Starting high school is an exciting, but daunting time for everyone. Everything was a lot simpler in primary school; you had the same classmates, classroom and teacher for the whole year, and didn’t really have to think about moving around the school too much.
High school is different. It’s high energy. There are a lot more students and teachers, rushing around and going in different directions. It’s really easy to feel lost and overwhelmed. And…we haven’t even mentioned your food allergy yet!
Now that you’re in high school, you’ll have to learn to become more responsible for your grades, time management and decisions. It’s also time for you to take more responsibility for managing your food allergy. Here are some tips to help you learn to manage your food allergy and make the transition to high school.
Carry your own adrenaline injector (EpiPen® or Anapen®) and ASCIA Action Plan
Your school will likely require you to provide them with an adrenaline injector (EpiPen® or Anapen®) and a copy of your ASCIA Action Plan. However, you should also carry an emergency medical kit containing at least one adrenaline injector (preferably two) and your ASCIA Action Plan, while at school.
Find what works for you. Some who are at risk of anaphylaxis keep their medical kit in their backpack which they take to class, recess and lunch. Others prefer a bum bag/sports belt or carry their EpiPen® or Anapen® in their pocket. Just remember that your emergency medication needs to be easily accessible at all times.
If you carry your medical kit in a backpack, do not leave the backpack outside the classroom with thirty other backpacks as finding yours in an emergency can waste precious time. Even if the school has a ‘no backpack in classrooms’ rule/policy, exceptions for people with medical conditions can be made.
Lockers are not for storing Emergency Kits
If your high school has lockers, make sure that you do not leave your adrenaline injector (EpiPen® or Anapen®) and ASCIA Action Plan inside it. In the event of an emergency, you do not want your medication to be locked away, and difficult to access. If you do decide to leave your school bag in your locker during classes, make sure to have a bum bag, sports belt, designated pouch or pencil case in which you can carry your medication to classes.
Speak up and build concrete support networks.
We know making new friends can be hard – but just remember – everybody is in the same boat!
It’s important that you tell your friends about your allergy and that you carry an emergency medical kit. Show them what you have it in and where they can find it in an emergency. Yes, it may be embarrassing, but it’s much better to speak up than to find yourself in a situation where you feel pressured to make a risky decision. Think of how your friends would feel if you had anaphylaxis and they knew nothing about your allergy, how to help you and where to find your emergency medication.
Your teachers should be aware of your allergy, mention it to them at a time early in the school year. If you think you might be having an allergic reaction, it’s important to tell your teacher (or a classmate) right away. You are not creating a fuss – you are being safe and doing the right thing.
Cleanliness is your new best friend
Your primary school may have tried reducing risk to your health and wellbeing by asking parents not to send in a particular food. However, with time, you probably would have seen foods that are a risk pop up in your classroom and playground. As a result, you may already have strategies in place to keep yourself safe.
Having strategies already in place is a good thing, as it is unrealistic to expect that your high school (or any school) will be ‘free’ from the food you are allergic to. Strategies to manage your food allergy include:
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Carry some wipes with you to ensure any eating surfaces are clean. Alternatively, eat out of your lunch pack/cooler bag without placing your lunch on a surface.
- Talk to the canteen manager about the foods they offer and how they prepare them to find out if any foods are suitable for you
Something to remember….
Being in the same space as someone eating a peanut butter/egg/cheese sandwich will not trigger anaphylaxis. You may feel uncomfortable, but anaphylaxis is almost always triggered by eating the food. If it makes you feel better, sit on the end of the table and not right next to the person eating the food you’re allergic to.
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