Your child has an allergy. Perhaps it’s just been diagnosed or you’ve known since early on, but a new school year is about to start and you need to inform the teachers and staff about the allergy. A good way of doing this is through informative letter addressed to all school personnel working with your child, including teachers, principals, school nurse and cafeteria workers. But what are the major points you need to cover?
For starters, you need to include everything your child is allergic to, and be specific. If it’s food, list in detail the foods that cause reactions, as well as common foods the allergen may be in. If it is a seasonal, insect or environmental allergy, be as specific as possible with not only the cause but also what time of year may be the worst. The same for asthma; list any factors that may exacerbate the condition.
Along with the specific allergens, you need to include symptoms and treatments. Depending on your family’s medical plans, you should have specific treatments dependent on the reaction. It’s a good idea to list symptoms mild to severe and include them all, even emotional or cognitive symptoms that may arise when the allergy is aggravated. Some kids get unusually sleepy or lose ability to focus along with the more common physical indicators. Remember, you need to make this letter specific to your child, not an overview of all allergies.
In accordance with treatments, you need to inform school personnel of not only what medications your child has, but also where they should be located (school nurse’s office, classroom, backpack), dosages, the fact that they need to be taken on field trips, who can administer them (your child, the nurse, teachers), side effects that go along with treatments and when you or the doctor should be called. Include doctor’s numbers and your emergency information.
Another aspect to cover is any type of restrictions your child has due to allergies. Food allergies will limit what your child can eat and you need to let your teachers know to what extent this goes. Does your child need to sit at a different table? Do you need to send in allergy safe snacks? If it’s environmental or a seasonal allergy, let the school know what your child needs to stay away from and if there are certain things that can’t be in the classroom. For instance, if it’s animal hair, make it clear that other students shouldn’t bring in their pets for show and tell.
Sample Teacher Letter
Below is a sample letter that you can copy, edit, revise, do what you want with to help you communicate with your teacher about your child’s food allergy. I usually do something like this:
Dear Teacher (if you know his/her name, it’s always best to write it),
I am so excited that my child, Name, is in your class year this year; we are looking forward to a fantastic one! I know the beginning of the year can be hectic, but I need to let you know that Name has a food allergy. She is allergic to tree nuts and needs to avoid any contact with them.
In the past, her symptoms have been mild/moderate/severe (whatever applies to your child) and always need to be addressed immediately. Usually they begin with an itchy mouth and may progress to hives, nausea, or worse. Due to the nature of a food allergy, it’s hard to predict the severity of a reaction; the worst case scenario is severe anaphylaxis. That’s why it’s imperative that any symptom be taken seriously.
If she experiences any reaction, please let her go to the clinic immediately where her medicine and emergency plan is kept. Usually Benadryl takes care of it, but in a severe case, her Epipen would need to be used. Please call me or other emergency contact listed below immediately.
I’m sending in a bag of her favorite candy in the case that someone brings in a birthday treat or there is another food shared with he class that may have tree nuts in it. She cannot eat anything with tree nuts in it. If you are not sure, don’t let her have it; she is aware of her allergy and understands.
Please let any other teacher or staff member working with Name know about her allergy. You can copy and share this letter if that is easier for you. I have sent a copy to the administration, nurse and cafeteria.
I so appreciate your help throughout the year in this matter and will do whatever you need to help you. I know you have a busy day and a full class to attend to, but it means so much to our family to know that Name will be well taken care of this year! If you have any questions at all or need more information, I am happy to come in and meet with your or feel free to call me anytime.
Thanks so much for all you do,
other emergency contact
A Letter for Camp
Many of you are getting ready to send your children off to camp, whether it is for a sleep away camp or a day camp, and those of with kids with allergy have just one more thing to worry about. I have found that it never hurts to write a letter with specifics regarding kids medical conditions, whether it is allergies, asthma, whatever, in addition to filling out all of the camp forms. You can then send it to multiple people at camp, including counselors, directors and medical staff to insure the information is well known and your child taken care of. If it is sleep away camp, you would also want to include the kitchen staff. It’s very similar to what you’d do at school, giving it to the teacher, administrators, lunch staff and nurse.
Here is a sample letter and you are welcome to use it as is or make modifications:
My child, ________________, is really looking forward to her camp days at Camp Summer. To make sure she has her safest and best time possible, it is important you are aware of her allergies. She is allergic to tree nuts and shellfish, and needs to avoid them in entirety. However, peanut butter is fine.
