Knowledge is power for kids with food allergies
They often miss out on many fun, food-focused activities, however when they better understand their allergies, they can feel more comfortable and confident in their decision not to eat certain foods. To help kids understand their allergies, Dr. Paola Portela, a pediatrician at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., offers these five tips for parents:
- Teach children what they are allergic to and what it means to have an allergy in a way that they will clearly understand.
- Talk to your child about who can help them if you are not around. Make sure that adults who are around the child are aware of the child’s allergies and know how to administer medication in case the child mistakenly eats something they are allergic to.
- Empower kids to speak up about their food allergy. Teach them that it’s OK to politely say no when someone offers them food they are unsure if they can eat.
- Explain cross contamination. If kids are allergic to a certain food they need to be careful that that food does not come in contact with food they are eating.
- Show youngsters how to read food labels. Reading labels will help kids make responsible and independent decisions before eating food. While showing kids how to read a food label, parents can teach them what ingredients to they are allergic to as well as how to make healthy food choices.
When children are at home or in a comfortable environment, it is easier for them to select foods they are not allergic too, but in unfamiliar environments it is important for parents to plan ahead and make sure that they are “safe” foods for the child to eat. In the case of a birthday party, Dr. Portela encourages parents to call the host parents in advance and let them know about the food allergy.
“Parents can also offer to bring safe snacks or food items to share with the group so their child will have something to eat at the party,” said Dr. Portela.
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