Explaining Your Child's Allergies to Others

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Managing your child's food allergies can be a tough job on its own. But explaining them to others — from friends and family to restaurant servers — can also be difficult. Here are some ways to help explain food allergies on behalf of a child of any age.

Restaurant staff

Remember to speak up early. Ask as many questions needed to learn about food options and how food is prepared. If you can, stop in before your visit to fully explain your situation to the restaurant staff. Be be extra diligent with buffets, bakeries, and restaurants with prepackaged foods — these are high risk for cross-contamination and exposure. If there's a limited menu, ask about bringing your own food.

Teachers, administrators, and caregivers

Check if there are allergy policies already in place at your child's school. If there aren't, then work with the school to implement changes. Instruct staff on how to recognize and manage symptoms, or host a practice session with epinephrine injectors. As an added safety measure, keep your child's safety information in a binder at the school. Lastly, provide the best ways to reach you, as well as multiple other emergency contacts.

Other parents

When talking to other parents, present the information in an encouraging way. But be mentally prepared that people may not want to help, or may find it hard to understand, so try to stay positive. Lastly, have an allergy action plan and 9-1-1 script that is simple and easy to remember and teach. Everyone will know the same steps and you won't have to worry about who knows what.

Friends and family

Managing your child’s allergies is a non-stop job that can be tiring. Sometimes you need a break and you’ll need the help of people you can trust. But when explaining your allergy plan, sometimes you might gloss over details. Don’t. Give specific examples, detailed warning signs to look for, and exactly how to use medication and when. Provide them with an emergency kit if you can — sometimes they may be nearer to your child when an issue arises.

Your child

No matter what age they are, let your child know they aren't different or alone. Instead of explaining how to manage symptoms to your child, teach by example. Keep them nearby as you explain to others, which helps them absorb and learn to explain it in their own way. Also, talk to your child often about how they're feeling. Bullying or loneliness can occur, so it’s important to address them as they happen.

In any situation

Some people you encounter may have never heard of severe food allergies, and may not appreciate urgency. Provide examples of severe food reactions. And be sure to stay calm and try to keep from getting  frustrated. Lastly, plan ahead, so others have enough time to learn everything and ask questions.