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Raising a Child Who Has Life-Threatening Food Allergies:
7 Tips for Common Challenges Faced by Parents


1. How can I get people to take my child's food allergies seriously?
Most people find it hard to believe that for some people, just one bite – or even less – of an allergen can lead to an extreme reaction or even death.
You must educate people in your child's life about the seriousness of your child's food allergies. Talk to them, and share appropriate literature, educational videos, and even photos of your child taken during a prior allergic reaction.
• Remember, your child's life can be endangered by a well-meaning caregiver who does not understand the importance of strict avoidance of the allergenic foods. You must be assertive in making his or her special needs clear.

2. How can we train teachers, babysitters, and others in the emergency procedures to follow in case our child has an allergic reaction?
Put the training information in writing. Type up a clear document that explains:
• Exactly what your child is allergic to.
• Your child's common and possible symptoms during an allergic reaction
• What to do during an allergic reaction, including how to administer an EpiPen® (preloaded epinephrine injection) if one has been prescribed.
• When to call the paramedics or rescue squad.
• Emergency contact information for you and other close friends or relatives.
• If desired, attach a photograph of your child.

Give the trainee a copy of the written instructions. Go over all the details together, giving the person a chance to ask any questions. For EpiPen® training, practice by using an "EpiPen® Trainer"(in the U.S., EpiPens® are dispensed in a 2-pack that also includes a trainer). Show what your child's emergency medication looks like and where it is kept. Continue the training session until the trainee feels comfortable and confident about caring for your child.

3. When grocery shopping, how can we tell if a food is "safe"for our child to eat?
• Ask your child's allergist for a complete list of all the things that your child is allergic to and all of the ways that these items may be listed on an ingredient label. In the U.S., the "top 8" allergens – peanut, tree nut, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shell fish – must be listed in clear English on the ingredient panel. However, other potential allergens, such as corn, are not required to be so clearly labeled.
• When shopping, read the ingredient statement of every item you purchase, every time you purchase it, to ensure it does not contain any allergens.
• If in doubt about an ingredient, or if your child reacts to foods which were merely produced on the same machinery as an allergenic item, contact the food manufacturer to determine the food's safety for your child. In the U.S., including "may contain" or "processed on the same machinery as" warnings on a product's packaging is purely voluntary. Therefore, the absence of a "may contain" warning does not mean that a particular product does not pose a cross-contamination risk.

4. What precautions do we need to take when cooking?
• Do not use any ingredients that your child is allergic to (see #3).
• Be sure that the ingredients used have not been "contaminated" with an allergen (for instance, if a knife containing butter has been inserted into a jar of jam then this jam is no longer safe for a milk-allergic individual to eat).
• Take steps to ensure that you do not "contaminate" the food with allergens during the cooking or serving process (for example, by using the same utensils to prepare allergenic and non-allergenic dishes).

5. Our child has multiple food allergies; what can we cook for him/her?
• Focus on what your child can eat instead of focusing on what your child cannot eat. If, for example, your child is allergic to milk products, eggs and nuts, focus on serving delicious meals centered on grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, fish and meats.
• Try to serve as large a variety of nutritious foods as possible.
• As for any child, try to minimize "empty calories."
• Look for appropriate recipes in specialized cookbooks and on the internet. You may also find some suitable recipes in your existing recipe collection.

6. How can we handle social situations that involve food, such as birthday parties and holiday get-togethers?
• When you receive an invitation, contact the host/hostess and explain your child's special needs. Is there anything on the menu that your child can eat?
• Reassure the host/hostess that you will be responsible for your child's safety.
• Bring your child's emergency medication and a supply of safe foods that your child enjoys to the party.
• If your child is old enough, talk to him or her about what can be eaten at the party.
• If your child is too young to speak for him or herself, talk to the other adults at the party and ask them not to feed anything to your child.
• Have a designated, trusted adult keep an eye on your child throughout the party. Make sure this person knows where the medication is and how to use it.
• As much as possible, relax and enjoy the party!
• Afterwards, thank the host/hostess for whatever they did to accommodate your child’s needs.

7. Where can I go for further information about food allergies?
• How To Manage Your Child's Life-Threatening Food Allergies: Practical Tips for Everyday Life, a detailed reference manual about the day-to-day logistics of food allergy management is available at www.FoodAllergyBooks.com.
• An extensive listing of online resources can be found at www.FoodAllergyBooks.com.

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