Yesterday, my oldest son started his second year of school in Suisse-Romande. His younger brother that has multiple food allergies will be eligible to attend the same public school after his fourth birthday. During that time, I hope our little guy outgrows at least one of his allergies (milk, raw egg and almonds). Regardless of what happens, I have the next few years to learn as much as I can about managing food allergies at school.
Food Allergies in American Classrooms
Recent data indicates that 1 in 13 American children has some type of food allergy, which could translate to about 2 students per classroom, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Luckily for parents, there are lots of existing resources out there to help prepare them and their food-allergic children for the classroom setting. Here are a few I’ve come across that look particularly good:
- Food Allergies in Schools from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
- Food Allergy Tools for Schools from AllergyHome.org;
- Managing Food Allergies at School from FARE; and
- Managing Food Allergies? Essential Back-to-School Tool Kit from the Kids with Food Allergies Foundation.
Food Allergies in Swiss Classrooms
I have yet to find good data on the proportion of Swiss children with food allergies, so I can’t say how the numbers compare to the United States or elsewhere. Anecdotally, based on my first year in Switzerland, food allergies just don’t seem as common. I meet fewer people with food allergies and see fewer specialty products available in stores. What does that mean for children with food allergies when they enter a Swiss classroom?
Last year, I don’t remember seeing anything in writing about food allergies from my oldest son’s school. It’s very possible his teacher mentioned allergies on the first day, but my French wasn’t good enough at that point to pick it up. My oldest son doesn’t have any food allergies, so I never pursued this topic further with his teacher.
This year, I distinctly heard my son’s new teacher mention allergies during the first-day introduction to parents. Plus, there was a brief section on allergies in a small brochure that was sent home. Essentially, from my limited French, the excerpt below means his teacher wants to know about any food allergies or other medical conditions, so the school can collaborate with parents to help ensure the child’s safety.
“Je vous serais reconnaissante de bien vouloir me signaler si votre enfant souffre d’allergies ou de troubles particuliers (prise de médicament, asthma, allergies alimentaires) afin d’assurer sa sécurité. Une bonne collaboration est importante, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter si nécessaire.” – Classroom brochure for Classe 1 et 2 HarmoS
The section in the brochure on food allergies immediately followed the section on “anniversaires” or birthdays. My son’s teacher wants to be notified of the time and date parents plan to bring in special birthday treats. Last year, I would often hear from my son how he had birthday cake at school for one of his classmates. I’m sure arrangements can be made so parents of a food-allergic child are notified when a cake is expected in class, so they could send along an allergy-friendly snack for their child to enjoy during the celebration.
Thankfully, I still have a few more years until my food-allergic son starts school, so I have plenty of time to figure things out, and work on my French! For all the parents out there, best of luck in preparing for the new school year.
Do you have children with food allergies attending school in Switzerland or elsewhere? If so, I want to hear from you! Please share your experiences and advice about preparing for a new school year by leaving a comment below or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org