Managing School with Food Allergies
Navigating school can be difficult, especially when you have food allergies. Advocating for yourself and your allergies is often important, and school is no exception. However, doing so can feel overwhelming at times. As a junior in high school, I know these four tips have helped me feel safer and more comfortable.
1: Fill out the necessary medical forms.
Carrying your epi-pen and any other necessary medications is important, and school is no exception. Every school year, I leave two epi-pens at the school with the nurse, just in case they’re needed. However, I also need to carry epi-pens with me, especially since my school is so large. While many schools have restrictions on what students can and can’t carry, you can likely talk to the school staff to fill out forms and get permission to carry your auto-injectors. Personally, I get the forms from the school nurse on registration day. These forms indicate what I’ll be carrying (my epi-pens) and that I know to be responsible with them. I always carry my epi-pens in a small bag that I carry with me at all times, even when I’m not at school. This is the most convenient place for me to put mine because they’re easily within reach and still look normal. While it may be extra work, this ensures that, in the event that anything does happen, I’ll be able to use my epi-pen in time.
2: Inform your teachers as soon as possible.
This step is a preventative action. At my school, students’ medical information is available to teachers already, but I still tell them in person, just to be on the safe side. Lots of teachers I’ve had will ask on the first day of school, or it will be on a form we fill out on the first day. However, if this doesn’t happen, I usually speak to them after class, especially since lots of people enjoy eating things like peanut butter crackers and trail mix at school. This is also in case my teachers decide to bring in any food as a treat or as part of an activity, like science labs. It’s also a good idea to request them to ask their students to make sure they don’t eat any foods with your allergens in the classroom to make sure you are safe. Many of my teachers have been very understanding and do their best to enforce this rule.
3: Make sure your friends fully understand your boundaries.
Having a social life can be difficult with food allergies, and sometimes, you just want to fit in. However, this should never be at the expense of your safety. My friends are all aware and understanding of my allergies and are really careful about what foods they eat around me or what they offer me. If someone at lunch eats something with my allergens, like a peanut butter sandwich, they make sure to sit between me and that person to avoid any accidents. I trust my friends, so I feel okay if they want to indulge in a Snickers bar while I’m around, but this is because I’ve known them for so long and they know to be careful. If you ever feel uncomfortable, it’s best to either remind people of your allergies and boundaries, or leave if they won’t listen. Whenever I make new friends, I usually find a casual way of bringing up my allergies so it isn’t too awkward while I’m explaining. Remember: true friends have your back and won’t intentionally hurt you. If my friends do eat something I can’t, they’re conscious of what they’re eating and know to wash their hands afterwards. They also help me speak up when other people around me are eating things with my allergens. While food is often an integral part of today’s society, you should make sure your friends completely understand that you may not feel comfortable trying their snacks or going out to eat with them. Thankfully, my friends always double check ingredients or let me check the labels, and they also make sure I can eat food at their parties.
4: If any problems occur, tell a trusted adult.
If anyone gives you any trouble over your food allergies, it’s especially important to speak up and make sure your safety isn’t being threatened. I know this can feel scary at times, but remember: your health and safety is a priority. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your guidance counselor in person at first, you can tell your parents or a teacher and send an email about your concerns. The important takeaway is that food allergies are not a joke, and they should be treated seriously.
I hope these tips help you navigate school more easily! Good luck in school, and remember to stay safe and healthy!