by Lauren Cohen, MS, RD, CDN
As a mother, protecting my children’s health and safety is top on my priority list. Like most parents, I teach my kids how to brush their teeth to prevent cavities, wash their hands to prevent infections and avoid hot surfaces to prevent getting burned. But when one’s child has a food allergy it can get a bit more complicated. It is not only about teaching our children which foods they need to avoid but also the adults in their lives about what to look for in order to protect our children.
The following are a few steps that families of children with food allergies should take to ensure that their children stay happy and healthy when they are away from home.
1. Be your child’s healthcare advocate. We need to inform our educators to make sure that our children get the right treatment. Teachers, coaches and chaperones need to be aware that your child has a specific food allergy. Adults who are responsible for your child need to know which foods your child is allergic to, how to spot an allergic reaction and what to do in case of emergency. Setting up one on one meeting with each of the adults who you entrust your child’s care to is important to increase accountability and preparedness.
2. Pack smart snacks for your child. Between their ever growing bodies and the endless hours spent playing, children expend countless calories and need to replenish their depleted energy with healthy and allergy appropriate snacks. To guarantee that your child is eating in accordance with their food allergy, pack snacks that are satisfying and safe. Fresh fruit, unsweetened dried fruit, rice cakes, and sunflower seed butter are some of the popular options available to all children and are great for most children with food allergies. Check labels for allergen information to make sure each food is safe for your child.
3. Allow your kids to partake in after school activities. It will be safer for your child to participate in after school sports and activities if the adults in command are educated about your child’s food allergy. Once again, educate the coaches, teachers, etc. on the food(s) that must be avoided, how to recognize a reaction and what to do in case an emergency arises. Pack a bag for your child that can hold their smart snacks and their rescue medication, which can include an inhaler or Epi-Pen.
4. Arm your child with “Safe Jewelry”. Make it easy for health care professionals to Identify that your child has food allergies. Food allergies don’t discriminate, are undetectable and many reactions to an allergen can look like other illnesses. That is why it is important that your child be identified by health care workers as a child with food allergies. One of the best gifts you can get your child is a medical bracelet from Medical ID Marketplace (www.MedicalIDMarketplace.com). They are trendy and come in many different styles and colors and children love wearing them. They blend in with other jewelry pieces and watches, yet will standout to a professional with a trained medical eye. Medical ID bracelets save hundreds of lives every year since EMTs and medical responders are trained to look for jewelry identifying someone with food allergies. These bracelets enable first responders and help your child by preventing misdiagnosis and administering the appropriate care to your child in case of an emergency.
Most parents find it difficult to send their children out into the world without being able to protect them from their surroundings. For the parent with children who have food allergies this is especially true. The hope is that if the steps above are taken parents will feel more comfortable that their children are being protected. Abotu The Author:
Lauren Cohen is a registered dietitian and clinical nutritionist with a private practice in Englewood, New Jersey. Lauren Cohen Nutrition provides nutritional counseling to both adults and children with a variety of concerns, including weight management, eating disorders, bariatric surgery, PCOS, cardiac rehabilitation, gastrointestinal disorders, thyroid disorders, cancer, menopause, pregnancy, lactation, sports nutrition and overall wellness. Lauren received her Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health from Hofstra University and a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition and Food Science from New York University. Lauren became a registered dietitian through New York Presbyterian Hospital- Cornell Campus and is a certified dietitian and nutritionist and has earned her certificate in Adult Weight Management from The American Dietetic Association. She is a member of the American Dietetic Association, The New Jersey Dietetic Association and the Nutrition Entrepreneurs Dietary Practice Group.
Abotu The Author: