Q. My child has a severe nut allergy and is starting crèche in a few weeks. I will be providing the crèche with the necessary medication in case of an emergency, but I’m terrified that they’re not taking the condition seriously. He will be the only child in the crèche with such an allergy so I’m scared that the other children’s parents may not understand the danger. Can a creche be trusted to manage a severe nut allergy? What can I do to ensure my child will be ok?
In a food allergy, the immune system reacts to a harmless food as if it was a threat and creates histamines and antibodies to fight it. The result of eating a food type that you are allergic to can be extremely serious so you are right to be dealing with this as thoroughly as you are.
As parents, managing a child with allergies can be daunting, however, the thought of handing your child over to someone else to be cared for with this condition can be terrifying.
Most crèches will have some level of experience working with food allergic children. However you will need to ensure that the service is willing to work with you and learn what needs to be done to keep your child safe.
I would advise you to set up a meeting with the Crèche Manager in advance of your child starting and discuss the whole situation. Ask lots of questions including, is the entire crèche going to be NUT FREE or will it just be your child’s room? Does the crèche provide all foods for the children? Is the chef fully aware of this new child starting? Ask to see the policy, a standard policy would include factors such as making sure there is no food sharing, making sure all children wash their hands when arriving or after food, making sure the child is easily observable by a teacher during meal and snack times.
In my experience, the main area where accidents happen is during birthday parties where cakes and party food is brought in by parents. Even with the best intentions in the world, busy working parents can forget about the child with allergies. It is imperative to ensure the crèche has a stringent policy in place to manage this.
A conversation also needs to be had around what will happen if your child does ingest the food they are allergic to. Does the team have training on dealing with emergency situations, including the medication you will be providing such as EpiPens? You will need to outline exactly what your expectations are in an emergency situation.
Lastly, remember that your main goal is to teach your child to understand his condition himself. Within a few years; he will be in primary school and exposed to situations that will not be as highly monitored, so empowering him with his own tools to cope is the best gift you can give him. Remember, you are doing a great job and parenting is never easy.