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How Can I Cope with Sending a Child to School with Allergies, Eczema, and Asthma?

Today it hit me – my little boy will be starting school in the fall. In only three months he’ll be a preschooler, riding the bus and everything. He’s totally ready. I’m not.

I’m sure ALL parents are nervous about their kid’s starting school. Some of the things they worry about are:

  • Will they like school?
  • Will they be safe?
  • Will they get along with all the other kids?

I’m certainly worried about those things, but add to that the worries about food allergies. Thankfully my son has never had an anaphylactic reaction, and I doubt he’d ever react that way, but he must be prepared for one either way. So, my additional worries concerning food allergies and school are:

  • Will he eat something he’s not supposed to?
  • If he does react to something will he get the correct treatment? Cream, antihistamines, Epi-Pen?
  • Will the other kids accept his allergies or will they bully him?

On top of all that, I’m worried about his eczema at school.

  • Will he get an uncontrollable itch attack?
  • Will the kids accept or make fun of his skin?
  • Will the school actually make his skin worse? (Considering dust, stress, etc. all big triggers)

And finally, how will my son’s weaker immune system adapt to school

  • When he catches the frequent common colds (for other kids) will it turn into an asthma crisis (for my son)?
  • How often will this happen? Will he miss a lot of school?
  • Will the germs and dust cause him to develop chronic asthma?

I could go on, but you get my point. I know other parents have the same concerns and it’s wonderful to know I’m not alone and not crazy and over dramatic, which is how I often feel. Although I don’t know a lot about dealing with school AND allergies/eczema/asthma, I do know preparation and planning is key. It’s crucial to meet with school nurses and teachers before school begins to make sure everyone is aware of the medical needs of your child. Creating a well documented action plan in case of emergencies is essential. All medication must be approved in writing by the child’s physician. That is what I know. I can do all those things, no issues there.

But, how do I deal with my emotions? I’m great at planning, but that’s not the issue. As a mom dealing with the atopic triad: allergies, eczema, and asthma, I’m constantly anxious about day to day exposures to triggers and irritants when I’m with son, how will I cope when he’s flown out from under my protective wing? Ultimately, I suppose I’m not that different from all parents in this regard. Every parent’s first day of school jitters comes down to the same thing – their child leaving their nest of protection, comfort, security, and love.

So, how do most parents survive their child’s first few days of school? Emotionally, they probably don’t. I’m sure I’ll be a nervous wreck for weeks, but as parents we can only prepare our children so much before we set them free to discover themselves and to create their own identity. We have to place faith in our parenting up to that point and trust that our children will be smart enough to take care of themselves AND, when it comes specifically to allergies, eczema, and asthma, we must also do everything in our power to educate the teachers, nurses, etc. so we feel confident they will be able to take care of our children in our place. When school starts, our children really begin their own lives. We have to let them thrive and in order for them to do that, we have to put our own emotions and anxieties on the back burner.

Below are some great resources you may want to check out before your child starts school. I’ll definitely be using some of this information when I meet with Tristan’s teachers and school nurse this summer.

Food Allergies and School:

School Guidelines for Managing Students with Food Allergies – Info from FAAN

Protecting Your Child from Food Allergies at Preschool – How to select a school.

Taking Your Child’s Food Allergies Back to School – Planning with the school.

Emotional Aspects of Food Allergies at School – Two moms with kids in school discuss their concerns and review what they’ve learned so far.

Eczema and School:

National Eczema Association (USA) – Tools for school – Educators and Parents versions. Great info here!

Itchy Kids School Page – Emotional info, plus details for kids in Australia and New Zealand

Asthma and School:

Asthma at School – Guides for Parents, Teachers, and Health Professionals

Many of you have already been through this, having mastered the school-age parent role. How did you do it? What are your secrets? I’d love your input. Do you have any tips on how to deal with the emotional side of sending a child off to school? Or any tips on how you prepared your child for school? What kind of planning did you do with the teachers or nurses?

Check back next week as Kristin Beltaos, a food allergy coach and consultant, gives us some tips on getting ready for school with food allergies.

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’d love to hear more eczema-specific school intervention, advice,planning.