If she does come into contact with them, she may break out in hives or have an itchy swelling mouth. Worse case scenario is anaphylactic shock which can be life threatening. We are trusting her in your care and this is a serious matter. (list any other symptoms here).
She is aware of her allergy and knows what to avoid, but if others are eating these foods, please make sure my daughter has her own space and is not right next to the food. She also knows not to share food with others. It is a good idea to have her medication on her at all times, and she is capable of keeping it in her back pack. (Alternatively…She needs to have her medication on hand at all times so it is important her counselor keeps it with the group wherever they go.)
In case of any symptoms, please treat accordingly. If she has mild hives, Benadryl is sufficient but if there is any compromised breathing or swelling of airways, she will need an Epipen injection and then medical care in a hospital. We trust this won’t happen, but if it does, please handle it with the serious attention she will need. (of course, list your own medical plan here.)
Her serious reactions have been few, and she does know how to avoid the necessary foods. However, we really appreciate your help and vigilance. We know she will have a wonderful time at camp, and please contact with any questions or concerns at all. Here are our emergency numbers, please do not hesitate to use them.
Mom and Dad
Appreciate Your Child’s Teachers
We as parents have to remember that teachers have a lot to do. Each level comes with it’s challenges, whether it’s reading 150 papers on The Great Gatsby in high school, or remembering that when little Lauren says she needs to go potty, she needs to go! They also, especially in elementary, need to remember that Jack can’t have dairy and Annie has asthma, Nick can’t have red dye or Allie needs to stay away from nuts.
I was talking to two of the teachers one day this week about this very things. Not only are there kids with allergies and asthma, there are kids with other medical conditions that they pay constant vigilance to (but that’s another story, I guess). These teachers are always reading labels of treats brought in, consulting with one another about the safety of food. I know one teacher always calls the mom when food is in the class that she is not sure is safe. I remember one time another teacher was bringing something in and asking around if it was safe.
These teachers make signs for their class stating it’s an allergy free class and they tote Epipens on every field trip. They are aware of symptoms and reactions and know what to look for in case of a ingested food. They know when allergy medicine for pollen or other external factors must be taken and they share all of this with the substitute teachers when they are out.
Sure, bottom line, it’s their job. They have to. But they do it diligently and with care, and it makes it a whole lot easier on the parents to know their kids are safe in good hands. I know some of them don’t “get” the allergy thing, but they go along with it. I’ve had teachers be more careful with my daughter than I am, which makes us giggle but we do like the expression “better safe than sorry.”
Creative Teacher Gifts
What can you do for your teacher that keeps the class safe from allergens while making your teacher happy? There’s lots of good ideas out there that don’t include nut laden cookies or ornaments that say #1 Teacher. Just think outside the box a little and use what you know about your teacher.
• You probably know the class allergies, so stay away from these. If you want to give baked goods, she may be tempted to sneak a bite while in class so don’t prevent it (or risk anything) by including allergens. If you are famous for your peanut butter balls but there is a child with a peanut allergy, give the sweets to your teacher after school or think of something else altogether.
• Give non-food items. Teachers love gift cards! Also, think about what you know about the teacher, if he loves coffee, give a coffee gift card in a mug. If she has a dog, maybe a new squeaky toy would be a good idea. If she loves playing music in class, go with an iTunes gift card.
• Stay away from “teachery” gifts. As a teacher and as a room mom, I’ve learned that teachers don’t really love the things that shout teacher. If you do want to give something related to the profession, give a book to the class from your family or a gift card to a school supply store.
• Go in together as a class. Collect donations for a gift card from her favorite clothing store or create a gift basket with her favorite things and include notes from the students. You can also each contribute your own gift card and attach them all to something like a book to the class (put them in the pages of the book) or on a new pillow for the reading corner.
• Have the students help create and personalize something for the class, like a reading chair with their fingerprints or an alphabet book with their names and drawings. They enjoy being part of it.
Teachers are an important part of your child’s life so don’t forget them, but remember the rest of the class, too and take their allergies into consideration.
In the end, a key fact to remember is that you are the parent, you are in charge, so be proactive. Make sure you get the severity of the allergy across and be clear of the impact coming in contact with the allergen can have on your child. The school should be willing to work with you and make school a safe place for your child.