This post was written for SafeWise by Rivka Kawano from Allerguarder, makers of the first tech allergy bracelet.
If you are lucky enough to be a parent, and no children with food allergies, at least one of your children’s friends probably DO have allergies. Food allergies in the United States affects one in every 13 kids on average – meaning that there are about two in every classroom. Food allergy parents rely on you to take their child’s life seriously to avoid a potentially life threatening reaction.
Yes, YOU Can Prevent Food Allergy Reactions
Protecting kids from food allergic reactions requires the help of every adult in their life. Children don’t just eat at home – they eat at friends’ houses, restaurants, school cafeterias, and more. They may even be exposed to food items that can cause a reaction while on public transportation or during an art project.
The good news is that there are a few simple things that you can do to help keep the children (whether your own or children in the community) safer every day.
The first most important thing you can do is ask. Whenever I have friends over for dinner, or invite one of my child’s friends for a playdate, I always ask if they have any food allergies. If they do, make sure you understand exactly what the child is allergic to, along with what kind of reaction they have, and the signs to watch for.
This also goes for when you take food into a group setting. Take the time to ask your child’s teacher about food allergies in the classroom before bringing in a birthday treat for example. Bringing non-food items is also a great option.
Look for the Right Thing
Many food exposures happen when the adult thinks they are protecting the child, but don’t understand what foods to avoid. Peanuts for example can show up in a lot more than just peanut butter. And wheat can be in soups and sauces, along with bread and cookies. Be sure to read every single label of any processed food before you give it to the child.
Are kids sharing food? Help them understand what is needed to keep every child in the group safe. Make sure everyone washes their hands (with soap and water – sanitizers only get rid of germs, but not allergens). And pay attention to where food may be hiding. Don’t forget about toys and games! Wheat is also in Playdough for example.
Have a Plan B
There is no cure for food allergies, so prevention is essential. But if despite your best efforts, a food allergy reaction still happens, be sure you know what to do in the event of an emergency. Does the child use an Epi-pen? Who do you need to call? When should you take them to the ER?
Together We Can!
Right now someone goes to the emergency room for a food allergic reaction about every 3 minutes. If we each commit to becoming a food allergy defender, and watching out for each other, and our little ones, then we can start bringing that number down! In the process, everyone is not only safer, but food allergy parents and children will be able to live a more normal life, knowing they are not in this alone.