FARE researchers estimate that food allergies affect 1 in every 13 children in the U.S. Making sure that your child is aware of the type of allergy they have and what it means is a key element to keeping them safe and healthy. Through clear communication you can guarantee that your child will know how to avoid their allergy triggers, as well as what they should do in case of an allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis. Experts advise that by the time your child reaches school, they should know: their specific allergy triggers, not to accept food from anyone other than their parents or school teachers, not to eat foods they are not sure about, the symptoms of anaphylaxis, and who and when to call for help. In order to make this happen, follow the guidelines below as well as any advice from your child’s primary care physician:
The sooner you start introducing your child to the concept of allergies and how to prevent them, the more prepared they will be for the years to come. With young children, focus on introducing a few concepts at a time and encourage them to check with you before putting anything in their mouth.
Point Out The Unsafe Foods
If you child has a food allergy, explain that there are certain foods that can make them very sick and help them identify the “safe” from the “unsafe” foods by pointing them out as you see fit.
The fact that your child has a life-threatening allergy is incredibly stressful, so it is understandable that you might feel anxious when talking about it. However, children tend to look at their parents to understand how to react to situations, so try to keep calm and collected when talking to your child about their allergy so that they won’t develop feelings of anxiety or stress about their condition.
Teach Them About Acceptable Food Sources
If your child has a food allergy, teach them to only eat foods that have been given to them by their parents, or other trusted adults, such as a grandparent, school teacher, etc.
Involve Them In The Care Process
Take time to explain to your child why you do the things you do to keep them safe, such as reading food labels or carrying epinephrine injectors. As they grow older, start involving them in taking a more active role in the process.
Try acting out different scenarios with your child to corroborate that they understood everything you’ve said.
Stop Any Shyness About Their Condition
Discourage any self-consciousness your child might feel about their allergy and encourage them to tell others about their condition. This way, your child will feel less isolated and it will also ensure that people around them know to be on the lookout for anything that might risk your child’s safety.
Children who have life-threatening allergies might feel a little isolated because of it, but it is important to emphasize that millions of children suffer from these types of allergies. You could seek out a support group where your child can meet other kids with the same type of conditions.
Encourage Them To Ask For Help
Your child should be aware that no matter where they are, they can always ask an adult for help if they feel sick or if they are unsure of whether they came in contact with an allergy trigger. Make a list of important contacts your child can carry around. You can also enlist the help of your child’s allergist or primary care physician when talking to your child about their allergies. It is also recommended to talk to the officials at your child’s school to make sure they’re aware of your child’s allergy. Discuss the allergies with their teachers and the school nurse and consider providing an epinephrine pen for them to have on site in the case of an emergency.