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Back to School Allergy Guide

Starting at preschool or school can be a worrying time if your child has a severe allergy. Putting a plan in place before they start will help, as Caroline Wood explains.

Back to School Allergy GuideParents often worry about their child when they fist strike out on their own to start preschool or school: Will they make friends, like their teacher, enjoy being there? There is an extra layer of concern for those who have a child with a severe or life-threatening allergy. They want to know whether their child will be safe. What will happen if they eat a nut? Do the teachers know how to use an EpiPen?

There is a lot to think about before your allergic child starts school and it can feel isolating. But you are not alone and many others will be in the same position. In fact every preschool and school in New Zealand will have at least one child with an allergy, including anaphylaxis, according to Allergy New Zealand.

Liam Maxwell, five, started school in February. He was diagnosed with a wide range of allergies at four months old. Liam still reacts to egg, dairy, kiwifruit, penicillin and dust mites. He has asthma and gets eczema if he eats berry fruits or watermelon.

Mum Sarah said: “The school is experienced with allergies and has processes in place to protect children so I feel comfortable sending him there. My children are used to self-managing their allergies and know the consequences of not doing so. Liam has lived all his life with allergies and sees it as normal.

“I listed Liam’s allergies on the enrolment form and the school contacted me about them. I talked directly to his teacher about how they keep allergy children safe. I have given them simple instructions about what to do if he needs treatment at school.”

Try these steps to help make the transition to (pre)school easier.

Make a plan in advance
Don’t wait for something bad to happen – put a plan into place before your child starts preschool or school. Assume they will need treatment for their allergy at some point. You will need a supply of medication and a treatment plan.Tell the teachers about your child’s allergy as early as possible. Be clear on exactly what triggers the allergy or asthma. For example the specific foods, insects or allergens involved. If appropriate, you will need to provide an individual anaphylaxis plan signed by your doctor. This will include details of medication, including adrenaline auto-injectors, anti-histamine and asthma medication.

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Issue: Autumn 2013