19 Sep 7 Important Suggestions for Coping With Your Child’s Food Allergies (nutritionist approved)
Over the last decade, doctors, specifically pediatricians, have been counseling parents to allow their children to try virtually every food available, including peanuts – this lets them build tolerance early, and lessens the possibility of allergic reactions later on, as it might if the food hasn’t been introduced until, say, age seven or eight.
Nevertheless, food allergies are real, and can cause serious harm, even death in extreme, though very rare cases, to children who cannot tolerate them. That’s why we are offering here a comprehensive list of ways in which you can cope with your child’s food allergy.
Panic has subsided, that every parent seemed to feel in the early 2000s about practically all foods, and science supports a more relaxed approach to what they should and shouldn’t consume early. But real food allergies are not to be trifled with. Here are ways in which parents can make living with an allergy easier, for both the child, and you.
1. Do research
If your child seems to react to a certain food, say shrimp, by developing hives or a cough or other flu-like symptoms, chances are they are allergic. But don’t panic immediately. Call your physician, who is likely to recommend a specialist, called an allergist-immunologist. They will perform specific, non-invasive tests to confirm whether your child is truly allergic, or if something else was or is going on. Don’t rely solely on other parents, online forums or even books by specialists. You must get your child to a true medical professional who can confirm your suspicions, or relieve your worries. Panicking only makes your child more anxious.
2. It’s an allergy, now what?
Okay, so you have solid test results; now what? Of course, you should empty the house of the offending food, particularly if the reaction was severe. Start reading packages, and understand the ingredients list in every item you store at home. You’ll be surprised – and perhaps a little dismayed – to learn how many food products contain egg, for example, or other dairy products. And get your nanny’s help on this. After all, she is likely the one making lunches and many of the meals, right? She needs to know everything, and her help is key.
3. Inform teachers and friends’ parents
Calmly, without embarrassing your child and making them feel like they are in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, explain to the teacher and other school officials your concerns. In this day and age, many schools have a strict “no peanut” policy, or at least a “peanut awareness” program in the cafeteria. Educate your child, too, but emphasize what they can have, rather than focusing on what they cannot have. They will be far more relaxed with whatever restrictions you have to impose if you frame it in positive language.
4. Consider treatment options
Did you know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved a new drug, this month, to lessen the reaction to peanuts? Yes, the government department that safeguards our foods and drugs did just that, so consider talking to your physician about this possibility for your child. Doing so will make their life easier, and may even allow them certain foods that were formerly banned to them.
5. Keep great snacks around
Okay, so your child cannot nibble on nuts or have a PB&J sandwich. Who cares? There are plenty of other healthy, nutritious snacks around, including fresh fruit and even some seeds, like pumpkin, that are delicious. Again, it’s all in how you present these options. Do it in a positive way, and the kids, while perhaps not enthusiastic, will climb aboard eventually. If they can’t have cheese — no traditional pizza, in other words — remind them they can have the occasional burger, just without cheese. And if you indulge with them on occasion, they are far more likely to take to what’s offered. And remember: the market is catering more and more to vegan options, so there is no doubt a place near you that makes a terrific vegan pizza or burger – Beyond or Impossible Meat is outstanding!
6. Consider vacations that cater to allergies
Some resorts, like Disney World, have got the food allergy science down pat, and have designed menus that are inclusive for even the most limited eater. The next time the family is considering a holiday, think about these kinds of places. Your child will be fed with yummy treats and not even realize they are eating from a restricted menu.
7. Don’t be afraid to let them try things
As children get older, their bodies sometimes “shed” allergies that may have seemed so serious when they were small. This is because their immune systems develop as they are exposed to more bacteria and more germs (a good thing!) and are able to cope with things they previously couldn’t. Sometimes, quite by accident, they’ll ingest a food that used to make them sneeze or break out in hives, but at 13 or 14 or so, they can now tolerate. Hurrah! That’s great news, because it means they can live comfortably in a wider world, which is what every parent wants for their child. It’s probably best to confirm with their doctor that the sensitivity or allergy has passed, but if it has actually done so, let them indulge.
These are just a few ways in which you can make life easier for everyone in the home when your child has a food allergy. Your doctor or nutritionist will, no doubt, have many more.
And do enlist the help of your nanny; she is likely wise in these matters, as she may have previously cared for a child with food allergies and may known many tricks of the trade, so to speak. She is an invaluable source of information, and as she likely does a lot of the shopping, considers it her duty to keep abreast of the latest developments in food allergy science.
Most importantly: don’t panic! It won’t help your child, and it won’t help things go smoothly at home. Arm yourself with the facts, not rumor or speculation or popular opinion. The facts are what’s needed here; then you, and your child, can deal with any food allergy symptom nature throws their way, and yours.