Educating your Child About Allergy
Children who have a tendency to develop allergies will probably have to deal with allergy symptoms throughout their life. Yet over time most children cope very well with their allergies and learn to adapt and accommodate the treatments into their lives.
The key to successful treatment and symptom control is for parents and children to stay positive and to build their confidence and self-esteem by learning about the allergy and how to manage it. We strongly believe that children feel empowered throughout their lives when they have a clear understanding about their allergy.
Whatever their age, there are both short-term and long-term gains to be had from teaching children about their condition and allergy.
In the short term, it is important that a child learns about their allergy and feels confident that they can manage the allergy and its symptoms if their parents are not nearby. For young children this may happen as part of their preparation for nursery or school. If a child has a food allergy, it is important they know what it is they are allergic to and have the confidence to tell other people what they are allergic to. This will include routinely asking if food contains the allergen before they eat it. As children get older, understanding their allergy will mean they are comfortable when going out with friends, or staying away overnight. This will reinforce their developing sense of independence which is an important stage of growing up.
Education and understanding can also help children accept their treatment regimes, this empowers them to take an active role in managing their allergies rather than feeling passive and seeing the treatments as something that happens to them. This approach helps with symptom control but also enables children to see allergy treatment and prevention as part of their day-to-day life.
Children can become quite expert at managing their allergies and learn to cope well but they need to feel supported and know that they are able to ask questions in any situation.
If either the parent or child is unsure about any part of the treatment then they should clarify this with the appropriate person. Healthcare professionals are always happy to answer questions and would prefer to know that patients fully understand a treatment regime. There is never a ‘stupid’ questions or questions that should not be asked.
If the parent and child understand why a treatment is recommended then they are more likely to follow the advice which means the allergies will be well managed.
When an older child has been avoiding allergens for as long as they can remember, they can almost become unaware of what the allergies are and the dangers associated with them. During teenage years when children are becoming more independent, they can suffer more allergic reactions than at any other time. This may be due to a number of factors; having successfully avoided an allergen for a number of years, they may underestimate how serious an allergic reaction could be, or may not believe they have an allergy at all. Other young people do remember having an allergic reaction and what it felt like, or may have become so fearful of the allergen, that they feel restricted in their daily lives, limiting their activities.
This can be a challenging time for parents and carers and the young person. There is a clear need to support children as they become more independent while acknowledging the range of emotions that they are experiencing. It is sometimes impossible to know whether negative feelings are caused by having an allergy, or whether they are simply the feelings that every teenager struggles with. It is a good idea to work with your child to find a way for them to have more control over their allergies without taking unnecessary risks.
By teaching your child to identify the potential triggers and how to manage symptoms you can help them in the long term as well as the short term. A number of studies have shown that some children do not even recognise what they are allergic to because they have been so sheltered from the allergens for fear of a reaction. As a parent you know your child best but it is important that every child has the opportunity to take control of their allergy as soon as they are able.
We strongly believe that children should to take charge of their health and treatments as early as possible. This also means learning to cope with allergy, learning how to avoid allergens and dealing with the influence of their peers.