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managing lunches for a dairy allergic DC at school

(6 Posts)
mintyneb Wed 29-Jun-11 21:01:45

My DD starts school in September and I am due to meet the school senco and her teacher in a couple of weeks time to discuss a number of issues, one of which is her dairy allergy which has taken a turn for the worst recently.

I have found out through my neighbour whose DD will be going into year 5 of the same school next year that DD and the neighbours DD will probably be the only 2 at the school with epipens. The neighbour's DD is allergic to peanuts amongst other things and there is a nut ban in place at school that protects her to some degree when it comes to eating at lunchtime (the debate over the usefulness of nut bans nothwithstandinng)

With DD being allergic to CMP, its obviously impossible for me to ask for a dairy ban at the school and so she will be exposed to dairy on a daily basis. How have others of you reached a satisfactory solution for keeping your child safe at lunchtime? I have read topiarygal's website on allergies in schools and have seen the pros and cons of segregating children from the group for meals vs buddy groups or total trust on the rest of the children and would definitely be loathe to have DD kept away from everyone else it at all possible.

I have asked general questions on here in the last few months about allergies and schools and have had some great responses but now that reality is getting closer and I have a meeting planned to discuss things in more detail I just want to make sure I am asking for the right things and don't get railroaded into something I don't want

Hope that makes sense and many thanks in advance for your help

freefrommum Wed 29-Jun-11 22:39:59

I'm in an almost identical situation. My son's allergic to milk, wheat, eggs and nuts and starts school in Sept. The school has dealt with nut allergies before but the head admitted that it is a lot easier to avoid nuts in the classroom than my son's allergens, especially when infants in Wales are given free milk every day! He's asked me to go in and talk to the staff about how we manage his allergies at home so I'm busy making a list of the preventative measures we normally take eg wiping all surfaces carefully after contact with food, getting others (esp. children) to wash their hands and faces after eating/drinking, watching closely for early warning signs such as scratching/red flush/hives etc etc. I will also ask staff to think of alternatives for certain common activities such as growing cress in egg shells or using pasta for collages as my son is allergic on touch not just on eating. Like you I'm very nervous but I'm trying to stay positive as I don't want to pass my anxiety on to my son. I also don't want him to be excluded from normal school life and am probably going to suggest the lunchtime buddy approach. My DS is very aware of his allergies and, so far, always says no when someone offers him any food. Problem is, he tends to come out in hives whenever we go anywhere with children and food (eg softplay) so chances are, he's going to have a reaction in school at some point. The school nurse should be visiting us soon and I will then be arranging to visit the school to talk to the staff. I will let you know what happens. Please keep me posted on your progress too.

Weta Thu 30-Jun-11 10:55:08

How allergic is she? will she have a serious reaction from airborne particles or from a small amount of skin contact? I think that probably makes a difference...

In our case DS1 is anaphylactic but we have never had a problem with skin contact or airborne particles. When he firsted started school we discussed it with the canteen staff as well as the school management and his teacher (all at the same meeting).

The school (in France) couldn't provide dairy-free meals so I used to take in a meal for him which I left at the office and then the canteen woman would collect it (along with meals for 2 other allergic children). She then heated them on a separate plate and set out a place for him (next to his best friends) with his plate on it. I provided separate cutlery for him, and always made sure he had plenty of food so that he wouldn't be needing any extra. By the time he was 4 I was confident that he would not take other children's food and had a good understanding of the importance of avoiding dairy.

He is now 7 and we have moved to Luxembourg, where children have the option of a cooked meal or one brought from home, so he has a home-made meal - usually sandwiches, cold quiche or hot leftovers which I put in a wide thermos flask.

If it is any reassurance to you, in four years we have never had a single problem related to him having lunch at school.

The other things I talk to the teacher about are birthdays, as kids often bring in a birthday cake, and making sure that she informs me in advance of any activities involving food (cooking etc) so that I can suggest/provide an alternative for him. For birthdays etc I provide a box of individually wrapped (shop-bought) cakes plus a pot of sweets that she can give him as needed.

mintyneb Thu 30-Jun-11 11:27:55

weta, fortunately she does not appear to be so sensitive that she would be affected by airborne particles - on holiday the other week she thoroughly enjoyed picking out cheeses for me from a cheese board at dinner!

Up til the other week she only had accidental exposure to icecream where she touched it and spread a tiny amount (what was under a fingertip) on her face resulting in a load of hives and a swollen eye. two doses of piriton got everything back under control.

two weeks ago though she ate a bread roll which we think had a milk glaze on and she went into an anaphylactic reaction involving swollen eyes, lips and throat, flushed skin, stomach cramps and difficulty breathing sad. Fortunately Piriton did work that time but we have been given the epipen in case it happens again.

Only this week at pre-school another child knocked over a glass of milk and some of it dribbled down DDs leg. the teachers immediately washed her down and give her piriton but her leg apparently still went red and her eyes itchy and she went to have a lie down.

So I guess, another full on anaphylactic reaction is perhaps unlikely as it is seems she has to eat something rather than just touch it but I do worry about her sitting with children eating yoghurts, milky drinks etc where they could be spilt or spread around.

I will be giving her packed lunches until I have checked out the school dinners option more. If they are anything like hospital 'free from' food they tend not just to be dairy free, or egg free say they just make one option to suit all dietary needs (ie gluten/wheat/soya/egg/dairy free) and as a result are not particularly pleasant!

DD is very sensible, tells people that she is allergic to cows milk and never takes food from someone without checking first so thats a good start. Like you, I am hoping that I can give the teacher a goody bag of dairy free treats that can be handed out at birthdays etc

I think I am thinking a lot about this as the anaphylactic reaction was so recent that I'm probably still getting over the shock of what could happen to DD. If I can put her at risk, how much can I trust other people to keep her safe?

mintyneb Thu 30-Jun-11 11:42:52

freefrommum, I meant to say that I don't envy your situation with touch sensitive allergies sad. DD isn't officially allergic to peanuts (negative RAST test) but we have some evidence that she may be so she has been totally nut free and I don't let her touch them either.

good luck getting things sorted with your school and I'll keep you posted with how we get on

Weta Thu 30-Jun-11 15:45:07

mintyneb, your reaction is totally normal and understandable, especially so soon after an anaphylactic reaction. DS1 had one in April after not having any for about 3 years and it has taken me ages to get over it.

Also I think whenever you are suddenly faced with a new situation it takes quite a while to get your head round it, work out the best procedures to follow and then trust that it will be ok. I find it helps too to think that if the worst really did happen then people should have been given enough info to make sure your child gets the necessary medical attention asap. Though to be honest every single reaction my DS has had has been provoked by his parents rather than outsiders smile

Definitely talk to the school about the supervision at the table so that supervisors can be alerted to the problem and be aware of what the other children are doing. Maybe they can always sit her with the same children who can be taught to be careful?

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