When your child has severe allergies, there's a lot you can do to help him avoid anaphylaxis, a dangerous allergic reaction.
These tips will help. The sooner you start, the better.
Start teaching your child ASAP.
Even if your child is young, there are ways you can help them learn how to manage their allergies and, in turn, make anaphylaxis less likely.
For example, if you have a 2-year-old who has a food allergy, you can encourage him to check with you about what he puts in his mouth. "Ask him to do this, even if he doesn't get it right every time," says Christine Szychlinski, manager of the Food Allergy Program at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
"We start teaching children what foods they're allergic to at 3 or 4 years of age," says allergist Paul V. Williams, MD, of Northwest Allergy and Asthma Center in Mount Vernon, WA.
Make it less about discipline and more about learning. Start as soon as your child's allergy is diagnosed, Szychlinski says.
By the time children reach school, Williams says children should know:
- Their allergy triggers and what they can't eat
- To not accept food from anyone other than their parents
- To not eat foods they aren't sure about
- Anaphylaxis symptoms
- How and when to call for help
Add a medical alert tag to your child's daily wardrobe.
Make a medical alert tag a routine part of your child's life. If you wait until school starts, your child is more likely to resist the idea.
A medical bracelet is safer than a necklace, especially for kids who play sports, Szychlinski says. They can put athletic tape over it and never have to remove the bracelet.
Tell all adults in your child's life.
Adults need to know about your child's risk for anaphylaxis and what to do about it. People to notify about your child’s serious allergies may include:
- Childcare providers
- The school nurse, if your child's school has one
- Playground supervisors
- Bus drivers
- Parents of friends
"The more people that know about it, the better," Williams says.
This is especially true if children aren't comfortable going to an adult for help, Szychlinski says. Then, they need to be watched more closely. The bottom line: When a child is out of the care of parents, a severe allergy becomes a group responsibility, she says.
What information is important for people to know? Start with this:
- Your child's allergy triggers
- The symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction
- Where to store an epinephrine auto-injector
- How to administer the epinephrine injection
- When to call 911