“A little bit won’t do anything.”
“When I was growing up all the children ate peanut butter sandwiches!”
“If you have the Epi-Pen it’s going to be fine.”
Sound familiar? As a food allergy parent, you’ve most definitely heard all of this before.
You want to keep your little one safe, healthy, and happy when you go to that family reunion, but your loved ones don’t seem to take it seriously. Some people just don’t understand food allergies. And it is frustrating.
It’s easy to forget that other people don’t know as much as you do. Your loved ones are doing their best with the information they have.
There’s no time like the present to help them understand. With the right resources, you can help change their perspective.
In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, let’s talk about ways to make this process easier for everyone. It’s time to educate!
Sit Them Down Individually
One-on-one conversations are a must! Grab an (allergy-friendly) snack, get comfortable on your couch, and have that deep talk. Explain everything you’ve learned so far during your allergy journey. Tell personal stories. Show them pictures of your kiddo’s most recent reaction. Try not to scare them too much, but be honest about how you are feeling. Connect with them on an emotional level. Everyone can relate to some type of fear or anxiety. We’ve all been in situations that make us uncomfortable or afraid. Give them a peek into what you’ve been going through.
Most importantly: Be gentle. Be patient. Be calm.
It’s okay to get emotional. We all do it sometimes! You’re here to share your story, and allergies can be scary. But a small dose of kindness goes a long way. Take deep breaths and answer their questions with care. A lot of people will be willing to engage in this type of casual, intimate conversation if they don’t feel like they need to be defensive.
Encourage Them To Check Out Online Resources
A simple way to help someone understand the severity of food allergies is by providing them with facts. The research speaks for itself. Numbers don’t lie. Sometimes it’s best to let the professionals in the allergy space educate for you.
Even if you’ve had conversations about your child’s allergies in the past, your loved ones may need an extra nudge to get on board. So leave it to the pros. Hearing it from a trustworthy outside source could be just what they need to take it seriously.
It’s best to start slow. Send them one link and see how it goes. Be sure not to send too much information all at once. This can be overwhelming for someone who is new to the food allergy world. Who knows? That one link could inspire them to search for more resources on their own. And all you had to do was press send!
Bring Them to the Allergist With You
If your doctor and your child are okay with it, ask your family member to tag along to your next appointment. Make them feel included in your kid’s health journey. Being in an actual allergist’s office will make the situation so much more real to them. As soon as they step into the exam room, allergies will no longer be an abstract concept.
Encourage them to ask questions. As great as the internet is, a medical professional will be able to provide the most accurate information about food allergies. Plus, they can translate complex medical terminology into something that’s easy to understand. Your doctor has dedicated their life to this work. They have the knowledge and experience to support you as you educate the people in your life. They want your loved ones to take it seriously just as much as you do. Let them help you out.
Put it in Writing
You know your kiddo’s allergies backward and forward, but your family and friends might not. So write it all down. Put it up on the fridge. Pass out copies to everyone that enters the house. It might seem like overkill, but it’s better to be extra careful than not careful enough. Your guests will appreciate having a handy list of dos and don’t at their disposal.
Even if they’ve done research about food allergies, it’s possible they don’t know enough about your kid's personal needs. Include information about each specific child and what they are and aren’t allowed to eat. Maybe even provide instructions on how to spot specific allergens on food labels. They might not be aware that “spices” or “natural flavoring” could contain hidden allergens. It’s best to put this on paper so your loved ones can refer to it any time they want.
Keep the Conversation Going
As we all know, food allergy education is an ongoing thing - the laws change, and medical science advances. It’s not something that ends after Food Allergy Awareness Week every year.
Keep talking about it. Keep finding ways to bring awareness into your daily life. Keep your loved ones up to date on the latest in the food allergy world. If you see an interesting article or a particularly resonant video on the topic, send it around. They will appreciate you trying to keep them in the loop. The slow trickle of information will become a normal part of their lives. They might even enjoy learning more!
Join Us for Food Allergy Awareness Week
The time is now! Food Allergy Awareness Week is upon us. This is a perfect opportunity to get your loved ones involved. Have them post on social media with the hashtag #AllergyAlly. Introduce them to the incredible community of food allergy advocates that work so hard to keep us safe. Everyone loves to be surrounded by amazing people who are passionate about something.
For more information about this special week or to share your story, check out FARE’s Food Allergy Awareness Week program. Your loved ones will be allergy allies in no time!