School Snack Questions & Food Allergies

Primary School Pupils Enjoying Packed Lunch In ClassroomA new school year could bring another nail-biting semester for families with food allergies. Ensuring that your child will be safe in their new classroom is always a priority but are you asking the right questions each year? I’d like to share what has been very helpful with my son’s allergies and what you should consider discussing with not only the homeroom teacher but all of your child’s teachers. After all, any teacher or school staff member that will be with your child needs to know what is safe and what is not. To avoid confusion, it’s always better to discuss your thoughts about when and where so there will be less of a chance for why or why not.

“Are snacks brought in by each individual child or do the teacher’s ask for food donations from the parents?

This can vary from school to school or sometimes even grade to grade. Many schools are required to give the students a snack time so it should be no surprise when your child announces what everyone else brought in that day and ate near them. What you should find out is where the snacks are expected to come from. If the teacher is asking that parents send in snacks for the entire class, you need to discuss safe options that will work for everyone. Don’t be frustrated if you are met with a bit of discouragement- use that opportunity to meet new parents and help educate them on allergy-friendly snacks that all of the children can enjoy together.

“Can I provide a “Safe Snacks” box for my child?”

The topic of a safe snacks box has been a bit of a hot topic between parents within the food allergy community. Some feel that providing a safe snacks box may be seen as a negative experience- one that may make their child with food allergies stand out. There is also the flip side (which my family has been comfortable with) –not providing safe snacks could not only invite unnecessary allergic triggers but also leave your child feeling left out and isolated. Teachers who don’t plan ahead for children with food allergies don’t tend to think about the impact until after the fact. The important thing to find out is if there is an option to send safe foods for your child.

“Can I provide a letter to be sent out to all of the class parents giving them a heads-up about my child’s food allergies?

An effective way to let all of the other children’s parents know about your child’s food allergy safety is to draft a simple letter that gives brief but important details. Most teachers can include it with the initial paperwork so your letter will seem like part of the forms that need to be returned back to the teacher. Also consider that the parents who do not have an allergic child have hectic days and family plans that need to be addressed as well. Sometimes those reminder notes are more helpful than you trying to schedule a meeting time in between busy time. A simple example can be found here.

“How is snack time handled? Do the children eat at their assigned desk? Do they sit on an area rug? Do they move around?”

Kind of a multi-part, long-winded question but still important. Area of snack time and ages are two key factors when it comes to cross-contamination. If the classroom has younger children that don’t hand wash as often or try to share just for the sake of being nice, these are situations that need to be remedied before it’s too late. If there is a favorite rug or sitting area that also traps food particles dropped during snack time, perhaps it’s time to ask the teacher if foods can be kept in place that’s easier to keep clean up.

“Can I be a class helper at parties and celebrations?”

Only on a very rare occasion will you be faced by a teacher that refuses your help. With the growing number of children in the classrooms, teaches are very often grateful to get help with their class parties. I always say that I will be the silent helper with the Lysol wipes. In exchange for an hour or so of your time, you receive the benefit of spending time with your child, meeting their friends, seeming like the “cool” parent (as many others usually have to work) and you can quietly keep your eyes open for allergic reactions waiting to happen. Unfortunately, this will be harder to do as they get older and feel having a parent with them is uncalled for.

When in doubt, it’s always best to discuss everything far enough ahead to make sure snack time is not a scary time. Stay positive, stay involved, stay stocked with your child’s allergy medications and above all, educate others.

Food allergies do not just affect the children with them, they affect everyone that knows someone with food allergies or has witnessed a reaction.

Why not be cautiously prepared? There is nothing else better than to hear one of your child’s friends exclaim “She told me that if I eat something that makes me have an allergic reaction, she would take care of me too.” Snacks can always be replaced- a child’s life cannot.

Healthy Sleep Tips for Children

Essential Sleep Habits for KidsKeeping your child to a regular bedtime routine can be difficult, but it can help improve the quality of their sleep.

For some children, irregular sleeping hours can be problematic. Setting a regular bedtime schedule can really help children get the right amount of sleep.

It’s important to devise a routine that works for you and your child and to stick to it.

“Keep regular sleeping hours,” says Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council, a non-profit organisation that provides advice on good sleep.

“A bedtime ritual teaches the brain to become familiar with sleep times and wake times,” she says. “It programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine.”

Relaxation techniques to aid sleep

Winding down is a critical stage in preparing your child for bed. There are many ways for them to relax:

  • A warm (not hot) bath will help their body reach a temperature where it’s most likely to rest.
  • Relaxation exercises, such as light yoga stretches, will help relax their muscles.
  • Relaxation CDs work by relaxing the listener with carefully chosen words and gentle hypnotic music and sound effects.
  • Reading a book or listening to the radio will relax their mind by distracting it from any worries or anxieties.

Here are some more relaxation tips your teenager can use to prepare them for sleep.

Avoid TVs in the bedroom

The bedroom should be a relaxed environment.

Experts say that bedrooms are strongly associated with sleep, but that certain things weaken the association. These include TVs, mobiles/smartphones and other electronic gadgets, light or noise, and a bad mattress or uncomfortable bed.

