Tips For Helping Teens With Food Allergies Navigate Their Independence
The early years of raising a child with a food allergy can be stressful, but that stress changes when your child reaches his or her teen years and starts going out independently. That newfound independence needs to be balanced with responsibility for his or her allergy. Here are a few tips to help you empower your teen to take charge of their food allergies during this all-important period of self-discovery.
Teach Basic Recognition
Before your child goes out on their own, take time to teach him or her all of the things that could represent potential threats. For example, if your child has a gluten allergy, make sure he or she understands that it includes wheat, barley and rye as well as any derivatives of them. You should also ensure that he or she knows how to ask about allergens and understands when to walk away if it seems as though the restaurant doesn't really understand it.
Keep Epinephrine Accessible
Teens are notorious for leaving things everywhere. If your child has a food allergy, he or she needs to understand the importance of not forgetting the epinephrine pen that can be used to treat allergen exposures. Set the expectation that your child doesn't go anywhere without the pen on hand and ensure that he or she understands that this isn't negotiable.
Maximize Technology Tools
Invest in a smartphone for your teen so that he or she can install some allergen-recognition apps. There are many apps that will scan food labels or search local restaurants to provide allergen-free options. Make sure that your child has these tools and knows how to use them. It can offer a sense of confidence and understanding that kids need when they're venturing out on their own.
Explore Destinations in Advance
If your child is going to be going somewhere new, take some time to explore the website and online reviews ahead of time. If he or she will be traveling, do some evaluations of the satellite images of the area. Spend time looking at the options for safe food choices in the area so that he or she can be somewhat prepared. By creating a list of sure-things based on your research, your child will have something to fall back on just in case there are questions when out with the group.
With a little bit of advance preparation, you can reduce the stress and worry that often comes with food allergies and your kids. Empower your teen to take control of their allergies even when out on their own using these tips and the help of an allergist such as Alidina Laila MD.