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Top Ten Questions to Ask about Allergy Policies

Not all daycares are created equal when it comes to managing food allergies. When interviewing potential daycare providers for your food-allergic child, remember to ask.

What Are the Center’s Food Allergy Policies?

Are they comfortable taking on this huge responsibility? If a school isn’t going to work with you, you will want to know that upfront so you can cross them off your list. Schools that receive public funding are mandated to accommodate allergies; still, some may handle allergies better than others.

Is the School Ready to Forbid my Child’s Allergens From the Classroom?

Some schools are very strict in this area. Others are only comfortable “suggesting” that parents not send items in, which may not be an adequate answer.

How Will This Message Communicated?

Will the school itself tell parents what items cannot be brought in, or will that be your responsibility? In either case, it’s a good idea to send a letter home to the parents of your child’s classmates explaining what your child’s allergies are, what foods he cannot be around, and how to read labels on items they send into school.

Does the School Itself Distribute Snacks or Other Foods to the Children?

If so, who checks these items to make sure it’s something that is safe for your child? Make sure staff know to check labels every time: ingredients change frequently, and sometimes what we consider a “safe” food suddenly becomes unsafe.

What if Allergens are Not Strictly Prohibited?

What will be done to ensure that my child does not come into contact? Will they ensure that he does not eat anything you don’t know about and approve of in advance? How will treats for special parties and occasions be handled? Where will my child eat? What is the cleaning procedure for tables, children’s hands, etc? Be sure you know the plans for sitting at the table: you want your child to be safe, but being isolated from the group is not a reasonable alternative.

What Other Activities Might be Impacted by My Child’s Allergies?

For example, a craft activity using peanut butter or birdseed might be unsafe for a child with certain allergies. Be sure the staff realizes that many craft items contain allergens, and ask what changes will be made to ensure your child’s safety.

Who Will be in Charge of My Child’s Food Allergy Emergency Plan?

Ideally, your child’s teachers as well as the center director should be very familiar with your child’s needs. Ensure that anyone who takes responsibility for your child will be apprised of the Allergy Plan. Plan for changes in routine: What if his regular teacher is sick and there is a substitute? What if he needs to be in a different classroom for a short period? How will his needs be communicated to these other staff members?

What is the Emergency Procedure for Accidental Contact With or Ingestion of the Allergen?

Be sure that there is no conflict between their agency policy and your allergy plan. Will the teacher administer the Benadryl and/or epi-pen, or is she required to contact an administrator first? Who is called first: parents or an ambulance? Be sure you know exactly what will happen in an emergency.

What Kind of Training Does the Staff Receive?

Many chain providers ensure their staff receives first aid training, which includes training on managing allergies and administering epi-pens, at least once per year. If they don’t, you will want to meet with the staff to share information. Make sure they know the physicals symptoms of an allergic reaction and demonstrate the proper use of the epi-pen yourself.

Am I Comfortable Leaving My Child in This Program?

This is the last question is a question to ask of yourself. Unless they have answered the first nine questions to your satisfaction, you may not be. Trust your instincts.


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