How to Cope with Children with Allergiesby Jenny Taylor
I would like to say it’s as easy as grabbing a glass of wine after a long, hard day but it's not. This is not just for the parents with children that have allergies but also for anyone that ever finds they have to care for a child that has allergies. It might be that your child’s best friend wants to come play. It might be that you have never had an allergy yourself and you just found out your child has a severe allergy and feel lost. It might just be that someone in your child’s class has an allergy that you are worried about.
For the parent of an allergy sufferer
Firstly, I am sorry. I say this because it’s not an easy thing to wrap your head around allergies, at first. It’s a constant battle from the start, on top of normal “becoming a parent” struggles. I was a first-time parent and had a baby with severe allergies to a handful of things. It was scary.
Secondly, take a big deep breath, and if you need, have that glass of wine. It is overwhelming even if it’s a small intolerance or a severe anaphylaxis. I remember the moment my son when into anaphylactic shock at age 11 months old. The information I was given made me so scared to leave the house for weeks. But I sat back, gathered what I needed from the information and realized I would just have to be a different kind of parent to him than I would my other children.
You have to be more alert. Read labels and re-read labels. Double-check everything. Watch what others are eating and/or touching around your child. This is just some of the difference you would have to do with a severe allergy. It sounds exhausting and overwhelming but I promise you, it soon becomes second nature. I don’t even think about birthday parties like I used to. Not because he is older now but because I know what to scan, check, and ensure before I even get there and it’s such a habit I don’t even think any different now.
My advice is to take baby steps in the beginning. Let the information soak in and become apart of your new parenting life. It takes a few small adjustments.
Don’t be afraid to tell everyone! Who cares if they think you are over-protective or over-cautious or at times I have even been called paranoid. It’s your job to keep them alive so it’s the small price we pay. And I have found more often than not regularly talking about it not only helps me feel better but also puts more eyes on helping keep my child safe.
As soon as your child is old enough, sit them down and fully explain to them what to look out for. They will know about it by having watched you. By the time my son was four years old, he would ask me before he ate anything or played with certain things when we visit other homes as his isn’t just food allergies. But he was educated enough to help me, help him. Now, I can relax a bit more knowing he is aware of the dangers too.
Lastly, follow your gut. I have had a few situations where I felt restaurant staff were just agreeing that it was free from but weren’t taking the seriousness of the allergy so I asked to double-check with the cook. Don’t be afraid to ask this, you aren’t the first person or the last person. My husband hates when I do it but half the time I was right and my son couldn’t have eaten what the waitress said he could. However, now, it’s a lot easier to eat out because they have full lists of allergy-safe food. We have a few restaurants that know us well too. This always helps us all relax a bit more and enjoy a family meal out.
Bottom line, don’t think you can’t ever leave the house again. It gets easier and you will get the hang of asking the questions and giving everyone the warnings.
For the adult caring for a child with an allergy
Don’t be afraid to have a child with allergies in your house. So many times my son wasn’t invited to friends because they didn’t want the responsibility of his allergies. I totally understand this. Perhaps ask the parent to come with the child. I would have had a coffee in the corner to let my son feel normal and play with his friends.
Ask the parent to go over things to be cautious over. Know what to look out for to prevent any allergic reactions. Make sure you have a list of what to do, in case, it does happen. Giving a child an epi-pen sounds scary as hell but it’s not as bad as you think. No huge needle is sticking out, just go over with the parent beforehand will make you feel more comfortable.
Know that deep down you are doing something amazing because a lot of parents wouldn’t have the kid with allergies over to play and the child DOES feel left out because of it.
It only takes a few extra minutes of cleaning, organizing and getting information from the parent and it will become second nature to you too.
At first, I will admit, I felt a lot of pressure to be this sole person to make sure he didn’t eat or touch the wrong thing. In hindsight, it is no different than keeping him safe. Isn’t that what all parents do anyways! Yes, it takes more patience, attention, time and diligence needed but in the end, it’s the same role of any parent just with an added caution sign.
So raise that glass if you have a child with allergies or care for a child with allergies. Some people think it’s not a big deal but it really is for both the child and the parent. Be brave to invite them to your home. Be aware that you can be as cautious as hell but accidents will and may occur and you will be prepared for them. And most importantly, it will come as second nature to you eventually. It’s just a slightly different kind of parenting than you envisioned.