It is natural to have concerns when your child is starting school. Becoming informed will help you to keep your child safe. We have many resources to help your family make the transition to school.
The information on this page is geared toward children in elementary school up to high school.
- Teachers and child care workers: Please see our Educators Resources page.
- Students entering post-secondary school: Watch our webinar on how to navigate post-secondary school, and live safely on campus with food allergies. The webinar is hosted by a panel of youth with food allergies who are currently attending post-secondary school. They share their experiences, insight, and provide strategies on how youth can identify food allergy risks on campus and how to prepare accordingly. To read additional tips, check out these articles on managing food allergy in post-secondary schools from our Adults with Allergies blog.
Being allergy aware at school
There are a number of strategies to help keep your child safe at school. Many of these are covered in our Newly Diagnosed Support Centre’s section on schools. Here are some basics:
- Print out our Back to School Checklist as it’s a useful tool to help you prepare for school.
- Complete the Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan for your child and share it with the school. It includes your child’s name, photograph, and specific allergy or allergies. It should be posted at the school, where everyone can see it.
- Review the Anaphylaxis in Schools and Other Settings guidelines – this is the national guidelines for anaphylaxis management in Canadian schools.
- Provide safe treats for your child, to be stored by the teacher for special occasions.
- Talk with your child about situations that may arise during the school year (such as being offered food by another student), and discuss how to respond.
- Make sure your child’s auto-injectors are up-to-date, and not expired, and practice using the auto-injector with your child.
- Recommend our elementary Allergy Awareness Challenge program to educate students about food allergies. It provides educators with free lesson plans, activities and worksheets for students. It is available for High Schools.
- Encourage educators to take an AllergyAware.ca course. Offered in English and French, AllergyAware.ca features free online courses on managing food allergies and anaphylaxis in the community, schools, and child care settings. The online courses are medically reviewed, mobile-friendly and easy to follow. Each 30-minute course covers the basics of anaphylaxis, ways to reduce risks, and what to do in an emergency.
- Watch our back to school webinar that provides an overview of how to manage food allergy in school settings and reviews the many resources available to you.
When should your child carry their own epinephrine auto-injector? The answer is different for every child, depending on development and maturity. Most children are able to “self-carry” by Grade One. Once a child is ready to carry their own auto-injector, they are on the road towards living confidently with food allergies.
Talking to Teachers
Most parents meet with teachers before the start of each school year, to discuss their child’s allergies and answer any questions. Talking to teachers and staff about your child’s food allergies is a balancing act. You will need to get the seriousness of the allergies across to them, ensuring that they understand. You will also need to let them know that you’re a partner, willing to help and educate along the way.
Here are some tips:
- Arrange to meet with your child’s teacher and other staff well before the school year starts. Choose a day and time where things are quiet at the school and you can have their full attention.
- Talk with teachers and staff about preventing reactions in a school setting. See our Resources for Educators page for more information.
- Discuss your child’s Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan step by step, and use an auto-injector training device to practice with the teacher and staff. Training devices can be ordered for free from EpiPen®.
Some questions to ask, before your child starts school:
- Are teachers and staff trained how to use an auto-injector such as EpiPen? Do they understand that it is important to use it in an emergency?
- Do teachers and staff understand the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis?
- For a young child, will the auto-injector be accessible to staff during both indoor and outdoor times? For an older child, does the school understand the importance of being able to carry one’s own epinephrine auto-injector?
- What is the school’s food policy? What foods are served and how is food prepared? What rules do they have about food allergies (such as rules against sharing food)?
In your initial meetings with the school, discuss what to do in an emergency. Make sure that teachers and staff understand the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, and how to respond. Bring an auto-injector training device with you and let the teacher and other staff practice using it. Auto-injector training devices can be ordered free from EpiPen®. Your child’s Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan will also serve as a guide.
Did You Know?
Sabrina’s Law requires that every school board in Ontario establish and maintain an anaphylaxis policy covering students with allergies. It also requires that school principals develop an individual plan for each student at risk of anaphylaxis. Passed in 2006, Sabrina’s Law was the first legislation of its kind. Today, many provinces and territories have modelled legislation or policies on Sabrina’s Law. Find out about legislation and policy in your area.
The Ontario Government announced a policy to better support children with medical conditions (anaphylaxis, asthma, diabetes and/or epilepsy) at school. The policy, known as PPM 161, requires implementation by school boards as of September 2018. Learn more about PPM 161.