It’s always tough to be a parent, but when your child has allergies you have an added layer of worry and responsibility. At a time when many young kids are learning their way in the world, you have to arm them with the knowledge to stay safe and protect them from foods and airborne allergens that may cause significant harm.
It can be stressful to act as your child’s educator and guardian, but by using some sound strategies, you can support your child at home and at school. Stay engaged and aware, ask for help and always make time to care for your own needs.
1. Talk to Your Kids About Allergies
Parents tell their kids to stay away from hot stoves or not run across the street. But it’s more challenging to explain that everyday foods are dangerous. Talk to your children about certain foods that will make them sick, using words they know, like “safe” or “not safe.” Make it fun by using games and puzzles.
Since you won’t have these foods at home, it’s important to show your child pictures or go on a field trip to the grocery store. That way, your child knows what an unsafe food looks like and understands not to share food with other kids at school. Advise them to only take food from trusted adults like their parents or caregivers.
2. Talk to Your Child’s School About Allergen Prevention
Hopefully, your child will never encounter an allergen that causes a reaction. But if an emergency happens at school, you don’t want to be struggling to give directions to school staff. You also want your child to know where to go and what to do if they suffer a reaction.
Prior to your child entering a new school, ask what medical services are available on-site and what measures are in place to prevent allergen exposure. Discuss your child’s situation with the school and provide any medical documentation and emergency medications necessary to keep him safe.
3. Monitor Pollen Counts and Allergy-Proof Your Home
Kids allergic to dust, pet dander and pollen have compromised quality of life during times of severe attack. Parents can make things easier by restricting outdoor play during times of high pollen counts and insisting kids change their clothes as soon as they come inside. Nighttime baths prevent transportation of allergens into the bedroom.
Parents should keep the windows shut, vacuum regularly and wash bedding in hot water to get rid of dust mites. Get rid of feather dusters and dust with a damp cloth in order to remove particles and not just distribute them in the air.
4. Plan Allergy-Friendly Family Vacations
Fun in the sun isn’t always an option for families whose little ones have allergies. Instead of avoiding vacations, plan to go away during low-allergy season. Winter ski trips or fall camping trips might be easier than spring or summer outings when airborne allergens are prevalent.
Look for different summer camp options so your kids don’t have to stay home: art and computer programs are common. Allergens are less plentiful near bodies of water, like oceans and lakes, so consider water sports for summertime activities.
5. Give Your Child an Allergy Supply Kit
Give them a small kit of supplies, such as non-perishable, allergy-friendly food and hand wipes. Depending on your child’s specific allergy and your discussions with the school, you may want to include antihistamine medication or an epinephrine auto-injector. At home, you can keep a similar kit in the car or in a safe place in the house.
It can be overwhelming when your child is first diagnosed with allergies. But if you keep up the conversation inside your family and with other adults, you can create a protective and safe environment for your child.