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Tell Others about Your Child’s Food Allergies

One out of every 13 children has a food allergy, a recent study found. Is your child among them? It's vital to know how to avoid problems at home, but you must also ensure your child's safety at school, friends' houses and everywhere else.

The best way is by educating others about your child's food allergies, possible reactions, and emergency steps to take if a reaction should occur. These talking points will help:

  • Discuss specific food triggers. Talk about how these foods affect your child. If your child is too young or unable to know a problem is occurring, tell other adults how to spot a reaction.
  • Explain cross-contamination. Unsuspected food items may cause problems for kids who are allergic to peanuts (often blamed for severe allergic reactions). Candy and chocolate might be made where nuts are present. If a knife used to make a peanut butter sandwich is wiped clean and not washed properly with soap and water, using that knife on an allergic child's food could cause a reaction.
  • Outline your emergency plan. Should someone call 911 in the event of a reaction? Do you want to be contacted on your home or cell phone? Sharing answers to these and other questions will put your mind at ease and help ensure your child receives the best possible care when needed.
  • Talk about the EpiPen.This epinephrine auto-injector is used for emergency treatment of a severe allergic reaction that leaves a child unable to breathe. EpiPens are loaded with a dose of epinephrine, a drug that increases heart rate and opens airways.

Your Child's Role

It's also important to talk again and again with your child, who also has responsibilities. Your child must ask about food ingredients while at friends' homes, birthday parties, restaurants, and school, for instance. Tell your child to avoid any food with unknown ingredients.

Show a child who's old enough how to read labels and how to use an EpiPen in the event of a reaction. Making children part of their allergy management plans increases their awareness of the severity of their allergies.

Remember that for a child with nut allergies, his or her safety depends on being able to recognize the nuts that could trigger an allergic reaction. In a recent study, though, kids with nut allergies weren't any likelier than other kids to recognize nuts in or out of the shell. In fact, allergic children were even less able than others to identify peanuts, a common allergen. And many kids said that they could eat a nut to which they were allergic.

To teach your allergic children to identify nuts, use pictures. And make sure they always ask before eating foods that could contain small, unrecognizable nut pieces.

Finally, stress that with every food purchase, your child should never assume the ingredients are the same. Recipes change. People with food allergies should read labels and ask about ingredients every time they eat.

Sources: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; The Food and Allergy Anaphylaxis Network; Krames Staywell

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