    Like

    August 26, 2014
    • Hi Zoe – That’s a very good idea! Thankfully the National Eczema Association has a Tools for School resource which includes a book for parents and a book for teachers. I think you can request it for free. Here is the link. Best of luck to you and your family as you start to think about school. Jennifer

      Liked by 1 person

      August 31, 2014
  2. Thanks again for letting me highlight this on my Back-To-School link-up! This article is just so great with all the links, and it just resonates so well and so deeply with so many! I really appreciate you letting me share! 🙂

    Like

    September 7, 2013
    • Thanks so much for letting me share this piece Julie! Good luck with your link-up!

      Like

      September 9, 2013
  3. The Dose of Reality #

    As the mom of a peanut allergic son (who had terrible eczema when he was little but now doesn’t) who is now in 8th grade, it gets easier. Kindergarten was a bundle of nerves for me. It was just so anxiety provoking. I just made sure that, no matter what, I was my son’s advocate. I spoke to the school nurse and the principal the May before he started school. I always spoke with his teachers before school started to make sure they knew the protocol and understood the severity of the issue. Now in the 8th grade, it’s old hat and and someone said, food becomes less and less of an issue. Plus, as they get older they are able to advocate for themselves. It’s a good feeling. I know this year will be great for you!! So glad I found you on the Natural and Free Back to School link up! –Lisa

    Like

    September 4, 2013
    • Thanks Lisa! So good to hear this from a mom that’s been through it all. I’m sure it does get easier, so for now we’re just doing the best we can and hoping for the best. Trying to prepare my son so he feels confident and knowledgeable about his allergies – I won’t always be there for him, so he’s got to learn early on how to try to best protect himself. We’re lucky to have a great school that is very supportive and understanding about food allergies as well. So that helps. thank you again for the words of support! Jennifer

      Like

      September 6, 2013
  4. Kim V #

    One thing I found that you might want to reiterate to your child – any time any food is offered, they should say they have food allergies and decline or ask “did my mom check the label” (or whatever plan you have in place). My son initially would ask “is this safe?” – well, people didn’t always understand what that meant. In preschool, he would accept food from his teachers without saying a thing because, in his eyes, they know he has food allergies and wouldn’t give him anything that wasn’t safe. (We all know mistakes can happen.) Kindergarten was a much better year, though it was amazing how much food was a part of things….it was a reward, used in class projects, birthdays, holidays, celebrations, fun run days, bingo prize, star of the week option, etc. We worked with the teacher (who I ended up really appreciating and liking) and there was not a single problem. I wish there wasn’t so much focus on food, but we found a way to work through it all and my son had a great year.

    The other thing I found was kids sometimes touch other kids food. (UGH!!) My son brought safe popcorn for a movie day where everyone brought their own snacks. Well, he told me someone else had some of it (even though there is a no sharing rule). I asked if this child forgot their snack – no, they had goldfish crackers (which my son is allergic to). I asked if the other child washed their hands (no). Thankfully, there wasn’t a problem…but I had to teach my son that he shouldn’t share food and (if he does) to at least make sure the other child doesn’t have food allergies and has washed their hands. I also told him if anyone touches his food, he needs to stop eating it. Better to be hungry than have a reaction. This came in handy as someone eating an unsafe food touched his sandwich at summer rec day camp this year, and he wisely packed up his sandwich and didn’t eat any more of it. I was proud of him for doing that!!

    Finally, so much of Kindergarten is focused on listening/waiting your turn. I had to teach my child to be loud and clear (and it’s okay to interrupt) when he suspects an allergic reaction. I told him he doesn’t have to raise his hand, but he needs to go to the teacher or adult and say “I think I’m having a food allergy reaction. I need help.” – and if the teacher isn’t listening, he can walk out of class and get his epipen from his backpack and use it. (The teacher has a set in the classroom, and there is another set in the office, too.) I wanted to be sure he knew he would NEVER get in trouble for interrupting in an emergency, and class rules do not apply in these emergency situations. You have to tell them it’s okay to break the rules at times (when their life depends on it!), because they are taught they have to listen and wait their turn and raise their hand….with 20+ other kids in the class, the teacher may not always see what’s going on or could say to hold on a minute if they are busy with another child. This scares me! The kids need to know they need to be as clear as possible, and to share right away if there’s a problem.

