By Sally Schoessler, RN

“Let’s see … Backpack … Folders … Pens and pencils … Asthma inhalers … Two epinephrine auto-injectors … Doctor forms …”

It’s time for parents and children to start thinking about back to school. When getting yourself and your child ready to start the school year, THINK “5”:

  1. Check in with your healthcare provider.

Late summer or early September is the best time to visit your doctor to be sure your child’s care is on track. Talk about concerns you may have and include your child in the discussion about asthma and food allergy management. The goal is to encourage children to self-manage – at an age-appropriate level – and learn when and how to get help if there’s an asthma flare or food allergy exposure.

  1. Complete medical forms and have medications ready.

What healthcare forms does the school need from you? Some may require medication orders and a doctor-signed form of your child’s diagnosis. This is particularly important for food allergies so that the school can provide food substitutions in the cafeteria.

When you take your asthma inhaler or epinephrine auto-injector prescription to the pharmacist, ask about programs for discounts. Explain the prescription is for back to school and ask for an expiration date as far in the future as possible.

  1. Meet with your school nurse.

Working together, you and the school nurse can partner on creating an allergy-aware environment at school. The school nurse can help you determine what accommodations are reasonable and necessary for your child, lead in the development of emergency care plans, and educate staff.

Considering a 504 Plan for food allergies? It will depend on your child’s healthcare needs and how well the school already manages food allergies.

  1. Open lines of communication with teachers and staff.

What do you want school staff to know about how you manage your child’s asthma or food allergy? What does your child want them to know? Involve your child in building relationships with teachers. Discuss how to share information without publicly singling out your child.

  1. Enjoy the first days of school.

When things are in place for your child, it reduces anxiety that can come with a new school year. When you communicate confidence, your child can learn to follow practical management strategies and feel safe at school.

Sally Schoessler, RN, is Allergy & Asthma Network’s Director of Education.