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Starting school with multiple severe allergies


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#1 eleventyseven

Posted 18 January 2018 - 09:36 AM

Hi There, just after advice and experiences (not horror stories please) starting school with multiple severe allergies. DD is going next year and I'm already nervous! She has severe nut, milk & seeds allergies (ana) and is allergic to egg & soy too.

Is there a way to find out how good a school is around managing allergies from more than just a procedural point of view (ie: above and beyond the standard guidelines). For instance, all the day care centres I spoke to had rigorous guidelines but some were more lax around carrying them out in practise and a few I could just tell from meeting with them that they weren't as sympathetic as others (you know the people who are kind of irritated or confused around allergies etc)

DD is aware of her allergies but so far all the food she comes into contact with has been checked beforehand and there is no way for her to be aware of every single item and ingredient as her allergies are so broad (ie: a nut free bar with sunflower seed butter is one I have seen). She knows not to ever share food with others and she's a smart kid but I worry about this on a larger scale like school playground etc. How can 5 year olds possibly manage all the facets of sever multiple allergies - or can they?

We are in Melbourne's north so I would also really appreciate any recommendations for allergy aware / friendly primary schools (please DM as I don't think we can name names on the thread)

Thanks :)

#2 PooksLikeChristmas

Posted 18 January 2018 - 11:22 AM

DS had a child with a few allergies in his room this year so there was a class wide ban on some foods and it was discussed day 1 with all the kids and then reinforced that they were all responsible and should never share food. It was amazing to see how conscientious the whole class was and the kids really monitored each other and their parents. I think talking to parents from your local schools will give you a good sense of how things are in action.

#3 Riotproof

Posted 18 January 2018 - 11:50 AM

You might find this helpful. https://www.allergy....hools-childcare
Generally speaking, food bans are not supported because they are very difficult to enforce and provide a state of complacency. It is far easier to enforce handwashing after eating and empowering your child to not accept food from others.

My advice would be to go on school tours, and make appointments with the medical officer. Most schools will have an admin person responsible for maintaining the medicines and action plans for medical conditions. My experience has been that state schools (I'm in nsw) are far better at managing allergies than daycares.

It is a completely terrifying experience, I understand. I was in tears when I dropped off ds's epipen for the first time. In my mind, it was so completely wrong that I had to send him to a place where everyday he surrounded by poison. That's why I think getting in early is a good idea. You could also ask your specialist if there are any special requests you should be reasonably making.

The other thing is, it helps to be in regular contact with your child's teacher. You want to make it easy for them to ask you before they do an activity using food, so you can either provide substitutes or the plan can be changed.

#4 4lilchicks

Posted 18 January 2018 - 01:02 PM

When my daughter started school she was ana to egg and had allergies to dairy and fish. One of the things I did was provide a treat box that my daughter made that had all sorts of awesome treats to have if someone bought in cake etc for a birthday. My daughter loved it because other kids got stuck eating cake each time while my DD sat and chose something from the box.

#5 just roses

Posted 18 January 2018 - 01:23 PM

View Post4lilchicks, on 18 January 2018 - 01:02 PM, said:

When my daughter started school she was ana to egg and had allergies to dairy and fish. One of the things I did was provide a treat box that my daughter made that had all sorts of awesome treats to have if someone bought in cake etc for a birthday. My daughter loved it because other kids got stuck eating cake each time while my DD sat and chose something from the box.
This is a great idea. I always send in chupa chups for kids who can't have cake when I do birthday cupcakes. But usually the parents will have provided some separate treats. At the school where I taught prep, one allergy mum had stored a lunchbox full of frozen cupcakes in the freezer for her son to have when there was a birthday.

#6 just roses

Posted 18 January 2018 - 01:28 PM

View PostPooks Persisted, on 18 January 2018 - 11:22 AM, said:

DS had a child with a few allergies in his room this year so there was a class wide ban on some foods and it was discussed day 1 with all the kids and then reinforced that they were all responsible and should never share food. It was amazing to see how conscientious the whole class was and the kids really monitored each other and their parents. I think talking to parents from your local schools will give you a good sense of how things are in action.
Also, make sure the school has a plan for informing supply teachers.

