Helpful Hints for Your Allergy Family™!
Talk to your Child!!
As a parent of a child with food allergies, I know how much you worry about their safety. One of the most important things you can do to protect your child is to educate them. Take the time to teach them about their condition, as well as the people around them.
From the time my daughter, Meredith, was old enough to eat table food, I would correct her if she was reaching for something that would cause an allergic reaction. I wouldn’t just say, “No, you can’t have that”, but would say, “No, that will make you very sick. You’re allergic to cow’s milk.” As her language skills developed, I taught her about food allergies and explained to her what she couldn’t eat and why. As it turned out, my efforts weren’t in vain. When Meredith was 2 ½ years old, another child offered her a sippy cup full of milk at a birthday party. She told them she couldn’t have it because “cow’s milk makes her sick.” That particular situation was proof that educating my child at the youngest of age could help protect her from an allergic reaction. Please don’t assume your child won’t understand. It’s very important for you to arm them with the knowledge that could literally help save their life.
Having said that, you also can’t expect a small child to be as vigilant as an adult when it comes to the food they eat. That’s why I keep stickers in Meredith’s backpack that say, “I have food allergies. Please ask my parents before you give me food!” If she has a substitute teacher, or we’re going to a party at someone’s house where she’ll be around a lot of people she doesn’t know, I always put one of those stickers on the front and back of her shirt. It gets people’s attention, and it always starts a conversation about food allergies. Not only am I able to keep my child safe with these stickers, but I get to raise community awareness about the problem at the same time. Just buy stickers at a local office supply store, and print them on your home computer. This simple solution costs only pennies to implement, but it’s priceless when it comes to the peace of mind it buys you where your child’s safety is concerned.
Talk to Teachers & Caregivers!
I’ve discovered over the last few years that my four year old daughter understands more about food allergies then most adults do. Before Meredith was diagnosed, I certainly fell into that category. Dealing with food allergies is an everyday mindset that has to be learned. Even though you may tell another parent or caregiver that your child has food allergies, it doesn’t mean they comprehend every nuance of the situation. I’ve found that it’s always best to get specific about the problem.
Meredith is allergic to milk and eggs. When I’ve told that to people, many times they’ve ended up telling me about someone they know that has lactose intolerance because they think it’s the same thing. In a few instances, I’ve had some people ask me if it’s ok to give her a certain orange, smiling, fish-shaped cracker to eat as a snack. The product in question will remain nameless, but we all know which one it is because it seems to be a staple in the diet of every American toddler. When I tell them she can’t have it and explain that it’s covered in cheddar cheese powder, you can literally see the light bulb go on in their head. It’s the same reaction I had the first time I went to the grocery store to shop for my family after Meredith was diagnosed. None of us realize how much allergens play a part in the food industry until it directly affects someone close to us. Always be mindful of how much you had to learn when food allergies first touched your life, and always assume the people around you need to learn as much. As a result, whenever I explain my child’s condition to someone, I always give examples of things she can’t have and make suggestions about the snacks that are ok for her to eat.
I recommend always having a “safe” snack in your child’s
bag whenever you go somewhere. That way, if there’s an impromptu
celebration at daycare or in Sunday school, your child doesn’t
feel left out. To help reduce the possibility of such an occurrence,
you may want to type up a short note to send home with each member of
your child’s class. The note can contain your contact information
and an explanation of your child’s condition. Ask the parents to
give you a call and let you know if they plan on bringing a treat to
school for a birthday party or special occasion. That way, you can make
sure you send something to school for your child that is comparable.
Don’t put the burden on another parent to send a “safe” snack
to school for your child. Let them know that you’ll handle it,
and all you’re asking them to do is call you. Most parents are
more than happy to accommodate.
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