While many families of food allergic children maintain an unwavering vigilance for offending allergens, not all families do.
Food allergy mom, author, and advocate Nicole Smith has found that some families are too relaxed for their allergic child’s good. These are families who may leave home without carrying an auto-injector, or are lenient about perusing food labels, and Smith suggests three reasons for this lax allergen attitude:
- 1. Under-educated. Some families do not receive enough information about food allergy and anaphylaxis to understand the ramifications of their casual ways. They may not realize, for instance, their child’s initial mild peanut reaction does not mean subsequent reactions will be mild. An under-informed family might not comprehend how dangerous anaphylaxis is until it occurs.
- 2. Expertise Needed. Not consulting with a Board Certified Allergist about a child’s symptoms is one reason some families may be under-educated about food allergy. Primary care and emergency room physicians, no matter how diligent, are not allergy experts. Though the information they provide may be sound, it might not be thorough or discriminating enough to meet the family’s needs.
- 3. Family Feud. Food safety can become a point of contention between family members caught in a power struggle. Some children may use food allergy complacency to even the score with their hyper-vigilant mom and dad. The child surrenders all responsibility for food allergy management to their ever watchful parents; a distressing situation for all concerned.
Also, since allergy symptoms overlap with other medical conditions, it may take an allergist’s expertise to make a correct diagnosis and effective treatment plan. Unfortunately, not all families can see an allergy specialist because of location, or a limited access to healthcare.
It’s important that allergy management is done with children, and not to them, so kids reach adolescence and adulthood able to keep themselves safe. Expecting food allergic kids to always carry an auto-injector, to learn how to read food labels, and including them in decisions related to the allergy are examples of how to keep them involved.
It isn’t easy for families living with food allergy to strike a balance between too much or too little vigilance. However, there are some safety strategies no allergy family can afford to be lax about because anaphylaxis is always an unexpected event, and can turn tragic if not handled properly.
The seriousness of anaphylaxis is not something any family will want to realize through experience.