Teaching Teens to Handle Their Food Allergy

Sloane Miller Health Guide
  • I was at an engagement party at the lavish home of an old friend of the family last week. It was fully catered: open bar, passed hors d'oeuvres as well as a table full of food. I ate a completely allergen-free meal beforehand at home -- I knew I wouldn't have to worry about bothering the hostess before or during the party or need to talk with the caterer about what might be safe for me to eat.


    Eating pre-event left me free to enjoy the party, celebrate the occasion and not be starved! After a childhood and adolescence of going to parties and not thinking ahead or bringing snacks or eating beforehand, I knew better.

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    Funny enough, I ended up talking to the bride's aunt who told me about her food allergic children. When it got around to "what do you do," I told her that I write about allergies and asthma and have a website about food allergies called Allergic Girl.


    "All of my three children have food allergies!" she exclaimed. "I'd love to you talk to my 15 year old. She's in the other room; she's didn't eat anything and she's really hungry."


    "Hungry? That's no good. I actually ate before I got there," I confessed to the mother.


    "I wish my daughter had. She just didn't think of it."


    Self-Care and Food Allergies

    Personally, having allergies, food allergies and asthma gave me was a very high level of self-care strategies from a very young age. Social workers and other mental health professionals use the term self-care often when assessing a new patient. It can include everything from personal hygiene or lack thereof to medicine compliancy, following through with doctor visits or getting what you need in any given medical situation.


    This medical encyclopedia defines it more broadly:

    "Examples of self-care behaviors include seeking information (e.g., reading books or pamphlets, searching the Internet, attending classes, joining a self-help group); exercising; seeing a doctor on a regular basis; getting more rest; lifestyle changes; following low fat diets; monitoring vital signs; and seeking advice through lay and alternative care networks... Self-care is generally viewed as a complement to professional health care for persons with chronic health conditions."


    For someone with food allergies, self-care includes consistent, clear and effective allergy action plans.


    Teaching Teens with Food Allergies to Avoid Allergic Reactions

    Teens are especially at risk. According to a report by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI): "Among the risky behaviors: Leaving medication at home when at a school dance, wearing tight clothes, eating foods that could cause a reaction, and failing to tell their pals about their condition," says Scott H. Sicherer, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.


    It's never too early to teach your child or teen with food allergies how to create and stick to an allergy plan. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) has a great site to help teens through these difficult years.

  • Their advice to teens:

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    1. Be on guard for unexpected ingredients.

    2. Visit your allergist.

    3. Recognize early symptoms and know what to do.

    4. Carry your prescribed medicine at all times.

    5. Teach others how to help you.

    6. Get to an emergency facility at the earliest signs of a reaction.

    7. I'd add always bring snacks to an event or eat safe food beforehand!

Published On: February 11, 2008