When Allergies Are Deadly: How to Protect Your Child
There is a saying that, “When your children are very young, they are on your lap and when they are older, they are on your heart.” This saying should be updated for mothers who constantly worry about their children due to life-threatening allergies.
According to a study in 2014, “Children’s food allergies are gradually increasing, but they may be as much as doubling among Black children.” Smelling, eating or touching foods in which a child is allergic can cause a life-threatening reaction, known as anaphylaxis. “…African American and Hispanic children had significantly higher rates of food-induced anaphylaxis than White children…,” said Dr. Mahboobeh Mahdavinia, an Allergy & Immunology specialist at Rush University who conducted a different study in 2016.
The list of life-threatening allergies is unlimited. Mahdavinia’s study also found that compared to whites, “Black children have much higher rates of asthma, eczema, and allergies to wheat and soy.” Peanuts were the most common food allergen across all racial groups.
A New York preschool is currently under investigation after giving three-year-old Elijah Silvera a grilled-cheese sandwich when he was allergic to dairy. As Elijah’s throat closed, he gasped for air and then went into anaphylactic shock. According to the reports, the school did not call 911 and it was his mother who took the boy to the emergency room. He died at the hospital. Elijah’s family reported that they had informed the school about his allergy, completed the appropriate documents and provided medication. What is a parent to do when you follow the protocol, complete all of the paperwork and put everyone on alert? Yet your child is still exposed to a life-threatening allergen.
Children’s food allergies are gradually increasing, but they may be as much as doubling among Black children.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR YOUNG CHILD
- Ask how your school manages allergies and how are newly hired staff educated on students’ allergies.
- Prepare and provide information about your child’s allergies to all necessary staff.
- Create a “Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan” with your child’s teacher, directors, and staff.
- Provide a complete list of foods to which your child is allergic.
- List the possible symptoms of your child’s allergic reaction.
- Post the treatment that should be administered to your child, and under what circumstances.
- Provide the contact information for emergency medical services (i.e., 911), your child’s allergist, and you.
- Provide a current picture of your child in the plan.
- Include a doctor’s note with the signature of your child’s allergist (or other licensed health care provider).
- Teach your child what to expect if he or she is having a reaction and how to describe it, with and without words.
- If your child is prescribed an Epinephrine Auto-Injector also known as an EpiPen, provide two pens to your child’s school. Be sure staff know how to use it and your child knows how to use it, if possible. The auto-injectors expire after a year, therefore, be sure to put the expiration date on your calendar. Source: FoodAllergy.org
Preschool children and older school-age children can communicate to others what they cannot eat. Teach young children what they cannot eat by using food flash cards. Give them words to alert adults that these foods will cause them a problem, for example, “If I eat this I will have to go to the hospital.” Parents can put many precautions in place but unfortunately, even the best efforts can fail. Keep the lines of communication open and repeatedly remind the school staff of your child’s allergies.