Letting one’s kid be under the supervision of other adults — teachers, counselors, coaches, other parents, even family members — can be incredibly scary for a parent of a child with food allergies. Then there are all the unexpected places they might encounter food, from friends’ lunchboxes or home kitchens to vending machines, ice cream trucks, restaurants… Indeed, everything from the smallest of snacks to a full-blown meal can be an obstacle course of danger for a food allergic person.
Kids aren’t the most careful of beings on the best of days. The smaller the kid, the less likely they are to remember to read a label or ask questions So, it falls to parents to prepare for any given scenario.
The best way for parents to prepare for, well, anything and everything that could go wrong for a child with allergies?
On the “prepare for an emergency” front, always make sure your child has:
- Two epinephrine auto-injectors with them at all times
- Knowledge of the risks their allergies carry
There are several ways to get ahead of potential issues occurring.
Option 1 – Provide the food your kiddo might need or want during the time you’ll be apart. This is probably the safest route to take, but it can also be exclusionary. Make sure you prepare not just meal-time food, but snacks and special treats. If other kids have amazing treats, your child might feel left out. Even worse, their desire for the forbidden fruit might outweigh their safety concerns. Make your kid the one with the incredible treat.
Option 2 – Super prepare the incoming caregiver. You’ll find that other adults vary wildly in their ability to handle your child’s restrictions. Explain how to read labels, and which types of labels are okay with or aren’t. Also, prep them for all the words associated with your child’s allergy. This can even extend to non-edible items, such as chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, even topical beauty products like lotion and shampoo. A child’s coconut allergy might not immediately click to adults not used to be on the lookout for
In the event the venue where you’re leaving your child declines outside food, there are still options. Remind them food allergies have been provided
It’s challenging to be a parent to a food-allergic kid. It’s also really hard to be a food-allergic kid. You want to be able to participate in all the things your friends can do. The good news is: you can help your child make their world a more inclusive, safer place.
*Guest author Shandee Chernow developed food allergies in her 20s. Navigating this dangerous territory led her to create CertiStar in 2017. The software helps restaurants determine which menu items will impact diners with allergies. Chernow now shares her knowledge of food allergies with the masses.