As we all know, children with food allergies often go on restricted or special diets to eliminate the offensive foods. This can be challenging for the child, but also the entire family. One example I read that resonated with me was about a 4-year old girl with food allergies who had to be put on a restrictive diet. She did not handle this well and would become angry at friends and family. She especially became angry at her little 2 year old brother, who was allowed to eat whatever he wanted. Interestingly, the brother stopped eating what he was allowed and began eating the same restricted diet as his sister. I also read about another child with allergies that would take food from his sibling without his parents knowing!
These stories really made me think about how much food allergies can affect the entire family. In a survey of 87 families, pediatric allergy specialist, Dr. Mary Bollinger and colleagues at the University of Maryland found that half had made significant changes to their social activities to accommodate their child’s food allergy.1 This may seem obvious to some, but its an important part of food allergy treatment that often gets overlooked.
Adjusting to a Food Allergy Life
In his book, Understanding and Managing Your Child’s Food Allergies, Scott Sicherer has helpful advice for dealing with food allergies as a family. One thing he says is reassuring, “People with a food allergies should do and can do everything that a person without food allergies does, except for eating the food to which they are allergic.”
What are some ideas you have for helping the whole family cope with food allergies? Are there any ways you have found to help manage the siblings’ reactions to the situation? I would love to hear what you all have done. Although every child may need a different technique, if we all share our ideas, I’m sure it can help at least one family!
1. M.E. Bollinger et al. (2006) The impact of food allergy on the daily activities of children and their families. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 96: 415-421. [Image Source]