If you have a child between 1 to 5 years of age, I’m pretty sure…
Today, I'm delighted to introduce you to Emma Amoscato, a food allergy blogger and author of 2 books about food allergy. She is also a local friend and amazing woman overall.
My husband is coeliac and my daughter was on a gluten free diet until 2 years ago. Therefore, I had numerous chats with Emma about allergy. She was a regular with her two children at my playgroup and thanks to her, I was well aware and more prepared to deal with food allergy and how to welcome everyone in my playgroup.
Helping children to live with food allergies
Checking and double checking ingredients, packing safe snacks, liaising with caregivers, wiping down surfaces, creating care plans, dealing with difficult emotions – looking after a child with a food allergy can be complicated!
I understand. I have two children with multiple food allergies and after my son had an anaphylactic reaction to milk at 15 months old, I started writing about our experiences to support other families.
Food allergies are on the rise and now affect 1 in 13 children so it is important that everyone knows how to keep them safe and included at home, at school and in the community.
We are now 7 years into our journey and here are some of my top tips:
Give yourself a break
An allergy diagnosis can be hard. You've probably already been through multiple doctors trips, sleepless nights and watching your child in distress. It gets easier. Now you have a diagnosis you can focus on how to manage your child's allergies effectively. No matter what you ate in pregnancy, what birth you had, when you weaned your child or how long it took to get a diagnosis – none of this is your fault.
Learn the language
Like anything new, it can take a while to understand the ins and outs of food allergies. It's important to know what kind of allergy your child, what foods to avoid, how to spot the symptoms of a reaction and what medication they need to treat it. There is a lot of information on the internet but stick to trusted sources like Allergy UK [www.allergyuk.org] or my book Living With Allergies: Practical Tips For All The Family [https://amzn.to/30X4I87], which they have clinically reviewed and endorsed.
Create a care plan
Your doctor should provide you with a care plan or you can download a paediatric one here.
Share it with family, friends and anyone who cares for your child and make sure they are trained in using an adrenaline injector, if your child has been prescribed one. It is also important that any nursery or school has a risk assessment and allergy management plan in place. You can download free templates here.
Playgroups and playdates
There are lots of simple ways playgroups and friends can make it safe for your child to join in the fun. Try and get them to offer safe snacks, or otherwise have a separate space and get everyone to wash their hands after eating.
Encourage food free activities or look at ways they can be adapted, like using wheat free playdough or no egg boxes for crafts. Offer to host playdates at your house or suggest allergy friendly cafes or activities. Often people just don't know where to start so work together to make them allergy aware.
Cooking can help give you back an element of control, put the fun back into food and allow your child to eat their favourite dishes, no matter what they are allergic to.
There are lots of dairy free and gluten free alternatives and simple ways to replace an egg in baking, like using 60 apple sauce! You can use an app like food maestro to help check ingredients and find some allergy friendly recipes here.
Planning for parties
One of the most difficult parts of dealing with food allergies is socialising. Be open with other parents about your child's allergies and discuss different ways to deal with it. Can they cater for them safely? Can you provide a list of alternative products? Or would it be easier to take your own food. Have a stash of safe treats or keep some cupcakes in the freezer so you are always ready for an event.
How to teach children about food allergies
It's never too early to start. Make food allergies part of everyday conversation, use role play like toy kitchens to discuss it, and use simple language to explain what they can eat and why. As they start preschool, it's important they can start telling others about their allergies and understand simple rules like no food sharing.
Reading my book You, Me & Food Allergies together is a great place to start.
Find your tribe
Talking to other people who also have children with food allergies makes a huge difference. There are lots of Facebook groups available, a great community on Instagram, or Anaphylaxis Campaign run in person support groups. I know it can feel very lonely but there are lots of people who understand and the Allergy UK helpline is another source of support if you need a friendly voice.
Learning to live with food allergies can be a big adjustment but it doesn't mean you or your child need to miss out. Sometimes you may need to do things differently or everyday activities might need a bit more preparation, but there is always a way! Focus on what they can eat rather than what they can't, encourage them to speak up about their allergies, and spend time educating those around you. Together we can all keep our children safe and included.
Emma is also the author of parent's book: Living with Allergies: Practical Tips for All the Family.
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