Being a parent of a child with food allergies is challenging and often a cause of much anxiety.
Having navigated this experience of nearly 8 years, including travelling, play dates, birthday parties and eating out, having supportive and understanding friends and family surrounding us has made this experience much more bearable.
Food-related allergies are on the rise in Australia. 10% of children up to the age of one are diagnosed with food allergies, and 8% of children up to five years of age. Hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) have doubled over the last decade in Australia, and admissions for anaphylaxis due to food allergy in children aged zero to four years are even higher, having increased five-fold over the same period.
We don?t know exactly why, and there is no known cure. What we do is manage and maintain safety based on our child?s needs. And here is where you can help! If your child has a friend with food allergies ? having you as an ally and someone in our corner who we can rely on is so important!
- Learn how to use an EpiPen ? this is a life-saving device and is relatively simple to use. Knowing that my family and babysitter know how to use this gives me confidence and assurance when I am not with my son. Any allergy parent would be happy to show you how to use one.
- Understand cross-contamination ? I have been to a friend?s house who started cutting strawberries using the same knife they had cut a peanut butter sandwich with a few hours earlier. Luckily, I noticed this and grabbed the strawberries out of his hand before he ate one
? but what would have happened if I wasn?t there? It hadn?t occurred to my friend that cross-contamination was a real issue.
- Don?t dismiss allergies as being fussy ? anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition that can happen fast and be deadly within minutes.
- Check-in before playdates and birthday parties ? it is often an awkward conversation that I have to have prior to a party to ask exactly what is in the food being served. When my son was younger, it was easier to control. Now as he is older and most parties are drop-off, we need to know exactly what the ingredients are of the food being served.
By being able to lean on our friends and family, knowing that they care for our child in the same way we do and can provide life-saving measures if needed, helps us navigate this tricky path immensely.
About the author
Francesca Pinzone is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of online allied health services provider, Umbo. She is passionate about bringing health services to children in rural communities and removing social inequalities. She has a MA in International Public Health from the University of Sydney, a Graduate Certificate in Social Impact from the University of NSW, and a Bachelor of Science, Nursing from the University of Technology, Sydney.
Francesca has over 12 years of experience working in non-profit organisations and in international development, having previously worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres in Pakistan, UNICEF in India and CanTeen in Australia, and also currently teaches Creating Social Change: From Innovation to Impact at UNSW Sydney with the Centre for Social Impact.
She is also a mother of a child who has received speech therapy.