Adverse reactions to certain foods can hamper your child’s life, but you can learn how to manage his allergies. Below are some suggestions
Managing allergies and intolerance
Managing an allergy or intolerance in a child can be difficult. A child with a cow’s milk allergy like cannot enjoy chocolate like his friends or indulge in milkshakes. It can be an isolating experience for children.
Birthday parties can be a nightmare. Many parents find they have to chat to the moms hosting the party about the food that is served and consider bringing an equivalent along so their child doesn't feel left out.
Reading the labels:
Knowing what foods are and are not safe is also a challenge. Reading food labels is vital as seemingly harmless foods can conceal allergens.
For example, some people do not realise that caramel comes from milk. For parents who have children who are allergic or intolerant to milk, making pastas or desserts have become a challenge as they have to find ways to make allergen-free equivalents.
Educating family and friends
Educating friends and family is also important. Introduce your child’s friends to safe snacks at parties. This way your child can enjoy the same treats as his friends and educate them at the same time.
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network website www.fankids.org has a section specifically designed for children with ideas on how to make living with an allergy easier for children.
“It’s difficult when they are small and don’t understand...Christopher loves cheese so we have to be careful not to eat cheese in front of him.” Hillary, mother of Christopher says. Christopher has a milk allergy.
Communicating with your child can make a big difference in the way he handles his allergy. Explain to him the importance of having his medication with him in case of a reaction and show him how to use it properly.
Discuss how he should broach the subject with others. It is not easy for a 6-year-old to explain his condition to another 6-year-old, but parents can make it easier by using accessible language and adapting the approach based on the child’s age.
If your child understands his condition and knows how to communicate this, it will be easier for him to enjoy a normal life. Allergy wrist bands can make a difference in ensuing a child’s safety when you are not with him.
Creating normal experiences
It is also important to focus on creating normal experiences despite the allergy. Simple experiences can be extremely complex for an allergy sufferer. Eating out, for example, is difficult as information about the contents of the dishes may be sparse.
Communicate allergies and intolerances to the manager and staff upfront and be specific in terms of your needs. Many South African establishments are not aware of the realities of allergies and what they mean for sufferers, but awareness is growing and parents should play a role in informing these businesses.
- Contacting the restaurant before visiting
Linda Coss, author of How to Manage Your Child’s Life-Threatening Food Allergies: Practical Tips for Everyday Life, and the mother of a son with multiple food allergies, suggests contacting the restaurant manager before visiting a restaurant.
It is important to ask the right questions, she says, especially if the allergy or intolerance is severe and can be brought on by consuming food that has been in contact with the allergen.
- Having a solid support network
Having a solid support network helps greatly. It helps for moms to talk to each other and share information. Sharing information and creating a support network can help in the management of a difficult situation. While the risk remains, parents can manage an allergy in a child and create a normal, happy lifestyle that is allergy-free.
ALLSA (The Allergy Society of South Africa)
(021) 447 9019; www.allergysa.org
Medic Alert Foundation of South Africa
(021) 461 7328; firstname.lastname@example.org
Books worth reading
- South African Cookbook for Food Allergies and Food Intolerance by Hilda Lategan
- Food Allergies and Food Intolerance: The Complete Guide to Their Identification and Treatment by Jonathan Brostoff and Linda Gamlin
- The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook: Two Hundred Gourmet & Homestyle Recipes for the Food Allergic Family by Cybele PascalFood Allergy Survival Guide: Surviving and Thriving With Food Allergies and Sensitivities by Vesanto Melina, Dina Aronson, and Jo Stepaniak
- How to Manage Your Child’s Life-Threatening Food Allergies: Practical Tips for Everyday Life by Linda Marienhoff Coss
- The Parent’s Guide to Food Allergies: Clear and Complete Advice from the Experts on Raising Your Food-Allergic Child by Maryanne Bartoszek Scott, Elinor Greenberg and Marianne . BarberUnderstanding and Managing Your Child’s Food Allergies (A Johns Hopkins Press Health Book) by Scott H. Sicherer
- Caring for Your Child with Severe Food Allergies: Emotional Support and Practical Advice from a Parent Who’s Been There by Lisa Cipriano Collins