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Food allergies in children are not uncommon, around one in 20 families across the world deal with the threat of an allergic reaction and the risks involved with that on a daily basis.
If this is you, it pays to have a food allergy checklist that you, your family can regularly refresh to ensure that your child's school and other activities remain a safe place for your little one.
When you have a food allergy, your immune system reacts to a particular food or foods as though that food is toxic – an allergen.
When food acts as an allergen, your immune system tries to protect your body by releasing chemicals like histamines into your body's tissues, giving you an allergic reaction which can anywhere from mild to extreme. Most reactions aren't classified as severe and deaths are extremely rare.
You still need to be vigilant, it doesn't take huge amounts of exposure to a food you are allergic to either, sometimes just being in the same room as that food can trigger a response from your immune system. An allergic reaction can be immediate or sometimes happen hours or even days later.
Allergic reactions can be anything from skin reactions (rashes, swelling, hives), itching, stomach pain and vomiting or nasal/sinus congestion right through to more sever reactions like shortness of breath or interrupted breathing, wheezing/coughing, dizziness, tongue and throat swelling, low blood pressure and difficulty communicating.
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If your child has a food allergy, it helps to have a food allergy checklist to remind yourself and your family of some important safety steps both at home and beyond.
Make and learn an action plan: Ensure that your family, carers, teachers and other adult supervisors understand your child's allergic triggers and know the steps to take in an emergency. Submit that action plan, alongside any medications to those carers and check the use-by dates regularly. Routinely check the location of the medication and who has access to it as well as ensuring they know who to contact in an emergency situation. Image: Getty Images.
Know how to treat a reaction: In the case of a serious reaction, your family and all caregivers need to be prepared to use an epinephrine shot, such as an EpiPen, when the symptoms are life-threatening. Make sure everyone who cares for your child is prepared to do that if necessary and always keep at least two shots handy at all times. Antihistamine tablets/liquids should also be kept within easy access for more minor reactions such as itching or hive-like reactions. Image: Getty Images.
Know the triggers: Ask your medical team for a full list of the triggers, and learn how to identify them. Some triggers are known by many names. Watch out for hidden triggers which can sometimes be found in other household products like soaps, medications and beauty products. Image: Getty Images.
Always check the labels: Even foods that you have had before can change their make-up, so make sure to check the label each time. Image: Getty Images.
Ensure your child understands their own allergy: Your child must become an advocate for their own health too. Ensure they understand their allergy, the triggers, where to look for them, and how to ask for help when they are unsure. They will learn how to identify potentially dangerous situations until then guide them as best you can. Image: Getty Images.
Avoid the triggers: It's better to be safe than sorry, avoiding foods/products that contain the triggers is the safest option. Where possible, keep them out of your home. When eating out, tell the staff about the allergies before ordering – ordering simple dishes with fewer ingredients is often the best way to avoid triggers. If you're not sure if a dish is safe, avoid it altogether. Image: Getty Images.
Educate your circle: Teachers, school friends and neighbourhood pals should know about the implications of your child's allergy and understand the importance of them avoiding triggers. If your child has a serious allergy, they should really wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace. Image: Getty Images.