Food allergies are a big challenge for many children, and as a parent, you’re their most important advocate and protector. Keeping your child away from food-induced harm is never-ending work, much of which can sometimes go uncredited. As the parent of a child with both food allergies and speech disabilities, the realization that I can’t be there every single minute of the day makes the prospect even more frightening.
It’s normal to be worried about your child’s food allergies, but there are steps you can take to increase your knowledge and competence.
The first step is to accept your child’s food allergies and embrace them without making your child feel isolated. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one in every 20 children 5 years old and under has at least one food allergy. For unknown reasons, food allergies are becoming more and more common in children, so neither of you are alone.
It may seem preposterous to think that a parent might lose their cool over food allergies — that is, until you’ve become a food allergy parent yourself. Between keeping your child away from the culprits and providing a sense of normalcy, slip-ups can easily leave you frustrated. Each day, take a few minutes for yourself, whether it’s quiet meditation, reading a book, or taking a bath.
Your child might be allergic to wheat, eggs, nuts, or even several of these foods at once. This can make planning meals frustrating, especially if only one of you is allergic. The most successful food allergy parents do their research and get creative with meals that will make everyone happy. Look for a food allergy-specific cookbook for some inspiration!
Aside from preventive techniques, food allergy parents also need to know the signs of a reaction. Mild symptoms of many food allergies include rashes, swelling, dizziness, and abdominal pain. Life-threatening anaphylaxis can cause shortness of breath and unconsciousness. Being aware of the symptoms can mean the difference between life and death.
You can’t be with your child every second of the day. But you can take steps to make sure you’re involved, even when you’re not around. First, make sure every adult in contact with your child is up to speed with their allergy, plus the signs and symptoms of a reaction. This includes, but is not limited to: teachers, school nurses, relatives, friends, neighbors, and the parents of your child’s friends.
Every year, 300,000 kids under the age of 18 are taken to hospital via ambulance because of food allergies. Waiting in the hospital, it’s normal to want to break down right then and there. But it’s important to remain strong so that you can provide support and comfort to your child.
7. Relentless Education
As a parent of child with food allergies, you know that education about the condition doesn’t stop at the moment of diagnosis. You may have even spent a few sleepless nights researching how to make your child’s daily life safer. Know that you’re taking the right steps to protect your child. From food product research and allergy-friendly recipes, to school safety and symptom detection, constant education is key.
With food allergies on the rise, one of the best things you can do is to offer assistance to other food allergy parents. This isn’t just about karma — showing you care and supporting others will set an example for your child. It will also help to further alleviate any feelings of isolation if they know they’re not alone.
Above all else, perhaps the most important thing you can do as a food allergy parent is to give yourself a break. Your child likely realizes you’re doing your best, and appreciates all that you do — whether they tell you so or not. Remember to work with your child’s allergist and to ask for advice.