By Kristen Chandler
School is the main place where people will come into contact with your food-allergic child, but it’s not the only place. Besides school, extracurricular activities and camps, your children may also go to church or church events and spend time with friends away from home, especially with summer fast approaching.
Now, these are more laid-back settings than school, and not as much paperwork is required. However, it is still important to educate anyone who comes into contact with your child about his or her allergies. As always, verbal communication is highly important. I always address the allergies first. And they will probably ask questions. That is great. But it’s still a great idea to have as much information on hand physically to give them as well. As in the instance of camps, in these settings the following resources are useful:
- Information card. You can print these online or you can write one up on an index card. List allergy information, your contact information, and emergency contact information. You can still verbally tell them all of your child’s allergy information, but having this card on hand gives them easy reference. (These are really great for bible school programs at churches).
- A handout on how to use auto-injectors. Few people know how. Really, unless they are a teacher or a nurse, most people have no clue how to use them.
- Medicine and safe snacks. Of course you want to leave these if they are going to be needed. If you are going to be close at hand, it may not be necessary.
- A list of safe snacks. If you’re not going to leave snacks, giving them a list of safe snacks is a great idea. However, if you’re going to leave a list of safe food with someone else in charge of buying, make sure it is detailed. A lot of safe foods are brand-specific, so make sure you note that.
Food Allergy Awareness Among Your Child’s Peers
The above tips are useful when dealing with adults, but what happens when your child is only among peers? Now of course, you’re not going to send your 5-year-old off with friends unattended, but what if you have an older child? Or a teenager? Your child’s friends need to be aware of their allergies too, and need to know what to do in case of a reaction.
Talk to them, just as you would your kids about allergies. Make sure they have a way to contact you in case of an emergency, and make sure they know how to administer epinephrine if needed, or will be close enough to an adult who can. Also, make sure they know what to do in case of an anaphylactic reaction and exactly what allergens your child needs to avoid. If your child is old enough that you let them go off with friends, of course he or she should know all of this as well, but it never hurts to have someone else looking out for him or her.
My son has a friend a couple of years older than him who has known us for several years, so he has learned a lot about my son’s allergies over the years. When we would be somewhere with food, even if I had brought safe food, he would still stop me before I gave it to my son, and ask “Can he have that? Are you sure?” THOSE are the kind of friends we want our allergic kids to have. Ones that are as vigilant as cautious as we are.
The best thing you can do to bring awareness to your child’s food allergies is communicate. Whether it’s verbally or through resources, or a combination of both, communication with people who will be involved in your child’s life is key in helping them understand your child’s allergies and help you protect them.