Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tips & Resources for Children with Food Allergies

I'm not really sure why I'm writing this post after Sam outgrew his food allergies, instead of writing it while we were in the thick of things, but I think it's because I just kept adding to my list of things I wanted to share with other parents of children with Food Allergies.   The list just kept growing and growing, but now I'm ready to share it!

Before I start, a disclaimer...I am NOT AN EXPERT.  I am a parent of a child who has seasonal allergies, pet allergies, mild asthma, and up until a few months ago several food allergies.  I'm not here to dispense medical advice because I don't have the medical background to justify that.  I just want to share a few tips & resources that I found helpful when Sam had his food allergies.

My own tips for parents of children with Allergies:
  • Educate yourself!  Read books, read blogs, ask your doctor tons of questions (I kept a running list that I took to appointments), and talk to other parents of children with allergies.
  • Educate your CHILD ~ Be very open and honest with your child and make sure that they are vocal with other people about their allergies.  Our biggest challenge with food allergies was when well-meaning and unknowing adults would hand Sam a snack or treat without realizing he had allergies, and then he'd accept the food.  As he saw it, adults are in charge, so if they were giving him food it must be OK.  Our response to this was to make it a rule that he could not eat ANYTHING without asking us first, especially at parties or events with lots of people who may not be familiar with his allergies.  
  • Educate OTHERS ~ this is crucial if you have a child with food allergies.  I took it upon myself to send out constant mass emails to family and friends to talk to them about Sam's Allergies.  Don't worry about hurting other people's feelings, your child's health comes first, so be very vocal about your child's allergies!
  • Party Wisely ~ It seemed that our biggest challenge was going to parties, reunions or any sort of large gathering.  A buffet table used to make me so anxious when he was little!  I always made sure to bring snacks that were safe for him to eat and to tell as many people as I could about his allergies.  At family reunions or big parties we would put a "Hello, My Name Is..." Sticker on Sam's shirt (front AND back) that said:  "Hello My Name is Sam, DON'T FEED ME, I HAVE FOOD ALLERGIES".  This was quite an effective tool at parties!  Of course, we still watched him like a hawk, but the sticker really got people's attention.  And if we were going to someone's home for a party I was not shy about calling ahead to ask about what the menu was and whether they had pets.  This way I could prepare him accordingly and pack whatever foods or medicines we would need.  If we went to a birthday party and I knew there would be a dessert containing allergens I always brought along a special dessert for Sam.  I even made Dairy free-Egg free cupcakes to keep in the freezer to take to birthday parties so he wouldn't feel left out.  Sooo many precautions to take at a party when you attend with a child with allergies!  
  • Arm Yourself ~ I carry a small plastic pencil case in my purse that contains an Epi-pen, and all other essential meds.  Even though Sam has technically grown out of his peanut allergy, he still can't handle being in an enclosed space with peanuts in the air, such as restaurants that serve peanuts.  And you never know if he'll pick up another allergy through the years, so I like having that Epi-pen in my purse.  During the height of his food allergies we also had Epi-pens and benadryl at his school, in our kitchen and at both sets of grandparent's homes.  
  • Communicate with your Child's School ~ Make sure the appropriate plans are in place should medical issues arise, make sure the school has the proper paperwork and medication and make sure that everyone who works with your child during the day knows about their allergies.  Ask alot of questions, talk to the school nurse or anyone else that might have to administer medications and talk to the teacher so they know what sorts of problems might occur and how to handle them. 
Here are some great online resources for families with Children who have Food Allergies ::

Do you have any other tips or resources you'd like to share?  Please leave a comment below, I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

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