As you may already know, my son has severe food allergies. One of my goals as a mom is to be his number one advocate when it comes to his allergies, and to help develop his own self-advocacy skills, however, as a child in a world filled with adults (who seem to know best) that is not an easy task. In fact, the task can be insurmountable for some parents. That is why I am posting Food Allergy Awareness 101. It my mini-course. Afterall, I was asked to be a adjunct business professor at a local university (but had to care for my son and had to turn down the offer twice!), so I think I can teach a mini-course.
The Diagnosis – When your child is diagnosed with a food allergy or multiple food allergies, it can at first seem overwhelming. Finding a doctor preferably a food allergist is the first step in the right direction. Also, finding a caring doctor is the next step: one who will support your efforts to keep your child safe, one who will help you establish a 504 plan, one who will provide you with the latest information with regard to allergies/asthma (they go hand-in-hand usually), and one you have a good rapport with. This is the first building block to effectively managing your child’s food allergy.
Keeping your home safe from allergens – I cannot tell you how many offending allergens, at one time or another, have been taken out of the house like peanut butter, right out from under my daughter. She loved peanut butter, but having it in the house posed a serious threat for my son, especially when you have a touch or an airborne allergy. Get rid of the offending allergen if there is a severe allergy. Otherwise, if you must keep the allergen in your home, and your doctor approves it, be very vigilant. We use separate pots/spoons and frying pans, and always put everything in the dishwasher. I constantly wipe counters. And above all things, wash your hands when you come in contact with an offending allergen! Having a designated spot for your child is a good idea at home and use a place matt that can be wiped down after each meal. Post a sign in the pantry for babysitters, grandparents or older siblings to reference, that lists what food is safe and what is off limits AND update it at the start of every school year.
Medications – Have them in the same spot at all times and be sure they are up to date, and not expired. Have a chart that lists the food allergies and signs and symptoms. Your doctor will advise you on your meds, ALWAYS know how to use the epi-pen and teach everyone who watches your child. It is a must!
Medic Alert – For your child’s easy identification use an I.D. bracelet. I like Medic Alert Bracelets. It will list the allergies on the back of the bracelet along with a number to call that will link you to all pertinent allergy information about your child. Here is the link Medic Alert
Advocacy in public schools – For some children, food allergies can be life threatening & a disabling condition. Your child may qualify for a 504 plan. If so, establish one in your school, so that everyone (teachers/nurse/administration/ lunch aides) know how to manage/handle the allergy and respond in the event of an allergic reaction. Here is a link about Section 504 under the American Disabilities Act, protect your child’s rights! Also, always reference school policies regarding food allergies and how they are handled, and be sure to check state guidelines in your state, all states are different.
Mom knows best – Remember that you know best as a parent. Your child is your number one priority. Be vigilant. Be persistent. Speak up for the benefit of your child. He/she will be eternally grateful. Establish an open dialogue with the school nurse and teacher. ALWAYS be clear on what your child needs and be professional despite possible push-back. Creating plans like 504 require time and patience. In the end, your professionalism and advocacy will benefit everyone including the school.