If your child has allergies, one of the most important people for you to get to know in your child's school is the school nurse.
"That's crucial," says John Williams, superintendent of the Amityville School District. "That's got to be early, early communication, before you start school. If your child is a new entrant, you should arrange to speak with that school nurse even before school starts."
Meeting face-to-face is better than talking on the phone, says Sheryl Goffman, deputy superintendent of the Mineola school district. Talk first to your pediatrician, to have him or her outline suggestions for prevention as well as what the protocol would be in case of a reaction at school, Goffman says. If there's medication involved, the school needs a prescription from the doctor in order for the nurse to administer it.
Find out if the school already has allergy procedures in place. Some schools have peanut-free tables in the cafeteria for children who have peanut allergies, for instance.
Make sure all emergency contact information is up-to-date, and any medical equipment you provide the school - such as an EpiPen - is in working order and any allergy medication hasn't expired, says Joseph Famularo, superintendent of the Bellmore school district.
The school nurse has an obligation to make sure anyone who deals with your child directly knows what's going on. The nurse has to balance family rights to privacy versus school professionals' need to know. "Sometimes it's a fine line," Williams says.
Consider talking personally to the principal and your child's teacher as well as the nurse, even though the nurse will likely fill them in. "As a parent of a young child especially, you would want to have that contact," Goffman says.
Written instructions, too
Provide anything you can about your child's allergies and treatment protocol in writing as well as verbally. The child's medical file is separate from the cumulative record file, Williams says. "You hate to think this way, but God forbid anything should happen, you want to make sure you told the school," Williams says. "If you tell someone, that's good. If you tell someone and follow up in writing, it's better."