Children will be better able to handle their allergies if they fully understand them. It’s critical to teach your kids about the causes and effects of allergy.
If your child has allergies, here are some important things to discuss:
- Allergy triggers – Children need to know what items they are allergic to and where those items could be found. For example, milk and eggs are often in baked goods and wheat can be found in something as unlikely as lunch meats. There are some great infographics on the Internet that can help kids grasp concepts—often better than words alone. Teaching children won’t be a “one and done” process. Be mindful that you will need to revisit these concepts repeatedly to help children fully understand and retain key information.
- Safe foods – Some children with food allergies may become scared to eat anything for fear of potential reactions. Parents need to clarify what allergens are and what they are not. This will give kids the opportunity to enjoy foods that pose no threats.
- Treatment – Some children may begin to feel that their lives are restricted because of their allergies. This is especially true if a child experiences a significant reaction. Fortunately, we live in a day when there are many treatment options for allergies. Antihistamines, inhalers, and other medications can help with allergy and asthma attacks. Allergy immunotherapy, through allergy shots or sublingual allergy drops, can help desensitize kids to allergies long term. Help children understand that they can live a normal, fulfilling life in spite of their allergies.
- Label reading – Kids with food allergies should know how to read labels and detect potential problem foods. This will help them be able to screen foods carefully in order to avoid a reaction. It is also important that children know about any related food items that may lead to reactions. For example, kids who are allergic to cow’s milk should know that they cannot consume products with casein and whey in the ingredient list. The younger you can teach this information, the better.
- Communication – Kids must be trained to speak up when they are not feeling well. Help children understand that there is nothing wrong with conveying their health concerns. Teach them to communicate the nature of their allergies to others and how to get the help they need when they feel a reaction coming on.
Since you can’t always be there with your child, it’s vital that they know how to guard themselves against allergic reactions and how to communicate their health needs to others.