Special Diets: Food Allergies
You’re sending your child off to college in the fall, or perhaps, in the next year or two. If your child has food allergies or is on a special diet, the following information may help you create a good action/ management plan. Having a solid base of knowledge and information will enable your student to enjoy a healthier and safer college experience.
Students should be fully aware of their food allergies or special dietary requirements before leaving for school. Communication, preparation and cooperation are critical elements in managing food allergies.
Open and honest communication with all parties is vital. A trip to the Disabled Student Center to discuss specific needs and challenges is of primary importance. It is also crucial to arrange a meeting or conversation with the Food Services Director and the Health Care Manager at the school. Have your questions ready to ask about food preparation, cross contamination avoidance, additional costs associated with special dietary restrictions and any other allergy related concerns. Alert everyone around you: kitchen staff, teachers, roommates, the resident advisor (R.A), etc., about your allergies and the reactions you have experienced in the past. You should also tell them if you have an epi-pen, where it’s located and teach those closest to you how to use it.
Emergency care preparation is another step toward safety and peace of mind. Prepare an emergency treatment plan (ETP). Find out where the closest hospital and 24-hour pharmacy is in relation to the university. By Barrie Silberberg Research doctors and specialists in the area around the college should additional care become necessary. Program ICE (In Case of Emergency) numbers into your cell phone of those people who need to be notified should you have a reaction. You can buy clips or patches to put on purses, backpacks, gym bags, etc., stating there is an epi-pen inside. It is always a good idea to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace in instances of life threatening allergies. Make sure all medications are readily available and not expired.
Contact the Disabled Student Center to see if the school is able to assist with accommodations. Some schools offer private rooms or apartments with cooking appliances and refrigerators to avoid cross contamination for life threatening and severe allergies. You should provide a copy of your emergency treatment plan to the Food Services Director, Health Care Manager, food and kitchen staff and your resident advisor. It’s also a good idea to post your ETP in a central location in your dorm room or apartment so it is readily accessible
There are many different medical alert bracelets and necklaces available for students to wear. Some of the newer ones are made of silicon (https://www.americanmedical-id.com/extra/all-medical-id-bracelets.html) and they are more comfortable and can be worn 24/7.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (https://asthmaandallergies.org/food-allergies/going-to-college-with-food-allergies/) offers some great tips and brochures for dealing with allergies while at college.
If private rooms are not available at your school ask about keeping a micro refrigerator and pantry in your dorm room to have safe snacks available at all times. Be sure no one else has access to your food. You may want to consider getting a few locks, just to be on the safe side. One curious or hungry dorm mate might jeopardize your health or your life, without even realizing it.
DON’T GET CARELESS
NEVER become complacent or careless about what you consume or touch. Don’t be afraid to ask to see labels, and read them carefully. Don’t trust any food you haven’t prepared yourself, unless you’re 100% sure that it is safe. Others don’t necessarily understand your allergies; they may be unaware that they used a certain type of oil, or used something that has a component of milk in it. What they don’t know could hurt you.
If a specialized diet or food allergies are important considerations for you and your child when deciding on which college to attend, you should become aware of and informed on the school’s ability to meet your child’s special dietary requirements (https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/preparing-college).
Barrie Silberberg is the author of The Autism & ADHD Diet : A Step-by- Step Guide To Hope and Healing by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) And Others Interventions.
For More Information Check Out These Sites:
Many colleges and universities are making changes to assist students who have special dietary needs. The following sites will give you an idea of what to look for at the schools you’re investigating:
William & Mary
University of Michigan
University of California, San Diego
To avoid certain allergens at college here are some helpful sites:
- How Does a Patient Portal Benefit My Child?
- Benefits of Special Diets for Special Needs Children
- Self-Advocating While on a Special Diet
- Most Popular Gluten Free/Casein Free Products and Where to Find Them
- Ways to Advocate for Yourself While on a Special Diet
- Taking Care of Your Child’s Special Food Needs
- Eating Breakfast When You Are on a Special Diet
- Handling a Special Diet at School
- Traveling with Special Dietary Need
This post originally appeared on our July/August 2015 Magazine