It’s that time of year again. The Target commercials have been full of children skipping with new backpacks and lunchboxes. You’ve been contemplating if 5 cent folders will hold up for more than two weeks. You’re all packed up and ready for new classes, new teachers, and new friends. In honor of the kids in my area who go back to school this Monday, my blog post will be all about managing food allergies in school.
As a recent high school graduate, I’d like to think that I’ve mastered the art of dealing with food allergies during middle and high school. For the most part, everything has stayed pretty easy to deal with as long as I’ve prepared myself to go off completely independent like I will be in college. Since you are only in school for one meal each day, food allergies are not the most difficult to deal with, but there are still many other parts of high school that involve food that you will learn to navigate.
We’ll start off talking about the cafeteria situation. I’ve always found it easiest for me to just pack my own lunch. Although it may be more convenient to walk up and buy a lunch in line with your friends, you will have a lot more responsibility for ensuring that you have a safe option on the menu that day, and that can be more work. Some schools will let you look at all the ingredients at the beginning of the year so you can plan which days you want to buy, but companies change the ingredients in their products frequently so that can make it more challenging. Besides, the stuff that you pack for yourself is guaranteed to be safer, and is probably healthier, tastier, and less cardboardy than the cafeteria food anyways.
Talk to your teachers about their snacking in class policy. Especially in high school when the lunches ranged from first lunch at 10:14, to last lunch starting at 12:06, many teachers became lenient with allowing kids to eat during class. If your teacher has a policy like this on their syllabus, SPEAK UP! It is not worth it to risk having traces of your allergen on your desk from the kid with last lunch who snacked on almonds during third period (you may want to wipe off your desk before each class anyways). At my high school, our staff did a good job of putting posters on the door that outlined if the room was free from any particular foods for safety reasons.
Another common source of allergens are class parties. Although you can always try to tell your class not to bring foods with your allergens, people without allergies don’t always know what to look for. Don’t eat anything that did not come with a label or recipe (unless it’s a fruit tray). Always bring for yourself to class parties just to make sure that you can feel included. If you have time to bake something for your whole class that’s usually the best option because then you’ll be eating the same thing as everyone else.
The most important thing about dealing with your allergies in school is preparing for emergencies. Find out your school’s policy about carrying your own EpiPen and Benadryl. Most schools will let you carry it around with you once you hit middle school. I remember in elementary school, the nurse kept all of our medications in her office, but there was a stock two-pack of EpiPens in the cafeteria as a precautionary measure. It was still a lot more comforting, however when I was finally allowed to take it with me everywhere. So as soon as your school allows, I would recommend carrying your own medications.
I hope you enjoyed my tips on managing food allergies in the middle/high school setting. What have you done to get ready to go back to school? Comment below!