When we found out that Madison had food allergies, my biggest fear was how to ensure her safety when she was away from Carlos and I. At that the time of her diagnosis she was being cared for in an in-home daycare where she was one of five children. Now that she is considered to be “school-aged,” my level of anxiety has heightened a bit because I know that the same level of attention to detail will change. With this in mind there are a few action steps that I take to help Madison and her teachers understand her physical needs as it pertains to her food allergies.
- Maintain updated medical records and medical supplies
I make sure that Madison visits the allergist yearly. While neither of us care for the blood testing (especially Madison), I feel better knowing the concrete steps to follow that will ensure her safety.
We also make sure that the allergy action plan is reflective of her yearly testing and that it is kept in an active file in the administrative office. Keeping medical supplies such as the Epipen up-to-date is also a necessity. We are fortunate that we haven’t had to use it and we are prayerful that this will continue to be our reality.
- Communicating with school staff
When we were researching learning centers, it was important for us to have a clear understanding of how responsive the environment would be as it pertains to food allergies. Discussing the protocol(s) as well as the options for children like Madison was a priority.
I like to have ongoing conversations with the center administration as well as Madison’s teachers to ensure that they know what her allergens are, that this information is documented in the classroom and in the cafeteria.
- Helping Madison understand her restrictions
This is challenging but as Madison grows she is starting to not only understand but verbalize her dietary restrictions. Now that doesn’t remove the temptation for her especially when she is around friends who are able to eat foods that contain her allergens but that leads to my next action item.
- Provide food options that are safe
I always try to pack ahead when we go places where food is being served. I also do as much research as I can in advance to determine what options are available on site.
Every year we purchase a specially prepared vegan birthday cake. We cut into it for her birthday then we divide the remainder of the cake into freezer bags and place it in the deep freezer. I routinely take a piece of the cake with us when she attends birthday parties.
I also send a sweet treat to school for staff to keep on hand when classroom parties take place. I never want her to feel excluded but I make sure that she understands why her options are different.
I am sure that these action items will evolve as Madison grows but they have helped me to maintain my peace of mind when she is in school or in the care of someone else.