It is estimated that peanut allergy may affect 1 in 70 children
With good management and practical solutions peanut allergy can be managed and risks can be minimised, however younger children may need some extra help! As independence is gained your child has to learn to deal with many new situations.
You can help them to develop good management in several ways
- Teach from an early age about coping with allergies, help them to feel supported and gain confidence.
- Role play every day activities for example shopping, learning to say “No” to sharing foods/drinks. Try to explain that other children have allergies too, so they do not feel isolated.
- Tell everyone about your child’s allergies (including family, friends, babysitters, etc). Explain the importance of allergen avoidance and what to do in an emergency (provide a written management plan). Make sure Epipens are always accessible.
- Starting pre-school/school/being left for the first time can be daunting, however careful preparation should make the transition easier. Provide the school with as much information as possible including a written management plan with a photo of your child. (Arrange a visit/meeting with key staff to address your concerns before your child starts.) Up to date contact numbers are essential and always carry your mobile (leaving it switched on/voicemail). Emphasise safe inclusion in all suitable activities (suggest art/craft materials which are ‘Allergen free’).
- Check staff are aware about other areas such as feeding pets/going on trips, etc. Ask about supply teachers/helpers, check they are given information about your child (ask for a list of activities/meals ie. in advance so you are kept up to date and can plan ahead!). Discuss catering arrangements, if in doubt provide labelled packed lunches. Provide suitable treats for your child’s class teacher (in labelled container) enabling inclusion of your child in all celebrations!
- Shopping: make a list of where to get products (saves time going from shop to shop for specific dietary items). Develop good shopping habits, check ingredients and try to include your child (awareness is a key factor in educating about allergies and children can be very responsive from an early age). Contact customer services for written lists of suitable products.
- Try to freeze and bake so you don’t run out of goodies!
- Parties/tea visits can be a dilemma, however inclusion helps with socialisation skills and is very important. Offer to help with the party or provide organiser with a written list of foods allowed. If concerned provide your own food in a labelled container (so you know it’s ‘Allergen free’). Find out who will be supervising your child and make sure they understand and look after emergency medication.
- Holidays: obtain translation cards for dealing with emergency situations/eating out (available from Allergy UK), make sure you speak to the Chef about your needs if in any doubt self-catering may be the safest option.
- Allergy identification jewellery can be useful for some children (further details from Allergy UK).
- Keep spare food in the car just in case your plans change/you are delayed, this way you won’t be tempted to give unsuitable foods if you are stuck!