This post is inspired by a post by Nutmums.com.
This time last year we were busy trying to sorting out a school place for MyItchyBoy before the January deadline. I know there are allergy parents out there right now worrying about the same things as us. The school that you choose relies on so many factors – including whether or not you get in! – but what I wanted to share here is what we’ve learned so far from managing allergies as part of the school routine.
MyItchyBoy started a peanut-free school last September. The fact that the school was peanut-free was a bonus. In fact all the ones I looked at near us are nut-free, so I guess I was lucky. For me though, my choice was based on a mixture of Ofsted report, results, local reputation and the fact that I feel strongly that kids should walk to school (where reasonably possible). Although his health is always front of mind, as long as we manage his allergies, he should lead a long and happy life – and one where he’ll need to have a good education.
So, if you have an allergy child starting school next year, this is a bit early, but coming from the practical side of things:
1. Make sure you order spare Epipens early – the GP can be fussy about how many you have. Also, need to manage the expiry dates – i.e. don’t give school ones running out a few weeks after starting. We have to have four at school (office and classroom) and then we need two at home too – that’s six. And six expiry dates to remember.
2. Don’t forget you’ll need to take your own two Epipens to and from school. We can’t leave them in MyItchyBoy’s bag like we did in nursery on his peg due to sharps/meds accessible to children. We take his usual rucksack to and from school so his usual meds are not taken out (avoids forgetting them in a different bag or pocket), this also helps with the amount of books, drinks, junk modelling that you have to lug to and from school.
3. MyItchyBoy’s school are not allowed to measure doses of meds (don’t get me started!). So if you are supplying liquid antihistamine as well, need to talk to them about measuring out doses – and updating those as child uses them or moves up to the next age group.
4. The school is likely to have their own forms for an emergency care plan (and several forms) which you will need to complete and sign, even if you’ve done your own one. Check before spending ages doing one to avoid duplicating – they may not be interested in yours at all.
5. Your child is likely to be given all sorts of sweets from well-meaning parents for birthdays of other kids. Train them to choose wisely (Haribo?) and be prepared to swap anything they bring out that looks good. MyItchyBoy is brilliant at giving Daddy anything he can’t have and we usually swap him for a treat from a stash at home. However, it is still hard when other kids are running down the road stuffing Maltesers in their mouths before the parents get a chance to complain.
6. MyItchyBoy has packed lunches (not sure how will work next Sept!) and I feel happy about that. I found sandwich wraps make me feel more confident that his food is protected from the table and mark out his territory. I was told that yoghurts being opened by kids can sometimes go everywhere, so MyItchyBoy and I had a conversation about keeping his food on his mat and letting an adult know if anyone else’s encroaches.
7. Parents let the reading books go back to school covered in who knows what. This is beyond my comprehension generally but made me nervous when one of the first had a brown, crusty smudge over the cover. Peanut butter? I cleaned it before MyItchyBoy got hold of it and talked the teacher about it and they now check his books before sending them home.
These days schools seem very clued up and I truly believe the chances of a reaction during the school day is quite small. Therefore, the priority should be a school where they will be happy and will learn despite your understandable panic about letting your child’s health being cared for by someone else.