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Having a child is stressful but even more so when they have a severe food allergy. The most common allergens for young children are peanuts, dairy, tree nuts or shellfish – and the proteins found in these foods can trigger a harmful reaction.
As a parent, it’s important that you understand how to quickly treat your child’s potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. These four tips provided by iMD Health can help you effectively manage them.
Be able to recognize the symptoms
Allergy symptoms can present differently depending on the child and the severity of the reaction. Mild indications include a tingling sensation in the mouth, hives, itchy eyes and swelling of the lips or other parts of the face. Symptoms of a more serious allergic reaction include difficulty breathing and swallowing, lightheadedness with potential of losing consciousness, severe hives, abdominal cramping, vomiting and diarrhea.
According to iMD Health, a drop in blood pressure and fainting can be a telltale sign of an anaphylactic reaction, which requires immediate emergency medical attention. For a simple diagram that can help you remember these common symptoms of anaphylaxis, visit iMD Health’s Food Allergy page.
Pay close attention to what your child is eating
Until your child is able to decipher the tiny paragraph of ingredients on food labels, you’ll have to read through it on their behalf. iMD Health offers resources to help you identify the important parts of food labels, ensuring that you’re purchasing allergy-friendly items. When it comes to visiting restaurants, inform the server that your child has an allergy and don’t be afraid to mention the severity – servers would rather deal with a stern customer over a medical emergency.
If your child is heading to a birthday party or play date, try to pack specific snacks that are safe for them to eat. iMD Health also notes that parents should teach their children that it’s important to ask for help if they start feeling any allergy symptoms.
Get familiar with using an EpiPen
An EpiPen is an auto-injector filled with epinephrine, a strong antihistamine that needs to be administered if someone is experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. If your child requires an EpiPen, make sure that you are comfortable administering the medication. An EpiPen should be used when the patient is sitting or lying down and it’s crucial that the medication is not expired as that can interfere with potency.
According to iMD Health, parents of a child with food allergies should educate other family members, babysitters, and teachers, on how to use an EpiPen. If your child requires an epinephrine, talk to their doctor about getting a medical alert bracelet that indicates an anaphylactic allergy. This can save your child’s life in the event that they lose consciousness when you are not around.
Epinephrine is a safe medication and should be administered quickly. Once the EpiPen is used, the child should be immediately taken to the nearest hospital in case the allergic reaction worsens. Visit iMD Health’s Food Allergy page for more information on how to handle an anaphylactic emergency.
Be mindful of cross-contamination
When cooking for the family, make sure that you’re washing utensils and surfaces in hot soapy water. Purchase a set of utensils and a cutting board that can be used for preparing allergy-free foods only.
If you’re fixing multiple foods for the family, make the allergen-free meal first so that there is less chance of cross-contact. For more information on how to avoid cross-contamination, visit the Lifestyle section of iMD Health’s Food Allergy page.
For more information, visit iMD Health’s Food Allergies page.