For parents and guardians of kids with food allergies or chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and epilepsy, the Fall season can mean a return to routine–and a step out of the familiar and beyond their comfort zone with a child’s return to school. With every grade, children are expected to increase their independence when it comes to organization, finishing homework and problem solving with friends–the independence they are allowed in dealing with their medical condition should also be increased.
When children are old enough to understand the management of their medical condition, they should be allowed to attend meetings with parents and school staff to ensure their safety in school–if they are involved in planning their care routines, they are more likely to adhere to them! For kids with anaphylaxis, this can (per school district regulations) include carrying their own epinephrine auto-injector responsibly and understanding signs of an allergic reaction; for kids with asthma this can be carrying their own inhalers and ensuring they understand their asthma symptoms and tell the adult taking care of them if they are experiencing difficulty breathing; and for kids with diabetes it can be remembering to check their blood sugar regularly, recognizing symptoms of high or low blood sugar, doing simple carbohydrate counting, and performing insulin injections or insulin pump boluses with supervision. Parents know their children best, and they will be able to decide what their child is ready to handle when putting plans into place at the beginning of each school year.
Depending on medication administration, parents will need to remember to fill out necessary forms to allow the school to administer any over-the-counter or prescription medication to their children during the school day. For kids with asthma, anaphylaxis, diabetes or epilepsy [among other medical conditions necessitating these plans], parents should prepare Action Plan forms outlining the child’s possible exhibited symptoms, treatment, and when calling the parents or for emergency care is necessary. Parents also are responsible for ensuring that school staff is adequately trained to care for their child’s medical condition–while some schools may have school nurses, multiple staff should be trained in the management and acute care of a child’s medical condition in case the unexpected happens.
As the “Back to School” season approaches, the following are some steps parents and guardians can take to help prepare to keep their child as safe as possible when the school bell rings on that first day:
Ensure all necessary forms are filled out to allow care of your child’s medical condition at school–504 plans, school/school division/district medication forms and specific emergency action plans for your child’s condition.
Ensure back-up medication or medical supplies are available at school–including EpiPens, inhalers, diabetes supplies and low blood sugar treatments. This includes checking expiry dates on all supplies needed!
Communicate directly with all staff your child encounters during the day, as well as office staff and a school nurse (if present) to ensure they know your child and his or her needs, and what kind of symptoms they may experience and require help with.
Give your child choice: For kids with diabetes, the school allows it, would they rather keep medical supplies in their classroom or with the nurse? For kids with anaphylactic allergies, would they rather carry a bag with their auto-injector in it or wear an auto-injector belt? What color or style medical ID would they rather wear–can they change that choice on a regular basis? These options give the child the option of how they want to approach life with their medical condition . . . while still not making taking care of him or herself optional!
Educate the child on his or her medical condition at an age-appropriate level and ensure the child is not afraid to tell an adult if something does not feel right, if someone is teasing them about their medical condition, or if they are unsure about anything.
If the right steps are taken early and communication is open, parents, children and teachers can all start a fresh school year positively . . . and safely.