Essentials for families with food allergies
If your child has a food allergy, you're going to want to make sure you know everything you need to about the allergy, and have everything on hand in case of a serious reaction. We share essential tips for keeping kids safe and what you should keep with you at all times.
Your child was diagnosed with a food allergy, and was maybe prescribed an EpiPen Jr. — now what?
These essential tips will help keep your child safe as she eats the food you prepare and goes out into the world on her own as she grows.
Lay down rules
Getting a food allergy diagnosis can be overwhelming, but learning how to read labels will become second nature to you with time. One thing you’ll have to do from the get-go is lay down rules that your child will need to follow.
Even a toddler can be told that she is allergic to peanuts, for example, and that is why she needs to avoid certain foods.
Iris Shamus, founder of AllerMates and MediMates, suggested that when a child is old enough, they will also need to learn how to eat safely. “Don't eat anything unless you know it's safe,” she urged parents to tell their children. She said that parents should tell their kids to not share food with others and to always tell an adult if they feel sick or strange.
Educate your child
Children can be taught to look out for themselves, too, and as they grow, they will learn to take even more responsibility for themselves. Laying the groundwork when they are first diagnosed will go a long way towards lifelong awareness. Shamus said that kids should be taught to decline offers of food from adults unless they know for sure the food is approved by Mom or Dad. “Even adult friends or caregivers might accidentally offer them something they shouldn't eat, so kids themselves are the last line of defense against reactions,” she explained. “Having the confidence and skill to remind adults that they can't eat certain foods will help them stay safe even if someone else makes a mistake.”
Know the signs
Children with food allergies can have obvious signs of a reaction, or they can be more subtle. Shamus listed these warning signs that both parents and kids need to familiarize themselves with and watch out for. “The symptoms can change, so the reaction may not always happen the same way,” she explained. “If any of these things happen after eating something, your child may be having a reaction.”
- Their mouth tingles, burns or itches
- They start to feel itchy, or get hives (red patches that itch or burn the skin)
- Their lips, tongue, face or other parts of the body start to swell or feel puffy
- They start to wheeze, feel they can't get a breath or that breathing is harder. Sometimes it might feel as if there's a lump in their throat, even if you can't see anything there
- They start to get a runny or stuffy nose
- Their stomach starts to hurt, they might feel like throwing up or have diarrhea
Carry rescue meds
If your child is in danger of experiencing an allergic reaction to a food, you’ll want to talk to his doctor about what types of medications you need to carry with you at all times. Many will recommend antihistamines, such as Benadryl, and some kids will also be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector to use in case of anaphylactic shock. Office staff can and will train you on what to look for and how to use it — pay attention when they are reviewing techniques with you. Your child’s life could depend on it.
Consider medical alerts
Medical alert bracelets are used for many medical issues, such as diabetes and heart conditions. They are also excellent for children and adults with food allergies, especially if a person is in danger of experiencing anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal. Fortunately, there are companies that specialize in medical alert jewelry that children love to wear, such as AllerMates (AllerMates, $6), which are terrific for kids with food allergies. They look like fun pieces they would normally love to wear, but can be recognized by medical professionals for what they are. For older kids and teens, a MyID medic alert bracelet (Endevr, $40) offers cutting-edge technology combined with an attractive bracelet that provides essential health information in an instant.
A food allergy is to be taken seriously, but with proper vigilance, education and guidance, your child can live a happy and safe life. Don’t instill a sense of fear in her, but emphasize the seriousness of her food allergy and how important it is to read labels and communicate effectively with those around you.
Though my recommendations about the products mentioned are true and honest, AllerMates and Endevr provided their products for review.