29 Aug

How to talk to family and friends about food allergies

Family small 2Family gatherings, birthday parties or a new baby sitter can cause stress for parents of a child with food allergies.  Parents understandably worry that food prepared by others may unintentionally result in an allergic reaction for their child. For this reason it is important that your family and friends understand your child’s food allergy. Especially when serious reactions are a possibility, misunderstandings or mistakes must be avoided.

This conversation can sometimes be awkward. Your family and friends might not fully comprehend how severe food allergies can actually be. If you can help them understand, however, you might be surprised about how much support you receive. So, how do you go about having this conversation the right way?

  • Be direct. Explain the facts of your child’s food allergy clearly and concisely. Go through the symptoms of a food allergic reaction and how severe reactions can be.
  • Be detailed. Start with the basics and work from there. Explain exactly what foods your child is allergic to and if these foods have different names on food labels. Show family and friends how to read food labels so they know what foods to avoid when shopping. Also, educate them on the basics of cross contamination.  Provide all the details you can think of, even if you think those details are common sense.
  • Give examples. Tell a story of a time your child had a reaction to a certain food. Adults, especially, learn well with examples. This will help them understand how severe the allergy can be and the possibility of dangerous consequences.
  • Be assertive. Detail your child’s needs in a respectful and straightforward way. Don’t leave anything open to interpretation. Without clear communication about what is required to manage your child’s food allergy mistakes can be made.
  • Prepare them1. Explain what to do if they are caring for your child when an allergic reaction happens. They should understand what your child’s allergic reaction looks like, and when and how they should react. If your child has an adrenaline auto-injector, walk them through how to use it. Make sure they have emergency contact information, and explain exactly when they should call 0-0-0. Have them repeat instructions back to you to ensure they understand.
  • Put it in writing. Even if they understand your verbal explanation, provide everything in writing as well. It is easy to forget information as time passes or in a stressful situation like an allergic reaction. If your doctor has created an allergy Action Plan for your child, this can be provided to them as well1.
  • Ask for questions.You may think you’ve explained everything, but you won’t know what you missed until you ask. The more experience you have explaining your child’s food allergy and how to manage it, the better you’ll get.

You can’t control whether or not your child has food allergies, but you can control the amount of information the people in your child’s life have about it. Talking about food allergies with your relatives and friends isn’t always an easy conversation to have, but it is absolutely necessary.  To make this conversation easier and to provide your friends and family with all the information they need, why not download the Neocate Village App and create an Allergy Card – this is a quick and easy tool that you can use to share with them and can include anything from your child’s doctors name and number, information about the type of allergy your child has, allergy free recipes and more.

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It is important that your family and friends understand your child’s food allergy

 

 

  1. 2016. ASCIA Action plans for anaphylaxis. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Viewed 5th July 2016. http://www.allergy.org.au/health-professionals/anaphylaxis-resources/ascia-action-plan-for-anaphylaxis