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Empower your child to ask for help.

Some children hesitate to go to an adult for help or to stand out from others. Help your child identify a responsible adult at their school, or at their other activities, to go to if they need help.

Most important, Szychlinski says, is to find a person who won't ask, "What happened? What did you do?" Your child’s support person needs to be an empathetic adult who will help them immediately.

Be consistent.

"Try to make the way you treat the food allergy consistent with the rest of your parenting," Szychlinski says. For example, if you use positive reinforcement in other areas of parenting, do that with your child's allergy management, too.

Adjust as your child ages.

Middle school is a transition time. For kids with serious allergies, middle school is a period during which they become more responsible for maintaining a safe environment for themselves. During this time, encourage your child to:

  • Consistently say "no" to food offered
  • Read food labels
  • Regularly wash their hands
  • Keep their hands out of their mouth

Start trusting them more. You'll still have adults on hand for backup, but at this age, it's time for your child to start taking more responsibility.

"You want kids to make their mistakes when other people are still watching them," says Szychlinski. "If we don't give them the opportunity and we maintain all the protection during middle school, when they get to high school, the outcomes can be more dangerous because there won't be the same monitoring."

When can you give your child the responsibility to carry his or her own epinephrine? Williams says it's a judgment call based less on age and more on skills and knowledge.

"Generally by the time a child reaches middle school, most school systems allow it," he says. "It's a decision usually made in conjunction with the school nurse." A child may be ready when he:

  • Understands how to work the device
  • Knows when to use it
  • Is mature enough not to share it or show it off to friends

When is a child ready to give themselves an injection? "I insist that it is a skill they can do when they go to high school," Szychlinski says.