What To Do When Your Kids Have Food Allergies
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What To Do When Your Kids Have Food Allergies
Ask almost any kid anywhere what their favorite food is and they’ll say ice cream—it’s totally normal. I know I can’t turn down a bowl of chunky, chocolatey rocky road. And trying new foods (and sometimes sticking to those childish favorites) is just a part of being a kid. But for some littles, including my own, the foods they try could be what actually harms them. Today, studies estimate 5.6 million or 7.6 percent of children in the U.S. are living with food allergies. That’s one in every 13 children.
Take Care of Your Kids
My son and daughter started showing signs of a food allergy early. Jackson around kindergarten and Dylan around the third grade. Turns out one is lactose intolerant and the other has a lactose sensitivity. So things like ice cream, yogurt, milk—normal kids foods—are totally off the table. Thankfully, there are tons of just-as-delicious substitutes available. But it’s important for Bobby and I that we are mindful of their allergies, without letting it affect their everyday lives. And we know there are parents just like us all over the U.S. that have to worry about what their kids are eating.
Nearly one-third of parents say they are currently seeing (or have seen in the past five years) a mental health professional related to their child’s food allergy.
Reach Out for Support
With half my kids having food allergies this is a topic that’s personal and dear to me. For this post, I was glad to partner with Kids With Food Allergies, a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). They are the largest online support community for those affected by food allergies. It’s a great resource to educate parents and kids and can help the whole family better understand food allergies. Allergists are even available to answer any questions you or your family might have. I know I had a ton when I found out my kids had food allergies. I go there to connect with other parents and find, ask questions and share lactose-free recipes. Because even though my kids have had these allergies for years, it’s something we constantly live with. Registration is totally free, and with Halloween weeks away, now is a helpful time to join the community. It can help you navigate the season of Reese’s peanut butter cups and wheat-filled Kit Kats.
Read Up on the Latest Research
If you have littles with a food allergy (or really any loved one), there is a new survey by the AAFA that tackles these issues. According to the study, “My Life With Food Allergies,” results from more than 2,000 patients and caregivers show that food allergies are a higher burden to caregivers than to the actual patients. Then the results were presented to the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), a group who recently assessed the clinical effectiveness and value of treatments for peanut allergies. Our community voice is important in this research and can impact policy.
Because of info gained through the online survey, AAFA was able to present this evidence to ICER about quality of life issues impacting families with peanut allergies. You can read these studies on your own here, or even share them with friends or family who may be affected by food allergens. Joining their online community can keep the conversation going. It’s important for us to share our knowledge and experience about the issues affecting our kids.
When asked how often parents think about their child’s food allergy, 82 percent of parents say it’s always in the back of their minds.
Don’t Let Worry Control Your Lives
And sometimes parents are the ones who are most affected by food allergies. Jackson and Dylan might not be able to drink a milkshake or snack on grilled cheese, but I worry about them constantly. A cup of hot chocolate at a school party could send them to the doctor’s with stomach cramps or worse. I tell myself not to stress, but it’s easier said than done. Food allergies are hard to manage, especially when so many social activities revolve around food. Even for our kids. Birthday parties, field trips, sleepovers…all of these normal childhood activities can be dangerous if your child has food allergies.
Thankfully, none of my children have a risk of anaphylaxis or severe, life-threatening allergic reactions, but for millions of kids and their parents, it’s an everyday, ongoing threat. It requires constant vigilance which means nonstop worrying, and stress 24/7. Families miss school events, change or cancel travel plans, and even change daily routines and habits to accommodate children with allergies. It’s stressful, of course, but it needs to be done. Add to that additional costs like medical expenses and specialty foods (vegan cheese isn’t cheap!) and parents can feel the burden financially and emotionally.
There’s Help Available
To alleviate some of that stress, there are pharmaceutical companies, government programs and nonprofits that can help. There are drug assistance programs that offer free or low-cost medicines. And with or without insurance, out-of-pocket costs for medicine can be expensive. Our kids look to us to take care of them and make sure they’re happy and healthy. There shouldn’t be any reason to not give them all the care they need. Check out assistance programs through Kids With Food Allergies and the AAFA.
If you need more info—or just want to have a supportive community of like-minded parents—check out Kids With Food Allergies’ private community. If your child was recently diagnosed, they offer free online courses to help you understand food allergies and navigate everything from how to find safe foods to the different types and levels of allergens. Here, parents can find an ongoing community of help through other parents and professionals, research opportunities, and tips and resources to help manage your child’s food allergies. It’s a little haven in a world of peanuts, soy and milkshakes.
Forty-four percent of parents say they or their spouse have had to make a career choice (such as quitting or changing jobs) in order to care for their child with food allergy.
Do your kids have food allergies? Do you use any special recipes for them? Let me know in the comments below!