6 Tips on Managing a Child's Food Allergy
It is estimated that around 7% of children in the UK have a food allergy. Having a child diagnosed with a food allergy can be a significant change and may feel overwhelming at first. This blog post, written by our paediatric dietitian, Emily Else, discusses the different types of food allergies and offers expert tips on managing a child’s food allergy.
Food allergies can be either IgE (aka immediate food allergy) or non-IgE (aka delayed food allergy), involving the immune system differently. Our infographics show the differences in onset and symptoms between IgE and non-IgE allergies and the 14 most common food allergies.
How to Manage Children's Food Allergies
Understanding food labels
Always check food labels. By UK law, the top 14 allergens listed above must be highlighted in the ingredients on all packaged food. This is to clarify to those with allergies which products to avoid. Food establishments (e.g. cafes and restaurants) are also required to provide allergen information for all non-prepacked foods and prepared meals.
‘May contain’ or ‘made in a factory' statement on labels
For some children with food allergies, foods that have a ‘may contain’ or ‘made in a factory that handles…’ statement will also need to be avoided to prevent cross-contamination with the allergen. Your child’s healthcare team should provide you with guidance on whether these should be avoided or not.
Sharing management plans
Anyone caring for your children, such as family, friends, school or nursery, must understand how to keep your child safe. This includes how to handle an allergic reaction, should your child have one. Where appropriate, you may be given an allergy management plan from your child’s healthcare provider, and training for carers may be provided.
Hygiene to reduce cross-contamination
As previously mentioned, some families will need to be careful with traces of food allergens. These can be transferred via touching something contaminated and then eating or touching eyes. In this instance, it’s best to ensure hands have been washed and surfaces cleaned before mealtimes. It’s also recommended to clean other objects your child might touch throughout the day, such as toys or musical instruments, to help reduce the risk.
The restaurant must be aware of your child’s food allergy when eating out. Lots of restaurants and cafes will be allergy aware and will have an allergen menu. Allergy Chef cards are also available for you to give to the chef to make sure they’re aware of your child’s dietary requirements.
When travelling, preparation is vital! Make sure you inform the airline you’re flying with and ring ahead to wherever you’re going to tell them of the allergy. If you are going abroad, Allergy UK and Anaphylaxis.org can provide allergy translation cards, which can be very helpful in ensuring dietary needs are understood. You may also consider packing some staple allergy-friendly foods for your child just in case they would like a snack and you’re not 100% sure if the options are suitable. Other important things you can pack include extra medication, a copy of the prescription, and any information on local hospitals in case of an emergency.
If you would like more personalised dietary support in paediatric allergy management, you can book an appointment with Emily Else here. If you have any questions, feel free to email us at email@example.com.