Getting Ready for School
Before you know it, summer will be over and the school bus will come to bring your little refluxer to school. If your child is going to school for the first time, you may be a bit anxious about managing reflux at school. Even if your child has been attending school for a few years, a new school year brings new teachers and new routines. Now is the time to establish a plan for managing reflux at school. Most schools are open during the summer with limited office hours. So take a break from shopping for school supplies and call now before the back to school rush begins.
Ask to schedule a meeting to discuss your child’s health concerns. You may be referred to the principal, school nurse or a teacher. The goal of the meeting is to answer any questions about gastroesophageal reflux disease and inform the staff of the symptoms and treatments. You might want to make a list of important points to remember such as the symptoms the school staff might see at school. My refluxers could never face breakfast but they were ready for a for a snack/breakfast break by mid morning. It was very important for the school staff to understand that they were coming to school on a few sips of water to fuel their brains and the morning snack was essential to their alertness and school success. The school staff may not be familiar with reflux so it is essential to share information about the reflux triggers that affect your child. This might include foods your child needs to avoid as well as limiting vigorous exercise after lunch. Let the staff know what the reflux relievers are. This might include eating slowly and chewing carefully, having access to snacks, smaller meals and medication. You should also discuss emergency plans, when to call home and when to use medication. Some parents download a copy of the booklet, “Going to School with Acid Reflux” from the PAGER Association website at www.reflux.org to give the school staff additional information.
Sample School Meeting Notes:
Age: 6 years.
About Reflux: Reflux is the backwashing of food from the stomach to the esophagus. The reflux has caused irritation to her esophagus and stomach and her treatments include a special diet and medication. The reflux triggers asthma and has affected her growth so she is very small for her age.
Reflux Symptoms: Rebecca often experiences stomach pain during and after a meal. She will burp and clear her throat/cough often, especially after a meal.
Reflux Triggers: The reflux is worse if Rebecca eats dairy products and spicy foods or engages in vigorous sports such as running just after a meal. I will provide all of her food for school.
Reflux Relievers: Rebecca benefits from small snacks and meals throughout the day. I will provide a snack bag to keep at her desk and a lunch bag. She often takes sips of water all day long rather than a big drink at mealtime. She will need to keep a water bottle in her desk. Quiet play for 30 minutes after a meal is best. She may have one dose of her antacid (provided to school with a note from the doctor) as needed.
When to call home: Please call me if she still has stomach pain or a stomach ache after taking her antacid.
You might want to fill out the medical and emergency forms and turn them in early so the school nurse has time to review the information and get any additional forms filled out or documents from the doctor. All through elementary school, Rebecca’s pediatric gastroenterologist wrote a prescription for Rebecca’s new teacher. In bold letters he wrote, “Please allow Rebecca to eat and drink as needed during school.” I gave a copy to her new teacher and the school nurse on the first day of school. I know the frequent snacks and drinks helped her to gain weight when she hovered on the bottom of the growth chart and helped her to digest food slowly, adding greatly to her digestive comfort. It also gave me a great deal of peace of mind knowing she had access to food and drink so she could follow her treatment plan at school.
Give the school staff time to “digest” this information and then follow up again before school starts. Perhaps you will be able to talk with your child’s teacher before school starts so everyone will be prepared to deal with reflux at school from the very first day.