A High School Student’s Tips for Going Back to School
Guest post from Teen Advisory Group member, Sahiba Baveja
Back to school seems to be that infamous time of year that many students dread. The back to school commercials remind us of the fading summer and early morning alarm clocks soon to come. However, for us students with food allergies, dealing with food allergies shouldn’t be something that anyone wants to avoid or hide as we start the year with new teachers, friends, school nurses, or even cities. Over the past 11 years, I have come up with the best tips and tricks for handling food allergies at the start of the year, and how to make the most of our allergies! I’m Sahiba Baveja, a rising senior from Florida, and this is my first year being a part of FARE’s Teen Advisory Group. I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and shellfish.
School can definitely be daunting at times, don’t get me wrong. New teachers, new friends, tough tests and homework assignments can be challenging, but food allergies shouldn’t be something on your list of fears. With the right attitude and resources, you can get through safely while also making the most of your school year.
It’s important that you’re not the only who has this same goal. Reaching out to school nurses or nutritionists before school starts (or as early as you can) is very helpful, as it gets you on the nurses’ radar early so that they know who you are and what your allergies are. In a TAG project I participated in this year, TAG members held presentations for staff and administration in their schools on how to operate Epi-Pens® and Auvi-Q®. Another important tip is to try and get a copy of the school lunch menu from a cafeteria manager, so if you need to buy lunch or forget your lunch, you know what options you have. Finally, the checklist below can help in making sure you are always prepared for any situation.
Your BTS Checklist:
Individually wrapped hand wipes:These are a go-to for any occasion, but definitely for back to school. If you are moving classes or share a locker with friends, these wipes are perfect for wiping down desks, seats, or other school facilities.
Allergy Cards: Designing a business card that lists your allergies and medical procedure is a great way to make sure teachers and peers are aware of all your allergies. I have found in the past that my teachers might forget about a certain allergy on the list, or get me mixed up with another allergic student. These cards can be put on their computer monitor or whiteboard, so it is always there as a reminder!
Storage Snack: Storage Snacks are boxed snacks that can be placed in a locker or bin that only you have access to (so that there is no contamination with someone else’s food). I keep energy bars in my personal locker, so if my classmates are eating a snack, or I get hungry during the day, I don’t have to rely on someone else for food or risk eating something that is unsafe. Make sure that your teacher is okay with you eating in class or that you have a place you can eat it!
An Allergy Associate: I always try to find someone in my class who has allergies or another food-related issue, so that we can check one another if food is being offered. One of my “allergy associates” was allergic to sesame seeds, and I helped her out by cleaning her desk where someone had a sesame bagel, so this really came in handy. If you can’t find someone with allergies, try to find someone who you can 100% rely on.
And of course, your medical equipment! Whether you self-carry or have your epinephrine and other medication at the school clinic, it is important that it is accessible to you at all times. I keep all these items in one colorful bag with some stickers that has my name and allergy card taped to the front, that way in case of an emergency, someone can easily find it. This bag can be something that you can decorate. Add as much creativity as you want to make it something you are proud of.
One of the most important lessons I have learned over time about dealing with allergies in school is finding a good balance. Always make sure that you are comfortable with the people you surround yourself with, but don’t let your school career become defined by your allergies. Finding balance between comfort and independence is very important, whether it is in your education or health. This checklist should help you find the balance where you can personalize your approach on handling food allergies and yet remain safe in school. I hope everyone has a fantastic and safe school year ahead! And a special good luck to those who are starting new schools or even going out to college.
Signing off for now,
For FARE’s tips on going back to school, visit our Back to School Headquarters!
Special thanks to our Back to School sponsors, Enjoy Life Foods and free2bFoods.