Try to keep your child’s bedroom a TV-free zone and get them to charge their phones and other devices downstairs. That way they’ll be out of temptation and won’t disturb them if a text or email comes through.

Read more about how keeping your teen’s bedroom free of electronic contraptions can boost their sleep.

Get a comfy bed

“It’s important to create an environment that’s favourable for sleep,” says Alexander. “Keep the bedroom just for sleeping.”

The bedroom needs to be dark, quiet and tidy. It should smell fresh and be kept at a temperature of 18-24°C. Jessica adds: “Fit some thick curtains. If there’s noise outside, consider investing in double glazing or, for a cheaper option, earplugs.”

A comfortable bed is essential. Research by The Sleep Council shows that a good-quality mattress and bed frame will give you an extra hour’s sleep a night.

Dr Chris Izikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, who led the research, says people benefit from changing their bed if it’s uncomfortable. “It’s likely that long-term insomniacs and those with inadequate sleep habits would benefit most,” he says.

Download the Sleep Council’s guide to on-screen text (PDF, 1Mb).

Keep a sleep diary

One of the first things your GP or sleep expert will get you to do is to keep a sleep diary for your child as part of diagnosing any sleep problems.

“The sleep diary might reveal some underlying conditions that explain sleep problems, such as stress or medication,” says Alexander.

A sleep diary might reveal lifestyle habits or experiences in your child’s day-to-day activities that contribute to sleep problems.

A sleep diary could include answers to the following questions:

  • What were your child’s sleeping times?
  • How long did it take them to get to sleep?
  • How many times did they wake up during the night?
  • How long did each awakening last?
  • How long did they sleep in total?
  • Did they do any exercise shortly before going to bed?
  • Did they take any naps during the day or evening?
  • Has anything made them anxious or upset?

Download a sleep diary.

Sometimes, sleep problems can be a sign of a mental health problem. Read more about symptoms of depression in children.

Now, read why your child’s sleep needs change when they become a teenager.


Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 09-07-2015 to 09-13-2015

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 25 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Top Headline of the Week:
Safety guidelines for new parents

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week #2:
Be warned: Fake Porn App Snaps User’s Photo With the Smartphone’s Camera and Demands a Ransom

Watch Out Parents – That’s Not Candy!

Little Girl Playing In The KitchenWhen it comes to cleaning our homes, I am assuming that we all do it or have it done at some point. Have you ever stopped to think about not only what you are cleaning with but also what it looks like or smells like to a child? Candy!!

Everything in our home requires some kind of cleaner, from the carpet and tile to the dishes and pets. It is no secret that companies go to great lengths to attract people to buy their products and the use of bright colors and fruity smells are just some of the tactics commonly used in these campaigns. While the color of your cleaner is of no consequence to you, it may be very attractive to a child. Common cleaning liquids used for mopping are easily mistaken for juice if left unlocked or unattended. The little gel packs used for things like dish washers and clothes washing machines are very easily mistaken for candy. The pellets placed in your garbage disposal to make it smell better, if left unlocked or unattended can easily be swallowed. The list of household cleaning chemicals and their colors is endless.

The most important things to remember are that:

  • All chemicals should be locked and secured when not being used.
  • You should know the number for poison control by memory: 1-800-222-1222…and
  • When in doubt, do not hesitate and call 911.

Thank You and Be Safe.

Remembering 911, Saving Our Children’s Future

Today is the 14th anniversary of the worst attack against America and our way of life and is a day a national remembrance. The 911 attacks attacked differences. Differences of religion, differences in appearance. The attacks said we are worthy to live you are not. The attacks said we are better.

Child and 9-11 monumentTaking a moment to remember, reminds us to embrace our differences, to embrace other religions, different governments and different appearances. Taking a moment to remember says we all deserve to live. Doing so builds a better life and better future for our children, for all children, for many generations to come. Only we can teach hate and only we can erase hate in the future for our children with love.


Editor’s Note: This post first ran on 9-11, 6 years ago. It is the author’s hope – and ours – that by remembering and telling our children, we create a better world for them. They deserve it. We all do!!
With heavy hearts…and with love…from Pediatric Safety.

Video: Young Man and Speech Therapist Talk about Stuttering

Learn about the causes and challenges of stuttering (also known as stammering) from a speech therapist and a young man who’s living with stuttering. Jamal eventually got help for the problem and has since embraced his stutter as just another aspect of who he is – not a defining element.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

  • Stuttering or stammering is a difficulty with fluency in speech
  • Physically it can manifest or be experienced as a person repeating sounds or words, or becoming completely blocked in speaking
  • But there are also a lot of internal, often negative, feelings about stuttering – particularly as a child ages
  • Ways that people use to cope with stuttering is avoidance or substitution of words – and even avoidance of social situations – trying to deal with the stuttering is always top of mind
  • Stuttering background conceptThe issue can affect everyday situations and, as a person grows, can become a barrier to employment, through avoiding interviews
  • There is a lot of help now for people who stutter – best to get specialist help, such as speech therapy
  • It’s never too late to get help, whether a child or an adult – a cure may not be possible, but real improvement is possible

For more information on the characteristics, causes and treatment of stammering, check out this link from NHS Choices or The Stuttering Foundation