By Jasmine Stephens, Family Editor
According to Allergy UK, 50% of children in the UK now have some form of allergic condition. These include allergies to common food stuffs such as peanuts, milk, eggs and wheat, pollens, house dust mite and insect stings. Symptoms can affect the nose, ears, throat, eyes, airways, skin and digestive system and for some children, can even include severe reactions such as anaphylaxis.
Raising a child with allergies can be challenging to say the least. Bunmi Scott, creator of foodsyoucan.com, has two young children are both allergic to dairy and soya and so she knows first-hand the difficulties parents can have getting their children an accurate diagnosis and also the challenges they face moving forward.
Bunmi has put together 8 top tips for parents of children with allergies:
1. Know your labels – Many ready-made meals include ingredients that are not going to be suitable for your child, even ones you least expect. Becoming an expert in hidden foodstuffs will help you avoid any nasty experiences.
2. Cook from scratch – Where possible, cooking from scratch at home will mean you can have confidence that your food is safe for your child to eat. You can make this easier for yourself by cooking batches of food and freezing in child-sized portions ready to defrost whenever necessary.
3. Use the Internet – There are now many useful websites that can help you get inventive in the kitchen when you’re lacking in inspiration.
4. Call ahead – If you’re eating at a restaurant, it’s essential that you call ahead and ensure that the establishment can cater for your child properly. New legislation out in December 2014 means that all eateries need to provide allergen information on their food.
5. Plan in advance – When out and about or travelling, it is usually much easier if you can bring your child’s own food with you. We tend to make food and carry it in a cool-box and then heat it up when we arrive. Many places now have facilities for heating up baby food, which makes it much easier to feed your child suitable foods on the go.
6. Educate other carers – One of the hardest things to do when you have a child with allergies is letting them out of your sight, but whether at nursery or school there will come a time when you need to trust other people. Make sure you have confidence in your child’s carers by educating them about your child’s needs and making sure that all staff have full details of your child’s care plan. Don’t be afraid to question how your child is being looked after and stand your ground if you believe there is an issue with how your child has been treated.
7. Educate yourself – Every child’s condition and how it presents in them is different. As long as you stay one step ahead by being knowledgeable and prepared, you can have confidence that you will always be in control.
8. Trust your instincts – Healthcare and childcare professionals are experts in their own areas, but you are the expert in your own child. If you think your child has an allergy, then act quickly. Your first step should be contacting your local GP.
Bunmi Scott is a Food and Allergy expert and creator of foodsyoucan.com