I had the experience - as a supply teacher - that I was not told of a child's ana allergy to latex/rubber bands. It was only when I pulled out a stack of handouts, held together by rubber bands, and began walking around the class handing them out, that he said 'You can't come near me with those'. I felt awful. I put them away, washed my hands thoroughly and made sure there were no other rubber bands around. This child was in grade 3 and knew his allergy well, but I was annoyed that no one had briefed me. Same school, however, had a great plan in place for playground duty. All teachers on duty got a clipboard with the names and photos of students with allergies, what the allergies were and what the treatment was (epi pen carried or on child's person). So that was good to have.

It's not enough to just have the teacher aware and the school admin. You need all kids, teachers and fill-in staff to be aware and for that to happen there need to be really strict protocols in place.

#7 Deb999

Posted 18 January 2018 - 01:42 PM

Allergies are part of the mandatory reporting process for teachers. On enrolment did you make all of her allergies clear to the staff? If you didn't please do so right away, schools usually open a day before the kids go back, so there is time for them to get it all ready and have a meeting about her with the teachers she is working with this year.  

The school should have a little tub with her name on it (either in the main office, or in the teacher office - whichever is centrally located), her list of allergies is inside, an image of her (school photo), her emergency contact details (mobile, home, email, work phone) and an epi-pen for her (you will need provide the epi-pen to the school and make sure she also has one in her school bag, velcroed into the side). The spare epi-pen is in case she loses hers and its quicker to run to the office to grab the pen in the event of something happening in the school yard. Yard duty teachers will be made aware of all kids with allergies and know where their epi-pens are.

In all staff and office rooms there should be an image of her, with her allergies and where to locate her epi-pen, along with her emergency contact details. This is how all the staff, even ones she's not directly taught by will know how to help her. Teachers, aides and office staff have a mandatory obligation to be trained in administering epi-pens and Level 2 first aid (I'm pretty sure that is Australia wide)

Depending on the teacher/school/grade level, there may be an awareness class taught about not sharing food and being aware of your allergies. There also should be a central record keeping system where Emergency teachers/ Extras/ Volunteers can see the role and see a little "medical" symbol for allergy against a child's name. Not every school has a good centralised data base for non teachers unfortunately, so find out if it does. Most of the accidents I've heard about are from emergency teachers who "don't know" a child has an allergy, which in my humble opinion is a load of sh*te, considering how important it is to know who you're teaching before you step into a classroom, by reviewing the roll and asking questions.

Schools are very well prepared, but you do need to let them know and keep them updated if anything changes.

Edit: Just noticed you're in Melbourne. What I've outlined is what is meant to be done in all Victorian schools, including non government.

Edited by Deb01979, 18 January 2018 - 01:51 PM.


#8 Riotproof

Posted 18 January 2018 - 02:20 PM

Deb, it's next year not 2018.

#9 atthebeach

Posted 18 January 2018 - 03:00 PM

i'm in melbourne north west, and my personal experience is that not all state schools are equal in this regard.  have a good look at all your choices.  check their newsletters online occasionally as well as talking with the school.
there are several state schools in my suburb alone, and only one of them has a school canteen. the others don't.  the school that has a canteen i wouldn't go within a mile of it if my child had allergies. they are too laid back about kids sharing food.

another thing you could look into, is that any volunteers at the school have an induction session.  sounds simple and basic.  but my kids school didn't do it, actually didn't even require WWCC, and it would be so easy for a teacher to forget to inform a volunteer that a particular child has an allergy.

#10 TND

Posted 18 January 2018 - 03:12 PM

My advice is to tour schools and ask lots of questions. We ended up at a different school to where we had planned due to how it felt.
  The school we ended up with had great allergy procedures and could show them in practise. They also ate in the classroom and not outside so easier for supervision.
Check out the policies and see their responses to questions. Good luck

#11 Overtherainbow

Posted 18 January 2018 - 10:59 PM

Unfortunately schools are very used to catering for allergies, as the number of chn with ana. increases.

