“Leaving your little ones in someone else’s care can be hard, especially when they have allergies to worry about. It can feel stressful sending an allergic child into an environment that’s full of messy eaters and close contact. The good news is that food allergies can be managed in the childcare setting. We offer some advice on the best way to talk to your child’s teachers and ensure that those caring for them are well educated on their allergies. Keep reading to find out more.
Communicate with teachers
Ask the school/daycare what protocols and procedures they have in place for handling students with allergies. Parents and their healthcare providers need to work with the childcare facility to develop a special care plan to include:
Written instructions regarding the food(s) to which the child is allergic, including the fact that it may be called by a variety of names in an ingredient list. Milk products, for instance, may be identified as casein, caseinate, whey, and lactoglobulin.
Steps that need to be taken to avoid that food.
If your child has a severe allergy, it’s important to give your childcare service up-to-date medical information upon enrolment. Include an ASCIA Action Plan that is signed by your child’s doctor and has a current photo of your child, your contact details, your doctor’s details, your child’s confirmed allergy, the proper first aid response, and any prescribed medication.
If necessary, make sure the ECE service has a supply of your child’s adrenaline autoinjector (e.g. EpiPen). Check that it’s within its use-by date and is ready to be used by a trained staff member if your child has a severe reaction.
Set out a plan for mealtimes
Have a chat with your child’s teachers and caregivers to establish a plan that minimises risk for your child at mealtimes. If they have a severe allergy, it may be a good idea to have your child sit separately while eating to avoid any accidental contamination from other children’s food. Caregivers will need to be vigilant when it comes to children sharing food. Although centres teach kids not to share, little ones struggle to understand such rules, and don’t always obey them. Children will need to thoroughly wash their hands before and after meals to avoid spreading allergens around the environment.
Inform other parents of your child's allergies
If your child is going to day care with allergies, other parents should be aware of what foods your child is allergic to. When they pack lunches, snacks, or prepare foods for school parties, they can avoid the foods that your child is allergic to altogether. Ask your child’s teacher if you can circulate an email to other parents explaining your child’s allergies and how to protect them from exposure.
Make sure everyone is aware of the symptoms of an allergic reaction
Allergic reactions can be mild, moderate, or severe and can range from face swelling, hives, stomach pain, and vomiting to anaphylaxis – which is a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction that can cause throat/tongue swelling, breathing problems, and dizziness. It is important that everyone in the facility is aware of the signs and symptoms that lead up to a reaction, which can be as small as noticing that your child’s personality isn’t what it normally is. As well as educating any teachers, teaching the children in the centre (in an age-appropriate way) to be aware of signs of a reaction and to tell an adult immediately can be helpful.
Preparation leads to prevention
The best cure is prevention, and this holds true for allergies at day-care. Keeping your children safe while in the care of others includes having accurate information, and utilising a system to easily communicate with caregivers, teachers, and parents. Communication and education are the key to prevention.
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