It is estimated that food allergies in children have seen an increase of 20 percent over the past decade and some allergic children must carry a medication kit everywhere they go, in case a reaction goes out of control and turns into anaphylaxis (a life-threatening condition that must be treated within minutes when a child can’t breathe or collapses).
Prevention is the first step to ensure that a child won’t be at risk: sending the child to a playdate with his own food for tea and his medication kit including telephone numbers. For birthday parties, an allergic child can bring his own lunchbox filled with typical birthday treats: crisps, sausages, cheese, cucumber sticks, chocolate cake, all ‘free from’ the allergens.
To make sure that other children are not affected by the infection, certain precautionary measures need to be taken beforehand and just so as to not make the child uncomfortable, some entertaining props can be brought up so that he can pass his time properly without feeling bored, something like bouncy castle Singapore which can make any child’s day and all kids can have the time of their life.
Communication is equally important: for playdates, it is necessary to get the school teacher’s cooperation as they would have to hand over the food and the medicines to the collecting parent. Reminding the child that they should not eat anything without ‘mummy’ checking the food labels is effective. Communicating with the parent who will be hosting the playdate or party is crucial: they must be informed (even briefly) about the allergies and reassured that the child feels safer bringing his own food.
Some parents are very happy to just stick to your plan which is great, some parents want to be helpful and offer to cook a special meal, which could be difficult for them and perhaps carry a risk they are not aware of, some parents will kindly ask for a shopping list of things that the child can have. Some parents may also say that they aren’t comfortable with the condition and are too worried to have an allergic child around, which is fine. Once at a birthday party the parents told me that there would be an epipen-trained carer on the site and I felt grateful although I know that I can’t expect this at every party.
When a child’s diet is well managed, allergic reactions become rare and it is tempting to think that all these precautions are disproportionate. This issue can be raised with the paediatric allergist who will confirm the risk of anaphylaxis. There is also a guilt issue with every new playdate and party: the mum of an allergic child may feel like a bit of a burden, especially if the child is very young as she may want to give a quick epipen training to another mum in the playground, and she feels like she is complicating every outing when these should be about fun. The reality is that sending a child without the medications means putting a really big responsibility on whoever will be looking after him and comes with risks.
A friend of mine once came for dinner bringing some treats for my daughter, who then turned to me asking if these were safe to eat. It suddenly hit my friend that she had forgotten about the allergies, even though she had cared for her many times before. This is human nature, people can be forgetful, even the most caring friends, mums and dads. I sometimes leave the medication kit at home when we go out, just because I wasn’t thinking of the allergies at that moment.
The other risk lies in the unpredictability of allergies. A child eating bananas with no obvious reactions can one day declare a severe allergy for bananas, after eating just a tiny bite. This sounds crazy but it is true. It could happen outside home, which is why if the allergist has prescribed a medication kit with epipens then it must be carried at all times.
Allergies do affect a child’s social life, but by keeping communication with a close circle of friends and with the child growing up, the ‘freefrom’ tea bag and the medication kit become less of an issue, it all turns into a habit that could be life saving.