Food allergies are becoming more common in the United States, and if your child doesn’t have one, chances are they have a friend or classmate who does.
It’s difficult for kids to watch out for foods that can cause a reaction when they’re away from home, surrounded by kids who may not be aware of their allergy, or even worse – being teased about it.
Sometimes food allergies are easy to spot, such as peanut and nuts. Other times, a food allergen may be hidden in a list of ingredients.
That’s where friends can help. For a food-allergic person, having friends who understand their allergy and who know what to do in case of a problem can be a real lifesaver.
Here are 6 ways kids can help a friend with a food allergy:
- Get the details. Find out which foods your friend is allergic to and what happens when she has a reaction. Do they get a rash, tingling in the tongue or have trouble breathing? Learn how your friend has reacted in the past but also keep in mind that reactions can change at different times. The more you know about what can happen, the better.
- Take it seriously. If you see your friend about to eat something he shouldn’t, speak up. Some allergies can be life-threatening. You should also take immediate action if your friend shows signs of a reaction. Stay calm and get help immediately – you could save your friend’s life.
- Know what to do. Does your friend take medicine to treat a reaction? Where do they keep it? Know who to call for immediate help.
- Don’t share food. People with severe allergies have to be careful about how food is prepared, so keep your food, fork, plate or other utensils to yourself. You never know if they have come in contact with an allergy-inducing food.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after eating. Washing your hands is always important, but it could be lifesaving for your friend if you’ve eaten something that could cause a reaction. Use soap and warm water to wash – hand sanitizers and wipes don’t get rid of all the allergens.
- Two heads are better than one. If your friend is feeling sick or dizzy after eating, it could be a reaction to something she ate – help her to connect physical symptoms with the possibility that these symptoms may be caused by an allergy.
Helping to create a supportive, caring environment for a child with an allergy will not just help your friend. You can also set an example for others who may be unsure of how to react around people with allergies and may not understand the danger foods can pose to people with severe food allergies.