Some useful small advice
Maria Décsey Tan
When your child is about to start school, be sure to:
- Notify the school representative of his or her allergies. The school will put you in touch with the school nurse who will provide appropriate care and support for your child.
- Prepare information about your child’s allergies and give it to the teacher on the first day of school to make sure he or she is aware of the following information: (example):
- the foods your child is allergic to,
- the symptoms indicating the onset of an allergy,
- the list of your child's medications and how to administer them,
- the phone numbers to call in case of an emergency.
- Give your child 's medication to the teacher or to the school nurse in a personalized bag to be kept in the classroom or in the teachers’ room. Teachers will have to take the bag of medicines along with them whenever school activities take place outside.
- Customize your child’s lunch box with stickers and write his or her name very clearly on the box. Remind your child that he or she should never share a snack or beverage with his or her peers; the same applies to food containers (plates, glasses or straws).
- Ask the teacher to let you know if he plans to offer a snack in the classroom so that you can prepare a special snack for your child that day.
- Talk to the people in charge of lunches and after-school activities to make sure they are aware of your child’s allergies and on how to manage them.
Here is some general advice for everyday life:
- Always have your child's medicines at hand as well as a list of emergency numbers to call in case of an accident.
- Take the time to explain to your child what he is allergic to as soon as he or she is ready to understand the situation. If necessary, show him or her pictures of the foods he or she is allergic to, and explain where to find them since allergens are often hidden!
- Explain to your child the risks associated to his allergies without scaring him. Describe the possible signs of the start of an allergic reaction and what to do to stop it. You have to empower him and learn to trust him: he or she is the last line of defense against an allergic reaction.
- Remember to always carry around a small snack for your child, especially when eating out or when invited to parties.
- Often remind your child and his or her caretaker that he or she must not eat anything without first checking its ingredients, even if the food is (or seems to be) a known food.
- If you have to leave your child under the supervision of other adults, do not hesitate to give a detailed explanation of his allergies and how to manage them (the fact sheet prepared for the teacher can be used for this purpose). Remind everyone of the potential dangers of not following your child’s diet restrictions.
- For more security when you leave your child in a place where there are many children and little supervision, have him wear a bracelet indicating his allergies and an emergency phone number.
- When traveling, take your child’s prescription along in case you need to buy replacement medicine during your trip. Think about translating the list of allergens into the language of the country you will be visiting. Always know where the nearest emergency centre is and what number to call in case of an emergency.
- To protect your child's medicines from extreme temperatures, consider keeping them in protective insulated cases in the summer and wear them on you in the winter.
- Shopping can be a real obstacle course! Always check ingredients, whether the product you are buying is a known or a new product: manufacturers can change their recipes without acknowledging it on the package.
- Also beware of hidden ingredients or unexpected ones, such as egg white in ham or cheese, peanut proteins in tomato sauce, or traces of nuts in flour - unbelievable and yet true! Depending on how allergic your child is, pay attention to the fact that eggs are sometimes used raw in some products.
- The way allergens are listed on food packaging varies from one country to another and from one brand to another. The same product, depending on where it is manufactured, does not always contain the same ingredients and/or traces of allergens. Never hesitate to contact the consumer services for detailed information.
- Store dangerous foods out of reach and clearly indicate that these foods are forbidden to your child. If you have several children with different allergies, indicate on each package which child can consume this product to avoid any confusion.
- When your child has an allergic reaction, do not forget to record it in a notebook to be able to talk about it with his allergist at your next appointment. The following information is important: what caused the allergy, what symptoms were observed, what treatment was given, the date and any other information you deem relevant.
Follow your instincts and never hesitate to refuse food or ask additional questions before letting your child eat. Any risk-taking is dangerous in the context of food allergies.