Teach Your Kids The Allergy Safety Rules
I’ve always said that allergy safety starts with education and as parents we are our children’s first and foremost educators, and that eventually a child’s first line of defense will ultimately be themselves. So while you are busy watching and monitoring every single thing that your young child consumes like the amazing mama hawk that you are, don’t forget to educate them on how to keep themselves safe. As parents, we will not be able to be there for them at every waking moment of their lives, (sad, but true), and our children must learn to protect themselves.
Here is a list of allergy safety rules that are yours to drill into their sweet little heads until they become as second nature as tying their own shoes or picking up after themselves (ok, maybe that one is pushing the envelope a bit..;)
The Allergy Safety Rules for Kids with Food Allergies
#1 Make sure they understand which foods they’re allergic to and the most common things they can’t eat.
This may seem pretty obvious but when my food allergic son was young, I did such a good job of keeping his food allergens away from him that one day it dawned on me that he didn’t even know what certain those food allergens of his (like nuts for example), actually looked like! So I made sure to actually point out to him what they were as well as some types of foods (like granola bars) that were sure to contain them. Of course don’t forget to re-enforce that often times, the allergen is hidden and not visible to the eye.
#2 Teach them to NEVER eat anything unless it’s confirmed safe.
The best way to handle this until they are old enough to know better is to not allow anyone other than you to give them food. Tell them to stick with the meals and snacks YOU have provided in order to stay safe.
#3 Make sure they know to never share food with friends.
Children are taught that sharing is caring but we need to let them know that those rules change dramatically when it comes to sharing food. Teach your food allergic child to never accept foods from friends no matter how nice the intention is. For example, kids with nut or peanut allergies should never accept a random cookie from anyone without your approval.
#4 Show them how to read food labels or how to ask an adult to read the label for them.
Checking labels to ensure no allergens are present is something our children will need to do religiously for as long as their allergy is present, which oftentimes can be lifelong. Even if they can’t even read yet, it’s important for them to see you reading and checking the label and when they are old enough – teaching them how to read a food label is a great lesson to be had.
#5 Teach them to recognize allergic reaction symptoms.
Hives, itchiness, throat tingling, a sense of something not feeling right – these are all potential signs of an allergic reaction which your child should learn to recognize. My son’s allergic reactions all seemed to start with a severe stomach ache followed by vomiting. Recognizing those signs is the first step to being able to get help immediately!
#6 Urge them to immediately inform an adult if they feel sick or strange after eating.
In the event of a severe allergic reaction, it is critical for their caregiver to quickly locate and adhere to the child’s allergy action plan, administer their emergency medicines if necessary and seek additional medical care. Teach your child to let an adult know immediately when they are experiencing an allergic reaction, so that they can get the help they need asap!
Educating our children about their health and how to stay safe should begin early to help ensure these practices stick as they gain independence and make their own choices.
Encourage your schools and childcare facilities to post the Allergy Safety Rules to not only remind your kid how to be safe, but to also teach non-allergic children how to help their friends stay safe. We offer a free downloadable version on our website, as well as a larger version that can be ordered from our store.
Finally, know that AllerMates is here to help. Our website gives a lot of easy-to-understand info and free resources for you, as well as a Kids Club that provides a fun, safe place for our children to learn about their health.
P.S. Want to receive new info and tips for educating your kids about their health? Sign up for my newsletter, and we’ll teach them together.
Iris Shamus is a mother to three awesome kids & the founder/CEO of AllerMates. AllerMates was born as a result of her food allergic and asthmatic son, Ben. Iris and/or AllerMates have been featured in many places including Fox News, the Doctors, Veria Living, MSNBC, The Today Show & the Huffington Post with helpful advice on keeping kids safe. Based in New York, Iris & her team design & ship their products, create informative content & obsess every day about safeguarding kids.
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