    During Preschool, we dealt with milk, peanut and egg allergies; during Kindergarten had milk, egg, pork and fish allergies; we’re heading in for further testing to see what 1st grade will hold, knowing he will have more foods to avoid. I’m not looking foward to this, but am encouraged that my son has grown up enough to help self advocate and understands that it’s okay to be different – we’ll “make up” for anything he misses out on after school (like get a slurpee or make something yummy), plus he gets to pick a really special treat from his alternative treat bag at school, too.

    Best wishes to you…it’s so hard trusting others with providing a safe and inclusive environment for your child!! I’m sorry for the lengthy response!! 🙂

    Like

    July 16, 2012
    • Kim, those are all WONDERFUL suggestions! Thank you! I definitely agree with them needing to know it’s ok to speak up if they’re having a reaction. I’m sure they just want to conform at that age and appear normal, so speaking up is definitely something we’ll work on. And trusting the teachers, just have to make sure the teachers are 100% aware, which shouldn’t be a problem, but you never know. Thank you again for all of this! Jennifer

      Like

      July 16, 2012
  5. Lisa C #

    I am going through the same thing! Last year I enrolled my peanut/tree nut allergic son in a preschool that claimed to be capable of dealing with nut allergies. Twice in two months I found him eating a forbidden item (donuts, homemade cookies) when I picked him up, so I pulled him out of that school and sat him out the rest of the year. (He was also sick constantly while there, so it seemed like a waste of money and a dangerous situation.)

    He is technically old enough for kindergarten, but our local school system, while highly ranked academically and a great place for my older child with special needs, does not have a peanut policy and allows kids to bring peanut butter sandwiches to school. For the upcoming year I have enrolled my nut-allergic son in a private pre-K-3rd grade school that is a CRAP-TON of money. I’ve gone over the food issues with this school and am much more comfortable with how they are prepared for dealing with food allergies. Assuming this is a good experience, I will probably keep my son there until third grade, so that he is older and better prepared to fend for himself in the local public school.

    Sorry I don’t have a “it will be great!” story for you, but I agree, its totally nervewracking.

    Like

    June 20, 2012
    • It’s always nice to know we’re not alone in our worrying. I’m sorry you’re having to go through all of this as well, but it’s great you found a place you’re comfortable with. That is priceless for sure. Good luck in the fall – we’re in the same boat. I think our children will be in safe hands, it’s just the “worry-wart” syndrome I need to get over 🙂 Jennifer

      Like

      June 22, 2012
  6. I JUST answered an email about this very topic! If you ever need tips that we have found effective over the years, I am always just an email away. As far as the emotional aspect for a parent, I can tell you that (honestly) for many, many years I did not sleep 2-3 weeks before school started and I would just cry. Not the best method but when you are stressed, the stress has to be released. I just made sure I did it away from where my son never saw me. I didn’t want to stress him out because of my insecurities.

    I can say that when we sent him to Kindergarten, we were so worried and he never even as much turned around to say goodbye. He ran off, happy to meet new kids and then we stared at each other like “What do we do for a few hours?” We spent the entire time wondering if he was ok, if he was safe. When we picked him up, he was smiling and happy. Class parties stress me out, snack time stresses me out and food projects stress me out. As long as you have constant contact with the teacher and other parents, you will be fine. As far as your worries with the eczema, that is something that you will have to just be very verbal with the teacher and (somewhat) be persistent. As always, never EVER worry about feeling as if you have inconvenienced someone else and placed your child in danger to make them feel better- ever! You are your own advocate for your child and the teacher does not have to like you, they only have to teach your child and keep them safe for the time that they are there. If you have a teacher that doesn’t seem to adhere to what your needs are for your child, discuss this with the Principal and ask if there is a teacher that will be suitable. This is not ideal but what’s better, having the possibility of a dangerous classroom for your child all year or worrying about what 1 person may or may not think about you. My vote will always be to keep my child safe, no matter what someone else thinks.

    I can also tell you, now that my son will be starting Middle School (goodness!) that each year does get easier with less stress, less strategy on handling the food/parties/etc and as the grades go up, there is less food involved. My best advice- it’s ok to be stressed, it’s ok to worry but be strong for your child so that they can be strong for themselves.

    Like

    June 19, 2012
    • Hi Tracey – Thank you for the words of support – it means a lot! It’s great to know you’ve been through this and have the same worries as me, and I’m sure many other parents. Thank you!!! Jennifer

      Like

      June 19, 2012

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