Back to school can be stressful for tens of thousands of children and their parents when it comes to food allergies.

Mother of three Sarah Jacob knows how stressful back to school can be when it comes to food allergies for two of her young kids entering school this year..

“Ella has a peanut allergy and Zachary has peanut, tree nut, wheat and milk.”

The allergies can cause severe anaphylaxis reactions, so Jacob has been taking the necessary steps to prepare her kids and their school.

“The school is pretty good...they have these little pouches that they wear so the EpiPen is on them, which I like, and we have also instilled in them that they have to be aware of what’s in their food and that a lot of the times adults don’t know too.”

Approximately half-a-million children in Canada are living with food allergies and Dr. Samira Jeimy, an allergist at St Joseph’s Health Care, says this is the time of year they see parents and children facing fear and anxiety.

“The anxiety around food allergies tend to escalate a bit because already you are dealing with a change and then you have the added stress of having something that could be potentially life-threatening and you’re leaving your children in the care of other adults.”

Jeimy recommends parents have a meeting with the school ahead of time to make sure not just the principal and teacher are aware, but also anyone who may be around the student such as volunteers, teaching assistants and bus drivers.

“As we all know children can’t always verbalize if they are having an allergic reaction so you want everyone to be aware of what their allergen is and what an allergic reaction would entail and the second part is you want people to be prepared.”

Jeimy adds lots of attention has been given to nut allergies but education and awareness is still needed surrounding other food allergies.

“If you are a parent and you have a child with an allergy that doesn’t have a lot of awareness such as sesame, I think there is a bit of leg work to do when it comes to raising awareness because some foods like milk, eggs and sesame are very common and difficult to avoid.”

Meanwhile, the Thames Valley District School Board has put out a message to parents this week to remind them to log onto the parent portal, which is an online system through the board to make sure all medical conditions including life-threatening food allergies are up to date in student files to ensure a safe and happy school year.