Making sure children get as much as possible from their social world starts with good allergy management and effective treatment to ensure that they feel as well as possible. No matter what their allergic condition, it is possible for your child to have an active social life and fun with their friends.
By informing and talking to parents or carers of the children your child socialises with, you can help them to become allergy-aware. Talking to other people about your child’s allergy can help them to understand the impact that living with allergy can have. Allergy now affects 50% of children in the UK, so it is very likely that yours will not be the only allergic child whom they will meet.
It is important to make sure that other parents and carers appreciate that your allergic son or daughter can have as much fun as the next child if a few necessary precautions are taken to avoid allergens. This could mean ensuring that all children in a group bring safe or allergen free snacks to social events and explaining a ‘no food-sharing’ rule to the children can help to reduce allergy risk further. Following simple rules can help other adults feel more confident in caring for your child.
The more aware children are about allergy from as young as possible, the more likely they are to be accepting of their friends with allergy. Whilst we are not suggesting that children make medical diagnosis, children playing with other children are often the first to notice if their friend is unwell. Your child’s friends may be well placed to alert an adult to your child having an allergic reaction.
Other adults can also play a role in teaching children about allergy, thereby allowing your allergic child to be accepted and not excluded from friendship groups. By making sure that children understand that allergic conditions are not diseases that can be caught, such as from the sneezing of rhinitis or the skin problems of eczema, children will be as happy to play with a child with allergy symptoms as any other.
When your child asks to take part in an outside school activity, such as brownies or scouts, or a sporting activity, everyone needs to be just as aware of the risk of contact with allergens. It is very important for your child`s social development that he/she has the opportunity to take part in group activities with other children
The important element in including your allergic child in any activity club is to ensure that everyone feels safe and confident, including child, parent and group leader. Adopt the same procedures that you would put into place for anyone who may be looking after your allergic child; use the protocol or care plan written by your allergy nurse or doctor; give accurate information about the allergic condition and clear instructions for use of medication . Maintain a good relationship with the group leaders and discuss openly any problems which may arise.
Parties are one of the biggest areas of worry for parents of children with food allergy. Preparing allergen free party food may not be a consideration for other parents. Social events can take some planning and, by thinking ahead, you can make sure that your allergic child has just as much fun at a party as the other children.
- Find out from the organiser what they are planning for food. If you explain why you are asking, they will be understanding and will share their ideas
- If the host cannot provide suitable foods then explain that you would like to provide your own allergen free version
- Always leave your contact details and make sure you are available if the child is attending on their own
- Offer to train host parents in the use of auto injector pens, asthma inhalers or other medication which may be required
- Remember other parents may be unfamiliar with medical conditions and may feel nervous to be left in charge of your child or to give them medication. Offer to stay at the party as an extra helper
- Allow your child to be more independent if they are ready by staying in the background. Encourage your child to ask questions about food ingredients and learn to make safe food choices
- When party games are played, provide sweets or snacks you know your child is able to eat so that they can swap any unsafe food prizes they win for their favourite safe treats
- Provide or suggest safe food treats to include in party bags
- If this is not possible, provide a swap box at home, so that your child can exchange an unsafe food given at a party for a treat they know is allergen free
- As the child becomes more independent they will prefer parents to take a ‘back seat’ so this will be the time to ensure they are sensible around food and allow them (if appropriate) to attend on their own
- With thought and foreword planning your child will be able to join in with other children, have fun and enjoy the party experience with their friends
- Remember to praise your child at the end of any parties for their sensible attitude and for making the right choices to stay safe!
Last updated: June 2013 Next review date: June 2015