Allergy Mums / Support for families with allergies

publication date: Oct 12, 2016

School Lunches – A Tangled Web

 

When you’ve got a child with allergies many everyday events are problematic. School lunches is a great case in point. Most parents just have to worry about their kids not eating anything much; or hating the cook’s Spaghetti Bolognese.  For parents of children with allergies and intolerances school lunches can become a minefield of negotiation with school administrators and cooks. For some reason there seems to be the attitude that children are hiding ‘fussy eating’ behind the veil of allergies. For those of us who are battling to keep our kids safe this is an infuriating attitude. My daughter would dearly love to eat the same food as everyone else. Sadly she can’t. Worse still, she suffers from delayed reactions. This means that if she eats dairy or egg she will be ill in a few hours, not minutes – apparent proof that it’s not really an allergy.  The lack of understanding of how allergies can present is part of the problem – and this is only worse when dealing with intolerances. Molly’s primary school insisted on ‘medical proof’ of all allergies, and ended up refusing to feed her at all as they felt they just couldn’t cope.  Luckily her secondary school has a totally different attitude and feeds her successfully every day.

 

Here are my tips for dealing with schools;

1. Arrive prepared. Write out what your child is allergic to, and give examples of all food types this can cover e.g. Dairy = milk, butter, margarine, buttermilk, ice cream, cream, all cheese. Don’t assume that the cooks will immediately understand. Do mention that it means no frying in margarine either, and remind them of items such as mashed potato etc.

2. Take copies of doctors’ notes and letters from hospitals if you have them.

3. Detail on the written sheet all medicines your child takes in relation to their allergies and why. For Molly it was Omeprazole and Ranitidine for her stomach, anti-histamines for her hay fever. Be clear about the reactions that happen and the timings.

4. At primary school the cooks seemed aghast at the limitations – we gave examples of her daily diet in order to help them understand what she could eat. Give them simple suggestions.

5. Provide samples/examples of replacement items such as Rice or Coconut Milk, Pure Margarine, Vegan Cheese etc. Molly’s secondary school was delighted to be shown the alternatives which they then sourced.

 

The main issue is your child’s safety. In the end we had to send Molly in with a packed lunch at Primary because their attitude was simply awful and they announced it was all too difficult. It simply wasn’t worth the risk of her being made ill so a thermos full of soup in the winter and sandwiches in the summer were our solution.  If you don’t think the school is supportive then it’s best to provide your own food – as infuriating as that may be!  

One final word of advice - treat it like a business meeting. Be calm, professional and above all unemotional even when dealing with difficult or unhelpful people. Follow up your meeting with an email or note confirming what was agreed; or what you failed to agree. This is especially key if you are going to struggle to get support.

 

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