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Raising a child with a severe allergy

By
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Caring for a child with a severe allergy can be a frightening prospect.

Giving them control over their condition as they get older may also be daunting. If you have a system in place to avoid triggers but are prepared just in case, your child can live a normal life without being scared of what might happen.

If your child knows all about their treatment regimes and how to best manage their allergies on a day to day basis, they will feel more in control and less fearful.

"When a child first has a severe allergic reaction they are referred to a paediatric allergist," says Amena Warner, nurse advisor to Allergy UK.

"They'll be under their care up to the age of 18 and have a management plan."

Talk to your child

Talk to your child about their allergy in a way that's appropriate to their age. When they are toddlers, you can start to teach them to check what they are putting in their mouths.

It's never too early to start talking to them about their allergy. They should understand what their trigger is and to avoid it, or else they'll get really poorly.

Nathalie Dyson-Coope has a 3-year old son Callum who has multiple food allergies.

She says: "Having suffered with multiple severe allergies since he was 8 weeks old, Callum is acutely aware of what makes him ill. When tiny, it seemed an instinctive response, and now, having been educated by us, he can reel off everything that he is allergic to. He knows what ingredients are contained in most everyday products, and knows to ask 'is it safe for me?' before eating something."

Taking more responsibility

By school age, they should be aware of their triggers, not to accept food from anyone other than their parents, not to eat foods they are unsure about, to recognise anaphylaxis symptoms, and how and when to call for help.

By the time they get to senior school children should be taking more control of their own allergy by reading labels on food, knowing what to say no to, they will usually be carrying their own auto injectors and be able to inject themselves.

They may need reminders

Rehearse and remind your child about their condition.

"If your child had a severe allergic reaction as a baby, as a child they'll have no memory of what happened, which may lead to risk taking behaviour," says Amena.

A child should fully appreciate their condition, but not be given too much information too soon that may frighten them.

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