – they need to be en route as soon as possible. At my son’s school, his emergency kit “follows” him from room-to-room, passed off from teacher-to-teacher (and teacher-to-parent at the end of the day)– too many negative outcomes are directly related to a time delay in administering epinephrine following an exposure. If your child’s epinephrine stays at school (with the school nurse or with the teacher), please take careful consideration if your child rides a bus to and/or from school and ensure that they are never without epinephrine that is accessible quickly.
If your child’s teacher or care provider has not cared for children with severe food allergies, it may be helpful to show pictures or discuss what a reaction would look like. Consider contacting the school administration to set-up meetings with the teacher(s), lunchroom staff, school nurse, school principal and bus driver(s) (if needed) – it is imperative that everyone be on the same page with school policies, rules and enforcement, and any modifications that need to be made such as special bus seating or lunchtime arrangements. Don’t ever succumb to the belief that your requests are anything less than essential – this is a life or death issue. Many accidental exposures could have been avoided with pre-planning. Waiting until an exposure (or a near-exposure) occurs to develop an emergency plan of action or to make modifications can be too late. Be pro-active and advocate on behalf of your child.
The start of school is a busy time of the year – school supply lists, back-to-school nights, packing lunches, wiping away tears of anxiety (yours or theirs!)…the list could go on and on. I urge you to find a few minutes now to check expiration dates of emergency medications, ensure forms are filled out and that all care providers are ready to act in the event of an emergency. All of these actions can help to reduce the stressors that all food-allergy parents feel when separated from their child. As the saying goes, “Prepare for the worse, but hope for the best.” Best of luck to you & yours this back-to-school season!