How to Help Your Child Find a Food Allergy-Friendly College

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Many childhood allergies go away when children grow older, so those might not be a concern anymore by the time your child goes to college. Nonetheless, some allergies will stick around, and it’s also possible to develop new allergies even as an adult. This means that your child could be going to college with allergies or could even develop an allergy while on their own at school.

It will be important to prepare your child for knowing how to manage allergies on their own before you send them away to school. At the same time, you can improve your child’s experience and safety at school by helping them choose a food allergy-friendly college.

Why Isn’t Every College Allergy-Friendly?

Because of the inclusion of food allergies in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), most colleges are expected to accommodate food allergies. This includes all publicly funded colleges and most private ones. The exception is religious colleges that do not receive any federal funds, so your child might want to avoid this type of school.

Also, just because colleges are legally supposed to follow the ADA, they’re not equally effective at it. Similar to other types of businesses you encounter, some colleges are better and more proactive at handling food allergies than others. So you and your child can do research on which schools are a better choice for students with food allergies.

How to Search for Allergy-Friendly Schools

Of course, academics and other factors will be priorities in figuring out which school your child goes to. But looking into the food allergy policies of each school might help you and your child narrow down your college list. At the very least, you can be prepared for your student receiving less support at some schools than others.

To find the right school, you can research each school’s food allergy policies and accommodations. These are some great tools that can help you with the process:

1. Allergic Living’s U.S. Colleges Directory. The magazine put extensive effort into contacting a long list of schools to learn about their allergy and gluten-free policies. The list provides options broken down by state.

2. Food Allergy Research & Education’s Food Allergy College Search. This tool allows you to search by the school name or to browse a list of allergy-friendly schools. It tells you important information including cross-contact procedures and whether the school provides ingredient information online.

Keep in mind that these tools show you some allergy-friendly options but do not cover every school across the country and world. If you’re interested in a school that’s not on the list, you can see if the school provides this information on its website or contact the school to learn about its policies. A good place to start is the school’s office of disabilities.

Apart from what a college says about its policies, it’s smart to see how they play out in real life. See if you can find feedback from real students, and visit the schools on your narrowed-down list to see what’s happening in the dining areas.

Once your child is accepted to a school, you can prepare for how your child will manage allergies on their own. During this process, you can adapt your plan to the specific accommodations of that school. Also, you can consider ways to make things better for your child, even at a school that is less allergy-friendly. For example, you might be able to get your child into a single room rather than with a roommate who may not respect the allergy. By learning about the school’s procedures, communicating with the school and preparing your child in advance, you can help your child’s college experience be a safer and more rewarding one.