Ask about how the early childhood classes deal with morning tea, lunch, cooking, parties, birthday treats and school gardens.

Be pro active. What is needed for your child? Will they need their own picnic rug to have an anti contamination zone and who will be responsible for supplying and cleaning it? Do chn share fruit? How will you cater for your child? Are chn guided in hand washing before and after eating? Are eating surfaces used for craft? Are they cleaned in between? Will you supply treats for birthdays, parties, cooking days, cultural food exploration?

Many venues discourage nuts but are not nut free.

Schools are more aware of eating issues that can develop from having food as a treat, so there are less food occasions than in the past.

It is uncommon for chn to have reactions at school, as schools, chn, and parents work together to minimise risks. The biggest risk days are when routine changes. I'd encourage a parent or grandparent to join in excursions, sport days and class parties to help reduce risk. I'd also make sure there is a clear sign for relief staff.

It is helpful when allergies aren't hidden. Allowing teachers to share your child's allergies with parents and students helps protect your child. Being able to put an allergy tag on their hat, also helps.

There will be some parents who may treat you negatively, seeing you as the party pooper who stops their child having peanut butter. Those parents aren't worth your time or energy. Having the other nice parents keeping an extra eye on your child, will be worth the occasional stinker parent.

It must be so hard as a parent of a child with allergies start school. Let the school know your concerns.

#12 Deb999

Posted 19 January 2018 - 12:41 AM

View PostRiotproof, on 18 January 2018 - 02:20 PM, said:

Deb, it's next year not 2018.

I can't see the reporting around allergies changing in one year, so it hardly matters if it's '18 or '19

#13 eleventyseven

Posted 19 January 2018 - 11:43 AM

Thank you for the responses everyone.

That's a great list I can compile for when we meet with schools. It's really got me thinking a lot too about all the things we can do, I actually feel a bit better about it all which I didn't think was possible, so a big THANK YOU.

It's heartening to hear that there is a lot of awareness & procedures in practise -  what a great point re: casual teachers etc. Thank you for this valuable info. Agree awareness amongst all staff & peers being the key.

I LOVE the idea of treat boxes etc, that's a lovely idea.

I have been talking with her kinder today and they are going to work with us to ready her for all the scenarios at school too and they have also said she can take the epi-pen backpack they use for her as she already carries it and is used to having it at all times. (I could cry they are so lovely & concerned about helping her get ready for this).

Community is SO key in these things, I am realising how much I need to communicate and empower (and trust) her community to help keep her safe. I try to do it all and control everything myself and it's a great reminder to include others.

It's sad to think this is becoming so commonplace but it helps to know there is awareness and people who care out there. I keep focusing on the intolerant people but it seems there are more that aren't!

Thanks again everyone, you've helped one very overwhelmed mum :)

#14 Riotproof

Posted 19 January 2018 - 11:54 AM

View PostDeb01979, on 19 January 2018 - 12:41 AM, said:



I can't see the reporting around allergies changing in one year, so it hardly matters if it's '18 or '19

She hasn’t enrolled anywhere yet, so there is no one to advise. She’s at the question asking stage, which is a bit different.

You made it sound like she was just planning on rocking up in two weeks time without having filled in the paperwork.

Edited by Riotproof, 19 January 2018 - 11:56 AM.


#15 Deb999

Posted 19 January 2018 - 11:56 AM

View PostRiotproof, on 19 January 2018 - 11:54 AM, said:

She hasn’t enrolled anywhere yet, so there is no one to advise. She’s at the question asking stage, which is a bit different.

You made it sound like she was just planning on rocking up in two weeks time without having filled in the paperwork.

Does it make my advice any less because of it? Otherwise you're nit picking.

