Dealing with severe food allergies can be tough and discouraging at times, but we can work together with our children and those around us to create a safe place for our children. Here are some ways to navigate food allergies with your kids
I was recently going through some of my blog drafts on my website and noticed this piece that I had written several years ago unpublished. I had almost completely forgotten about it, and I’m not sure why I had never published it even though it was pretty much fully written.
My kids are a bit older now and it’s been a little while since we’ve had any ER trips due to food allergies, but I decided to share this post since it still rings true for many food allergy parents. Hopefully this post will give a little hope and help to parents of kids with food allergies!
Yesterday started out just like any other day of the week: getting ready for school, working out at the gym, going to the store, having lunch at a favorite restaurant,… making a trip to the to emergency room… ??
Both of my kids have food allergies to several foods, including peanuts, and we’ve been to the ER with both of my kids several times. You never know when your kids will end up having an allergic reaction to something again. We had been doing really well up until yesterday when we went to lunch at a buffet.
We have eaten at this place multiple times without incidence. But, somehow my son had an allergic reaction to something from cross contamination and he developed a rash on his face and a swollen lip. After a dose of Benadryl, we decided to play it safe and check into the ER for follow-up.
Our son is doing fine now (he was on steroids for 5 days), but every time something like this happens, it gets a little scary and we get a rude awakening. Should we be handling things differently? What did we do wrong? What could we have done differently? A thousand questions can cloud your mind at times like this. Here are a few tips we have picked up over the years that help us keep our kids safe:
How to navigate food allergies with your kids
Create an action plan
Decide ahead of time what will happen if your child somehow gets into something they are allergic to and what you need to do for treatment, and go over this with your children. Let them know that if an EpiPen needs to be used, that it’s okay! Help them to also recognize the signs of allergic reactions, so they can get help quickly.
Get everyone on board with your action plan
Make sure your child’s caregivers and relatives have a list of allergies, intolerances, medications, doctor’s phone numbers, or anything else of importance. We printed lists of allergens for both of our children and these lists were distributed to our church, the gym day care, our kid’s school, and each grandparent’s house.
If you carry Epi-pens…
Make sure that everyone knows how to use it properly and what to do in case of an accidental prick. We have EpiPens at our home, in a backpack we carry everywhere, and at our kid’s school. Make sure that caregivers and family members know how to use the pen properly.
Also take measures to keep the pen safe from extreme temperature changes and check the expiration dates regularly so they don’t expire!
Always keep medications on hand
This may include Benadryl, steroids, inhalers, digestive enzymes and activated charcoal (for minor digestive upsets), etc. You may need to mark your bag with a medical alert tag (like the ones below) so people are aware that there is potentially harmful medication inside (like an EpiPen). Make sure everyone knows how and when to administer these.
Help your kids understand the severity of their allergies
Try to convey to your children the seriousness of their allergies without alarming them or making them scared. This can be a challenge, but children will understand more and more about the situation as they get older. My children know what they are allergic to, but they still need help identifying those things until they get a old enough to recognize them and read labels on their own.
Change your habits
This is probably the hardest one for every parent, especially if they themselves have no food allergies. Changing habits may mean eating out less, changing which restaurants you visit when you do dine out, changing what foods you keep in the house and how they are stored, and taking more time at the grocery store to read labels.
Be a source of encouragement for your child
Sometimes having chronic health issues and severe food allergies can be so discouraging! It’s easy to get depressed and focus on the negative too much. It’s okay to get down sometimes, but we don’t want to stay in those negative places too long.
As parents, we should make our homes a sheltering place for our children to rest and recharge from the world outside, and one of the ways we can do that is to make sure that we aren’t constantly negative about family food allergies. Encourage and uplift your child as they struggle with their food allergies.
Severe food allergies can be frustrating and scary, but we can work through those tough times with our kids. Don’t forget to count your blessings: sometimes working through those challenges as a family can strengthen your relationship 🙂
Sarah Jane Parker is the founder, recipe creator, and photographer behind The Fit Cookie. She’s a food allergy mom and healthy living blogger based in Wyoming. Sarah is also an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ACE Certified Health Coach, Revolution Running certified running coach, and an ACE Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist