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How to Help Your Child continued...

Teach him it’s OK to ask for help. Some children are slow to ask an adult for help. Others don’t want to stand out from the crowd. Tell your child what adult at school, or other places, he should go to if he needs 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 someone who will drop everything to help them right away.

Be consistent. Treat the allergy the same way you would anything else in his life, Szychlinski says. For example, if you use positive reinforcement as a parent, do that with allergy management, too.

Adjust as your child ages. Middle school is a time of change. Kids with serious allergies should learn to play a bigger role in their own safety. During this time, encourage your child to:

  • Say "no" when people offer food
  • Read labels
  • Wash his hands often
  • Keep his hands out of his mouth

"You want kids to make their mistakes when other people are still watching them," Szychlinski says. "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."

Let him carry his own epinephrine. When is a child ready to carry his own injector? 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:

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

"I insist that it is a skill they can do when they go to high school," Szychlinski says.

Older children may be able to give themselves the shot, but they should still have a backup, like a classmate, who knows how to do it, too.  "It's like swimming with a buddy," Szychlinski says. The backup must be someone who isn't skittish about needles or injections.