#16 Riotproof

Posted 19 January 2018 - 12:00 PM

View PostDeb01979, on 19 January 2018 - 11:56 AM, said:



Does it make my advice any less because of it? Otherwise you're nit picking.

It makes your advice to contact staff in the next couple of weeks a complete overreaction.

#17 Prancer is coming

Posted 19 January 2018 - 12:04 PM

Glad you are feeling better about things OP.  My kid is ANA to eggs and allergic to nuts and some animals (and dust).  As well as relief teachers being an area that falls down, I find excursions can as well.  Check what the policy is for ensuring medication goes with the student and I would be talking to the teacher the morning of the excursion to confirm medication (and that parent help, teacher ‘s aide or whoever are aware where medication is if teacher is in the toilet).  

Our school’s first aid kit contains a generic epipen.  Check if yours does too, as it is reassuring to know there is a back up in case 2 are needed.

My approach was that if everything seemed okay I would just go along with their policies, but the first sign of anything going wrong, I would be all over it.  I have now had a few discussions with the principal and education department...

Their should be a policy covering management of allergies, so it needs to be abided by and schools should be willing to act to ensure it is closely followed, otherwise the education department (if a state school) would certainly be willing to assist you in ensuring your child is safe at school.

#18 eleventyseven

Posted 19 January 2018 - 12:44 PM

Thanks Prancer, great advice.

#19 AdelTwins

Posted 19 January 2018 - 10:46 PM

DS1 & 2 primary school is nut free. They ask that you bring lemonade iceblocks for birthdays celebrations. All food is eaten inside under teacher supervision.

#20 Deb999

Posted 20 January 2018 - 12:38 AM

View PostRiotproof, on 19 January 2018 - 12:00 PM, said:

It makes your advice to contact staff in the next couple of weeks a complete overreaction.

Wow... geez, I didn't realise making a mistake was a cardinal sin on EB, but thanks for reminding me your holiness.

#21 WaitForMe

Posted 20 January 2018 - 06:39 AM

OP, I would start with finding out when you can go on a school tour and get on one of the first ones. That way you have plenty of time to go for a second one if you feel the need.

As well as policies, ask questions around what they have in the individual classroom of a kid with ana allergies. I've seen classrooms with big posters on the doors, for instance.

Ask what other parents are told. For instance I have a kid starting fyos this year and I have received zero indication I need to do anything special other than what constitutes a healthy lunchbox.

Ask where the epi pen is located. I know a kid in high school who must keep his epi pen in the office, which on a large high school campus is surely borderline useless.

If it gets time to enrol and you still aren't sure, then enrol at more than one school, and send your kid to the first one or two orientation sessions. See how they handle it during those sessions. I don't think its great for the child to not have a clear idea of which school they are going to, so I'd be making a decision pretty quickly at this point so your child can focus on the one schools orientation.

#22 Mae55

Posted 20 January 2018 - 06:45 AM

If you have a preference that your child carries their epipen  then that is something worth checking with each school. The policy at my school is that they are all stored st first aid and we have a spare School supplied epipen in the other building as well.

#23 Kreme

Posted 20 January 2018 - 07:25 AM

I don’t have a child with an allergy, however having volunteered in canteens in two different schools I can tell you that one was much better with allergies than the other. So if your school has a canteen and you are planning to use it at all, I’d recommend volunteering there yourself first so you can check out their processes.

#24 atthebeach

Posted 20 January 2018 - 09:33 AM

it's also worthwhile to point out that in victoria, state schools are almost fully autonomous. they can do whatever they like (almost). they only get checked once every 3-4 years, and that is by other principals (who could be mates and therefore biased).  it is basically up to the integrity of each principal to implement department of education policy.
from what i have seen, it is very easy for schools to ignore official policy. so if you have a child with any kind of extra needs, then the parent needs to advocate and ensure the needs are met.

#25 QuirkyMum

Posted 25 February 2018 - 11:25 PM

...

Edited by QuirkyMum, 05 November 2019 - 09:35 AM.





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