Educating Others About Food Allergies:
- Read. Watch. Talk. Before you can even begin to explain your child’s allergies to anyone else, you need to do the leg work. Sign up for webinars from your local allergy foundation. Reach out to any allergy parents in your community or online. Gather important information from reputable sites like:
- Share your child’s allergy story. When others know what your child has/is going through, you help develop understanding and empathy. There is so much truth to the idea that until you live it, you don’t get it. One of my biggest takeaways? People will try their hardest to understand, but they need your help to get them there.
- Be a support for others. You are the most important resource; You need to be a support system for those interacting with your child. The more support you give, the more you will receive.
- Answer questions.
- Offer helpful tips and information for managing food allergies.
- Ensure open lines of communication between you and anyone who will be interacting with your child.
- Always Communicate. Unless you live with food allergies everyday, they are easy to forget. When your child is first diagnosed, there is a steep learning curve of checking food labels, washing hands, watching for symptoms, etc. The curve eventually becomes your family’s new norm, and life continues. For those who aren’t living with food allergies, they encounter that learning curve each time they interact with your child. You may find you are repeating yourself, but those reminders are important.
- Provide helpful resources to family, friends, daycare providers, teachers, and anyone else who is directly involved with your child. Yes, you are the #1 support for your child. However, having resources to reference when unsure can be extremely helpful for those who don’t live in the food allergy world. Two resources I highly recommend having on hand are:
Living Confidently With Food Allergy from Food Allergy Canada is an awesome guide for those navigating a new food allergy diagnosis or need a refresher. There is information on: avoiding allergens, recognizing reactions, preventing exposure, educating others, and more. I printed off copies of relevant pages from this document and gave them to family members, friends, our daycare provider, and teachers as references.
Think F.A.S.T. is a great at-a-glance resource from Food Allergy Canada for the signs and symptoms of allergic reactions. We gave one to Grady’s teacher this year and she hung it up in the classroom.
Yes, you will make mistakes; So will the people around you. Food allergies can be overwhelming, anxiety evoking, and at times, frustrating. But, all you can do is try your best. Educating others is a great place to start.