a penguin parent concerned about their baby

Advocating for Children With Allergies

I may have had allergies as a child, but I didn't know it. The formal diagnoses of food, environmental, and seasonal allergies came in my twenties and thirties. My experience over the years has made me more aware of how allergies affect people of all ages including children.

Children can have allergies

Like adults, children can have different kinds of allergies. Food allergies, hay fever, respiratory allergies, and skin allergies affect millions of children in the United States each year. As many as 1 out of every 13 children have food allergies.1,2

The more I have learned about allergies, the more I have thought about who could possibly have them. Children have been top of mind for me since 2012. That is when I started writing for one of the nation's leading children's hospitals.

My concern for the well-being of children grew, even more, a few years later. When I married my husband, I welcomed stepchildren, grandchildren, and more cousins, nieces, and nephews into my family. And then 21 months later, I gave birth to a child of my own.

The same questions arise with each new child I encounter. Does this child have allergies, and if so, to what are they allergic? I want to know, so I can take action to protect and support them.

Special considerations for caregivers

Watching children can be a lot harder than it sounds. This is especially true if a child has a chronic illness like allergies. They require constant attention and special care.

Extra measures must be taken to protect children from things that can harm them. Among those things might be food allergens, pet dander, and tree pollen. Children may not know much, if anything, about allergies. They need an adult to teach them, monitor what they are exposed to and their symptoms, and seek health care on their behalf.

Allergies can be challenging and serious

Living with allergies certainly brings extra challenges for children and their parents or caregivers. For instance, a child may feel left out if they can't have a pet like their friends. Parents may have to cook special meals and pack allergen-free snacks for outings. Scheduling activities can certainly be harder when one must consider what is in the environment.

It's not "just" allergies

For some people, allergies can be serious and life-threatening. They are not just allergies. A small amount of any allergen, from dust to food ingredients or mold, can trigger a reaction. What may look like just a runny nose or puffy eyes can be a sign of something more severe to come.

Making adjustments

Over the years, I have made some changes for the sake of children with allergies and their families. What I do flows out of the care and concern I have for them. My actions also help promote awareness of allergies among other people.

Here are some adjustments I have made:

  • When I host events, I ask my guests in advance if they have any food allergies — and then I accommodate them.
  • I offer both indoor and outdoor activities for children at gatherings with family and friends.
  • For birthdays and holidays, I hand out non-food treats like books, stickers, and toys.
  • I look out for the children around me. I take note of things concerning them, and I ask lots of questions.
  • I invest in the health and wellness of children in my family and community. I do this by seeking medical care when needed, sharing information, and donating to hospitals and other organizations.

I am so grateful for the knowledge I have gained about allergies. I have become proactive about my health, and I encourage other adults to take charge of their health too. What’s more, I am now equipped to help children; they really do need and deserve our care.

What actions have you taken out of consideration for children with allergies?May is Allergy Awareness Month! Want to learn more?

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