Though food allergies are extremely prevalent in Western countries, India is not far behind and many people have at least one allergic condition. Children with food allergies bring lunch mostly from home and hence, some schools have a “safe zone” where common food allergens are not allowed. But the main concern of parents is that, most allergic reactions at school occur in the classrooms rather than in the cafeteria. Many kids share candies and desserts with food-allergic children and this poses great threat for a food allergy reaction. As a parent, we can take steps to prevent allergic reactions in our child in the best possible way:
Be Familiar with your Child’s Support Team
Spread a word of caution to your child’s teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, administrators, nurses and coaches on your child’s food allergies. Clear all their misconceptions and guide them on the support procedure to be given in case of emergency.
Keep Everyone Updated on the Epinephrine Plan
Schools lack a proper food allergy management plan and don’t have the skills to recognize and treat the allergic symptoms with epinephrine. Ensure that your child’s epinephrine plans are written on the file. Also make sure of these facts:
- Where the epinephrine auto-injectors are stores?
- Who has access to them?
- How fast they can be accessed in case of emergency?
Ensure that classroom parties and field trips involving foods are handled with utmost care by your child’s class teacher. You can even sign up as a volunteer for these field trips to have a constant eye on your little one. If you are not able to attend, a trusted friend, neighbor or family member capable of administering epinephrine can go with your little one.
Child Participation Must be Encouraged
Get your child to read a book or two on food allergies, help them practice with auto-injector trainers and teach them hand-washing techniques with the help of the instruction manual available at www.firsteatright.com. Older children can be educated to read food labels, avoid non-labeled (including homemade) foods, recognize symptoms of a reaction and report bullying.
Take it in the Right Sense
Families having individuals with food allergies portray food as an object of fear. Try to take it as a chance to teach children about healthful and safe eating. Refer allergy-friendly cookbooks and blogs for inspiration and involve your child in safe food planning, shopping and preparation.