Back to School with Food Allergies

allergies at schoolAs program coordinator of the University of Michigan Food Allergy Center, a school nurse and mother of a grown child with food allergies — I’ve dealt with food allergies from almost every angle. Now that back-to-school time approaches, it’s a good time to make sure you have all your plans in place to ensure your child has a healthy and safe school year.

Your Homework

If this is your child’s first year in a school or his fifth, you need to go through the entire process of completing the paperwork and making the appropriate connections. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to get this done — not during the mayhem of the first day of school. Here’s a checklist:

  • Identify and connect with the key contact person at the school. If the school has a nurse or health aide, that’s the correct person. If not, the best person to work with is typically the school secretary, but contact your school to find out with whom you should be working.
  • Complete your paperwork. All schools will require some type of documentation that needs to be completed and re-filed each year. You’ll need documentation of your child’s allergy from your healthcare provider. The school may have a form they want completed or your doctor can provide you with a form to use.
  • Create an Individual Health Plan. This plan is proactive and clearly outlines what your child can and cannot do. For example, it can include instructions that your child is to eat no other food than the food you provide for him or her. Or, it can state that he or she can only eat nut-free or dairy-free food (or whatever specifics relate to your child). The plan should address parties, field trips, the lunchroom setting and any other areas that you feel are important.
  • Food Allergy Action Plan. This plan gives clear instructions on what to do if your child has an allergic reaction or is exposed to one of their allergens. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has a great form (Food Allergy Action Plan) you can download from their website for your physician to complete. Give the completed plan to your child’s teacher and school contact person.
  • Talk, talk, talk. Make sure all appropriate staff at your child’s school are trained and informed of his or her allergies. It is also a must that they have reviewed the Individual Health Plan, Food Allergy Action Plan and location of their emergency medications.

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Strength and agility exercises for kids

Strength and agility are two skills that can be tough to develop for many kids, but they’re very important.  Most team sports involve movements for a fixed length of time that seldom occur in a straight line.  Agility and strength training improves a child’s ability to change direction, brake suddenly, and perform sport specific skills with more speed and dexterity.

Our Camp Little Victors team stopped by Sport Club, a 6-week program offered by our pediatric physical therapy program, to learn some strength and agility exercises that your kids can do at home!

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Kid-friendly breakfast ideas

Fresh takes on the most important meal of the day

mott blog - breakfast post picWhen people say, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” they aren’t kidding! Multiple studies have shown that children and adults who consume breakfast are more energetic and have healthier body weights than those who don’t.

Breakfast can be more exciting than cereal or eggs or toast, but doesn’t necessarily have to take longer to prepare. An easy way to switch it up? Increase the variety of color! A perfect way to add in fruits and vegetables (even if your child doesn’t like them), is to add finely chopped onions, peppers, tomatoes, or broccoli to scrambled eggs. Whole grain cereals and oatmeal go perfectly with berries, dried fruit or nuts. Of course, be mindful of choking risk if your child is younger than 3 years old.

What do you do if you’re in a real rush? Make smoothies ahead of time! Smoothies are a great way to incorporate fruits, and even vegetables, into a quick and nutritious meal. Berries, melons, citrus fruits, bananas and other similar fruits work well. Use fresh, frozen or canned (in juice, not syrups). Add plain or lightly sweetened yogurt for additional creaminess and bone-building calcium. If you’re feeling daring, try sneaking in a few leaves of spinach or kale, which likely won’t change the taste or appearance of the smoothie, but add important immune nutrients like vitamin A and C. Smoothies can be prepared ahead of time and frozen in perfect portions. To defrost, just take them from the freezer and place them in the refrigerator in the morning or the night before. An added bonus? Let your kids help you choose the ingredients and prepare the smoothies — they’ll think they’re getting dessert for breakfast!

mott blog - details about chop chop giveaway

And for mornings where you do have time for some hands on cooking, here are some recipe ideas from Chop Chop Magazine that your kids will enjoy helping you prepare:

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What is your pulse?

Hands-on activity to help kids see and understand their pulse

learn about pulseHave you every wondered what doctors are listening for with their stethescope, or when you see someone putting their fingers on someone’s wrist to check their “pulse?”

Feeling your pulse is one thing, but here is a fun activity from PBS Kids that will allow you to SEE your pulse!

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Car seat check

Does everyone who transports your child know the golden rules of car seat safety?

Many parents find themselves needing to enlist grandparents and babysitters to help get busy children where they need to be.

Car seat installation and use can be intimidating, though.  For individuals who don’t use car seats very often, especially, there may be new guidelines and safety features that they aren’t aware of.

Even for someone who uses a car seat every day, it’s not a bad idea to get a quick refresh on car seat safety.

This video from our Injury Prevention specialists covers tips that address some of the most common car seat installation and use issues we run into in our communities.

For more car seat safety tips, and a guide to finding a car seat fitting station in your community, visit our Car Seat Safety web page.



best children's hospitalUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.

Campfire Treats

Healthy camping treats, and some new spins on old campfire classics

Photo courtesy KidzWorld Kitchen


Camping has been a longstanding summer tradition throughout my childhood and adult life. My favorite vacations have always been our trips to the northwestern coast of Michigan with friends and family, spending our days on the pristine beaches of Lake Michigan, followed by evenings of unwinding by the campfire.

And if a camping trip isn’t in the cards, maybe you can pop the tent in the backyard and make some of these treats over a backyard campfire, or on the grill!

It is so easy to pack the car full of processed convenience foods for quick and easy traditional camping treats. Your family will feel better, though, if you plan some healthy treats into your camping adventure. And the good news is, there are plenty of ways to have all the nostalgia of the classic campfire treats and still feed your family the good stuff their bodies need. Here are some ideas:

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