Food allergies are an everyday challenge. So to help, I've put together a few useful tips.
10 helpful insights and tips I'd like to pass on
Check, check and Check again.
Never be complacent and check every label for allergens. I’m afraid there is no easy short cut for this. Every label must be checked for your childs safety. Brands can change product ingredients and manufacturing processes without warning, so you always have to be vigilant.
Spread the word
Tell everyone about your child's allergy because it's always hard to keep an eye on your child 24/7, especially when they are young and will put anything in their mouths. And insist that your child can only have food given by you, or approved by you. Sorry Grandpa, no sneaky treats while mum’s not watching!
If your child has been prescribed an injector pen, always have it to hand and prepare a plan that states what to do in the event of a reaction, and who to contact. Explain the signs of an allergic reaction to everyone involved with your child and teach them how to use the injector pen. You can order free trainer pens from Jext or EpiPen for practising.
Focus on the positives
Emphasise what your child can eat and enjoy activities that aren't connected with food. Explore the area you live in, draw pictures, sing, go on bike rides, play games or even make a base camp with bed sheets! Just make sure everyone can get involved.
Talk about it
Sounds obvious, but explain to your child what they're allergic to and that allergens can hide in all sorts of unusual places. Therefore they always need to check with you first. Ask how they feel and be prepared to answer any questions they may have, even if they come at a bad time!
There are a range of great services and charities out there to offer advice and support when you need it. If you have problems or questions helplines are available, call: 01252 542029 (Anaphylaxis Campaign), 01322 619 898 (Allergy UK). There are also a number of parent support groups across the UK. To find a local support group near you contact Mandy East from Anaphylaxis Campaign.
It helps to carry a supply of food for your child when you're out and about. It's often essential if you're visiting a restaurant, because you may not be able to find a dessert that your child can have. If your child takes a packed lunch to school, there may be a day (or days) when it gets forgotten. If possible, arrange for the school to keep a 'stash' of food so that if you can't get to school with the packed lunch, your child can still have a meal.
Have a routine
Children will often surprise you with how much they know about their allergy and what to do to keep safe. But it's always useful to plan a routine with your child so they understand not to try anything until it’s been vetted by you first. Try and make it a normal process that you go through, so it just becomes habit.
Possibly one of the most challenging times for a parent. It’s important your child enjoy's the fun activities even if they can’t eat the same things as everyone else. Find out what dishes they’ll be having so you can prepare a similar allergy-free food parcel to take with you. And face up to the fact that you might not be able to 'drop and run' at parties, you'll have to stay and endure them instead!
Cross contamination is a high risk on self-service buffets, deli counters and party tables full of finger foods. And as we know children can be messy eaters, with sticky hands and the odd piece of flying food. But adults also need to be made allergy aware when dipping their hands into the crisp bowl. So it’s best to keep your child's dishes separate and make sure everyone knows it’s their food, so hands off!