All week I’ve been talking about food allergies, and in this blog I’m collating tips, recipes and resources for any parent who has a little one with food allergies.
Allergy Week and SR Nutrition:
During this allergy week so far we have covered-
Below are some tips from Sam, who is a first aider and has a little one with allergies herself. The advice is also from Allergy UK who are a GREAT resource for anyone living with food allergies in the UK.
Living with allergies
There are three main things Allergy UK advise to do to keep on top of food allergies
- Identify and avoid the cause if possible
- Recognise the symptoms of an allergic reaction by keeping a food diary
- Know what to do if it happens again (see above!)
Avoiding allergens can be harder than you think. Here is some advice on how to stay safe with your little one.
Food Labels – Within the EU food labels should clearly list foods that are considered one of the 14 commonly found food allergens. They usually do this by emphasising the word in bold or italic.
However, foods from outside of the EU may have different ways of labelling and extra care should be taken when checking ingredient lists or when eating foods abroad with an allergy sufferer.
“May contain” or “Made in a factory containing..”
Where there is a risk of cross contamination suppliers will use these or similar statements to alert the end user. There is no law on how these statements should be used so there is a large variation between products and manufactures.
Some children that react to certain allergens will need to avoid eating/using these items. However, guidance on the need to avoid items with such statements should be sort from a healthcare professional who specialises in allergies.
Beware that some non-food items also contain allergens for example, cosmetics including moisturisers, soaps and shampoos may contain soy, egg and tree nut oil. So you may need to check labels on these too!
Below are some tips from Allergy UK as well as me, as a first aider on things you MAY want to look out for and keep a check on if your little one has an allergy. These are SPECIFICALLY important if your little one has anaphylaxis.
Day to day –
- Think outside the box…when you have a young child with an allergy you have to put yourself in their shoes – on even on their knees, literally. Get down and see from their view all the objects/things they may put in their mouth day to day. It’s almost impossible to control everything that goes into your baby’s mouth, but it’s good to be a bit vigilant.
- Playgroups – When your baby has a severe allergy you have to think five steps ahead. Is the toy they have picked up at the playgroup been dribbled on by another child that’s just eaten an allergen. Is anyone around eating the allergen. Communication with leaders, staff and anyone organising events is key.
- Musical instruments – Blown instruments like recorders, whistles etc should not be shared with a child that suffers with severe allergies.
- Many playgroups serve a “snack” or encourage parents to bring a snack with them. Ring ahead and let them know what your child’s allergens are (they may already have a “FREE FROM” policy in place). Take a safe snack with you and beware of what other parents may bring with them.
- Junk modelling – Many playgroups and childcare settings will get children creative with junk modelling. It’s important to make them aware of any cross-contamination hazards – even an old egg box container could trigger a reaction in an allergic child.
Eating out –
- Choose your restaurant carefully. For example, buffet style eating may have a higher risk of contamination. Oriental food is likely to have allergens like nuts etc.
- Ring ahead and find out if the restaurant is suitable. Do they have an allergen menu and are they allergy aware?
- Complete an Allergy Chef Card and take it with you on the day (be sure to give this card to the chef when you arrive at any restaurant)
- When you arrive at your seat, check you are happy with the cleanliness of the highchair or table place you have been allocated. Is there a chance of cross contamination?
- Prepare yourself with wipes and clean before you sit and eat if you feel you need too.
- Next, ask to speak directly to the chef or manager. Make them aware of your childs dietary needs.
- NEVER assume because you have eaten somewhere that the dish you had before will be ok this time. Chefs may cook dishes in different ways. ALWAYS check first!
You may also wish to discuss some of the following points with the chef/manager/waiter at a restaurant too…
- Are pans/woks cleaned thoroughly in-between uses? If not, grilled foods maybe a safer option. That said, some kitchens will utilise the grill for cooking lots of different foods so it’s best to check with the chef.
- Sauces and dressings can have hidden allergens. For example, wheat flour may be used, or Indian dishes often contain almond or peanut flour.
- Make sure the person whom serves you is also aware of your child’s allergens. Do not except food from a different sever without asking them to confirm the order.
- Your child’s meal should be delivered separately to others (restaurants encourage waiters to stack plates which could lead to cross contamination).
Before every meal
- Hand washing – some trace allergens can be transferred by touching something that has been contaminated and then transferred by eating, touching eyes etc.
Family and friends
- As mentioned above its important to involve the whole family if your child suffers from a severe allergy. Some children will react from a kiss or touch of a loved one that has the allergen on their hands or that they have eaten. Researchers are still debating exactly how long an allergen can stay in your saliva but its estimated to be between 2 – 24 hours.
Travelling and holidays with food allergens
- Flying and allergens – It is advised that before your flight you contact the airline about any allergy concerns that you may have.
- Nuts and airlines – Some airlines are nut free and others are not. Some may put a temporally ban on nuts during a flight if there is a known sufferer onboard. However, this may mean that there is high risk of cross contamination form previous flights.
- Ask the airline to wipe down the area where you will be seated. Ask if you can board the flight earlier than others so you can re-wipe the area including the belt, arm rests, trays and anything in arms reach of your little one.
- If a reaction occurs on a flight, follow your childs allergy action plan. Inform a member of the airline as soon as possible and ask if there is a doctor on the flight.
- Update any travel insurance policy.
- Do not get lost in translation – Allergy UK and Anaphylaxis.org do some great translations cards for when you are abroad. Learn the words that are important to you in the language of the country you are visiting.
- Research your closest hospital and the facilities they can offer in an emergency.
- Pack extra medication, plus a copy of a repeat prescription and a letter from the doctor explaining the medication you need to carry.
- Store medication correctly and not in direct sunlight – You can purchase medication bags to help to maintain the correct temperature for medications.
When it comes to resources, there are some fantastic ones out there. Allergy UK who I mentioned above are great and they do action plans & factsheets for parents.
Paula has some great info on weaning with allergies and choosing alternatives in baby’s diet for example (also a big thank you to Paula for these amazing visuals). Please click on the images to enlarge them:
Stephanie from the GP Mum also has some fab resources on Instagram:
Last but not least, here are some of my favourite allergy friendly recipes: