Having a child with allergies can be frustrating and difficult to deal with. When those allergies become life threatening, it can turn your entire life into a roller coaster ride of fear and distress.
Children with allergies can certainly live a full and long life, but you will have to be diligent about avoiding their allergens and keeping treatment options available at all times. You’ll also need to educate your child and their caregivers so they are able to navigate the world as well. Of course, you should definitely work with your child’s doctor also.
Here are some tips for helping you get through on a day to day basis.
1. Educate Everyone
You can’t send your child off to daycare or school without informing those in charge about the allergy. You must ensure that everyone involved understands just how serious the allergy is so they are not lax about helping your child avoid the allergen.
You might consider setting up a meeting with the teacher, the school nurse, the principal and the lunch staff so that you can go over everything at once. You might also want to set up a time when you can speak to your child’s entire class so they understand that they must be careful about sharing food with your child.
2. Teach Your Child To Use An Epi-Pen
Your child’s caregivers must be trained to provide an Epi-Pen treatment when necessary, but it makes sense to also teach your child how to do it. You simply never know when they may need an injection and there isn’t a knowledgeable person on hand to do it.
Use practice devices to make your child comfortable with the Epi Pen so that they can use it if the need ever arises. This also takes some of the fear out of what they’ll do if they ever have a reaction and must act quickly on their own behalf.
3. Consider Cross Contamination
This is something that will come up at school, home and when you eat in restaurants. For children with severe allergies, even smelling the allergen can sometimes cause a life-threatening reaction.
That means that your child’s food should never touch another child’s at school, and you can help the school create an allergy table so they can eat safely with their friends. When you eat out, it’s very important to call ahead and learn how the meals are prepared and whether the chef can guarantee no contact with your child’s allergen.
At home, many families choose to keep the allergen out of the house altogether to keep their child safe.
4. Teach Your Child To Act First
Kids, especially really young ones, don’t always have the judgment to make the right eating choices. As the parent, it’s up to you to teach your child to ask before they eat anything when you aren’t around. This includes when they are at school, at a birthday party, at a restaurant or anywhere else.
While you’re at it, try to teach your child to read labels so that they can make the right eating choices as they get older and begin to shop for themselves. Put together a list of foods and brands that are safe to help them along the way.
5. Let Others Know Before Gatherings
When you have kids, there’s no way you can avoid parties, play dates, family dinners or holidays and other gatherings. If you’ve been invited to another person’s home for a meal, be sure you alert them to your child’s food allergies.
Some will be willing to prepare a meal without your child’s allergen, but others won’t feel confident enough to do this. If that’s the case, be sure you tell them that your child has allergies and that you will bring their meal so that no one has to worry about cross contamination or a reaction.
Letting the host know ahead of time prevents hurt feelings that you’re bringing your own food or embarrassment that they weren’t aware. You might ask what will be served so that you can bring your child a similar meal, keeping them from being left out.
6. Be Ready For Skepticism
Unfortunately, some people have not had much experience with life threatening food allergies and will be skeptical about your child’s dietary restrictions. While this can be hurtful, it’s something that you will likely have to face at one time or another.
Be ready with an explanation of your child’s allergies. You can try to educate others about your child’s condition, but you don’t have to defend your choices. Your child’s eating habits are not a lifestyle choice but are a matter of life or death. Go ahead and let nasty comments roll off your back and focus on your child’s health.
7. Look For A Support Group
Because parents who don’t have children with life-threatening allergies cannot possibly understand what you’re going through, finding a support group can be a wonderful way to connect with other parents who are dealing with the same issues you are.
You can share ideas and vent to one another when you’re having a hard time managing your child’s allergy. Knowing you have some like-minded people you can call on when times get tough goes a long way toward helping you get through day to day life when your child has such a scary allergy.
8. Learn To Cook From Scratch
The best way to be sure your child gets to eat foods they love without worry about an allergic reaction is to prepare them yourself. That way you can control the ingredients that go into meals. You can often take cooking classes or purchase food allergy focused cookbooks that provide you safe meals that the entire family will enjoy.
Because severe allergies often mean keeping the allergen out of the house altogether, you’ll be much happier if you have a variety of meals you can cook for everyone.
9. Stay Persistent
Just because one version of chips is safe, it doesn’t mean those from another brand are. You need to stay diligent and persistent when it comes to checking ingredients labels, asking how foods are prepared in restaurants and what will be served at gatherings.
You might feel like a helicopter parent or a pest, but when it’s your child’s life on the line, it pays to stay on top of things at all times.
Having a child with severe allergies can be devastating and hard to manage, but you will get better as time goes on and will get more proficient at making the right choices for your child. Be sure to see your doctor regularly and always, always carry an Epi-Pen with you wherever you go.
If you suspect your child has eaten something that contains an allergen, seek medical care immediately. Having an allergy doesn’t mean your child can’t have a long and happy life, but it’s up to you to keep them safe until they can do so themselves. It’s not easy but will be so worth it.