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Finding the Right Daycare or Preschool for Your Food Allergic Child

Because food allergies have become more common, some preschools and daycares already have experience working with food allergic children. However, if you find a center that has never dealt with food allergies before, make sure they are willing to work with you and learn what needs to be done to keep your child safe. Following are tips to keep in mind when evaluating potential caregivers for your child.
 
Visit the daycare or preschool to evaluate its appropriateness for you child. As you talk to the staff, try to get a sense of their compassion and competence for your child's situation. If they appear reluctant to learn about or manage your child's food allergies, then you'll want to keep looking. Sometimes you may have to pass up the "best" center in terms of academics or convenience if you have doubts that it might not be the safest for your child. Safety is the priority.
 
During your visit, be sure to ask a lot of questions. Examples include have they had any formal training on food allergies? Are they familiar with injectable epinephrine, like EpiPen® or Twinject®, and if not, would they be willing to learn? Are they aware that each child's sensitivity may vary and that what works for one child may not work for yours? Are they willing to consider working with other parents to make sure only safe foods are brought in or possibly becoming, for example, peanut-free for the safety of your child? Think of ways you can make the situation easier, such as sharing training materials on food allergies with school staff, offering to provide safe snacks for your child's class, or signing up as a classroom volunteer to ensure a smooth transition.
 
One of the most important things you can do to protect your child is to create a written action plan before the child starts attending the school or daycare. The action plan should contain two parts: an emergency plan outlined by your child's physician, and a plan describing how the staff will manage the environment on a daily basis. Discuss this with your child's teacher, the school director, and other key staff.
 
The emergency plan from your physician should detail medication, dosages, and treatment that should be used in the event of a reaction. This part of the plan should also outline the signs of an allergic reaction and necessary steps to take. The Food Allergy Action Plan is a great tool for this. Be sure to provide the center with plenty of medication such as antihistamine and autoinjectors of epinephrine that should be kept in an unlocked cabinet out of reach of children but accessible to adults.
 
The second part should outline how the staff will handle daily avoidance of allergen exposure in the class environment. Make sure they are willing to have all staff trained on recognizing a reaction and administering epinephrine.
 
When you work with the preschool or daycare to develop an allergy management plan, the following are examples of important issues to address:
  • Making sure there is no food sharing;
  • Making sure all children wash hands and faces when they arrive and also after eating;
  • Making sure your food allergic child does not sit near children eating allergenic foods;
  • Making sure your child is easily observable by a teacher during snack and meal times;
  • Making sure arts and craft projects do not include allergenic foods or ingredients.
*Information above provided by education.com

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