Making sure children get as much as possible from their social world starts with good allergy management and treatment as, then, they will feel well. No matter what their condition, it is possible for your child to have a healthy social life and fun among their friends.
By informing and talking to the other parents of 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 allergy can have. This may help them greatly in the future since it is very likely that yours will not be the only child whom they will meet that will have an allergy. Their child may have symptoms that could be allergy-related, or perhaps they will have another child who goes on to develop allergy.
The priority, though, is to make sure that other parents appreciate that your 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 asking that other parents of your child’s friends do not bring snacks to the park which could cause allergic reactions in your child. Similarly, explaining how a ‘no food-sharing’ rule amongst children in a group can help to reduce allergy risk further can be a way of making them feel more confident in caring for your child.
Other parents can also play a role in teaching their children about allergy, thereby allowing your child to be accepted and not rejected. By making sure that their children know that allergy and allergic conditions are not diseases that can be caught, such as from the sneezing of rhinitis or the skin problems of eczema, their children will be as keen to play with a child with allergy symptoms as any other.
The more aware children are about allergy from as early 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.
When your child decides to take part in an outside school activity, such as brownies or scouts, or a sporting activity, you need to be just as aware that there could be a risk of contact with allergens. However, it is very important that your child socialises and has the opportunity to enjoy activities that other children take part in.
The important element in including your child in any activity club is to ensure that they feel safe and confident, and are able to enjoy what they are doing. Try to adopt the same procedures that you would put into place for anyone who may be looking after your child; that is, protocols, plans of action, information and medication supplies. Maintain a good relationship with the leaders and emphasise the importance of both the allergy and also that your child needs to socialise with other children.
Parties are one of the biggest areas of worry for parents of children with food allergy. It is often the case that, in preparing for children’s parties, preparing food that is allergen free is not a consideration for parents at all. Social events can take some planning and, by thinking ahead, you can make sure that your 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
- Always leave your contact details and make sure you are available if the child is attending on their own, or offer to help if they are not familiar with your child’s allergies and do not understand fully, i.e. if auto-injector pens / inhalers are needed
- Try to stay in the background but allow your child to be more independent i.e. in getting their packed foods and having it in an easily accessible area
- When party games are played, make sure that you have some sweets you know your child is able to eat so that you can swap any food prizes they win with their favourite allergy-free sweets
- Also provide or suggest party bag items which can be included safely
- 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 and allow them (if appropriate) to attend independently
- Crucially, they are there to have the party experience like all the other children and enjoy the fun. Make sure you praise them at the end of any parties for their sensible attitude!
Last updated: March 2012