How to Protect Kids with Food Allergies

Four Parts:Keeping Your Child Safe at HomeAvoiding Food Allergens at SchoolManaging Food Allergies at RestaurantsEducating Your Child and Family About Food Allergies

If your child has food allergies, it may seem tough to keep your child safe and healthy. Some allergies to food (or insect stings or medication) have the potential to cause a very severe reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. Being diagnosed with a food allergy can be terrifying and stressful for families and children.[1] Currently, there is over 6 million children with food allergies in the United States. The most common allergens being peanuts and milk. Although children can also be allergic to finfish, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, wheat and/or eggs, as well as other, less common foods.[2] If your child has been diagnosed with a food allergy, protect yourself and your family by thoroughly educating and preparing them about life with a food allergy.

Part 1
Keeping Your Child Safe at Home

  1. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 1
    Clean out your kitchen. Preparing your kitchen and home for a child with a newly diagnosed food allergy can seem overwhelming. Take time to clean out the kitchen of any foods that are unsafe for your child.
    • Take a weekend to spend cleaning out and reorganizing your pantry, refrigerator, freezer and any other spots you store foods. This may take more than a day to get everything set up.
    • Remove all foods that contain the allergen. You'll need to read labels and ingredient lists to ensure all potentially hazardous foods have been removed.
    • You can choose to donate or trash these "unsafe" foods if you desire. Many times, unopened items can be donated to food banks.
    • Consider having your child help you. He should not touch or come into contact with these foods; however, it will be good practice to have him read labels and identify potentially unsafe items.
  2. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 2
    Wash and sanitize all cookware and flatware. In addition to removing unsafe foods from your house, it's important to minimize "cross contamination." Make sure to wash and sanitize all items in your house.
    • Cross contamination is when allergens from unsafe foods come into contact with cookware or flatware that is supposed to be "allergen-free."[3] For example, if you use a knife to spread peanut butter on your bagel, but use the same knife (even wiped off) to spread jelly on your child's bread, you have cross-contaminated your child's meal with peanut allergens.
    • All dishes and utensils need to be washed and thoroughly rinsed in hot soapy water. In addition, rinse off dishes that have food residue on them prior to putting them in a dishwasher.[4]
    • You may also want to consider labeling some flatware and cookware as "allergen-free" and only use these items to prepare and serve allergen-free foods. Also wash these separate from other kitchen items.
  3. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 3
    Consider labeling foods "safe" or "unsafe". If your child has a food allergy, it can be difficult to limit items in your house. This is especially true if you have other children in the home with you.
    • If you need to include foods in your home that contain an allergen one child has, consider labeling your foods as either "safe" or "unsafe." This allows the child with the allergen to clearly see what products they can consume without worry.
    • You can put green labels on "safe foods" and red labels on "unsafe foods" or create your own labeling system.[5]
    • Although this can be an easy system to follow, still teach your kids to read labels and investigate foods — especially when they're outside the home.
  4. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 4
    Keep foods contained to one room. Another easy and somewhat common method of cross contamination is food, crumbs, and leftovers eaten in other rooms.[6] Keeping foods and eating contained to one room can help prevent this.
    • It's common for families to snack in front of the TV, eat in the car, or carry food to their bedrooms. However, this exposes an allergic child to many more opportunities for an allergic reaction.
    • Limit food storage, preparation and consumption to only the kitchen and/or dining room. Do not allow other children or yourself take foods into other areas of the house.
    • This can help children feel safe at home and not have to worry about unknowingly coming into contact with their allergen.
  5. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 5
    Take extra precautions when cooking. Cooking and food preparation is a common time where cross contamination can happen.[7] Take care when preparing foods for an allergic child to avoid this situation.
    • Consider using specialty cookware, flatware and storage containers when preparing your child's meals or take away meals. This can help prevent cross contamination.
    • If you're preparing both "safe" and "unsafe" meals or foods, prepare "safe" foods first. This allows you to know that no cross contamination has happened since you haven't prepared any foods yet with the allergen.[8]

Part 2
Avoiding Food Allergens at School

  1. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 6
    Talk to and meet with your allergist. Your allergist and doctor will be a key component on keeping your child safe at school. Talk to them in-depth about what you need to do and how to prepare for school.
    • Your allergist should sit down with you and discuss your child's allergy and how to handle it at home, outside the home and at school. Ask for additional resources for how you can prepare.
    • Your allergist will also need to fill out school forms and prescriptions. Make sure to set an appointment up to review the paperwork and any medications you're providing to the school.[9]
    • Also give your allergist your child's school information so they can contact the school nurse or other officials if needed.
  2. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 7
    Set up an appointment with the school. It's important to communicate early on and clearly with the appropriate school officials before the school year starts, or as soon as your child receives a diagnosis. Make an appointment to speak with someone in person.
    • Talk to the school nurse. This may be the person who gives a child medication and manages children with allergies. Ask the nurse when she is there during the day, if the nurse train teachers and other staff members how to administer medications, and if the medications unlocked during the day?
    • Talk to all her teachers. Ask the teachers if they're familiar with administering medications, how they manage food allergies in the classroom for birthday parties or special events, if they have talked to the entire class about food allergies, and how they educate children on hand washing.
    • Speak to the school bus driver or carpool driver. In addition, talk to the school or school bus driver about how foods and snacks are managed on the bus or carpool. Ask if children are allowed to eat on the bus and if the school bus driver has an emergency allergy plan ready.
    • Meet with the food service director and managers. You'll also need to speak with the dining service director or manager. Ask how they keep allergens away from children in the cafeteria, if they have special school meals and snacks that are allergen-free, and what are their food preparation practices.
  3. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 8
    Prepare children with an allergy or emergency kit. Although the school, school bus, and other facilities should be be well-prepared for you child and their allergy, it's still important to make sure your child is independent and can take care of an emergency by himself as well.
    • Keep your child prepared with: hand wipes, non-perishable foods/snacks for shelter-in-place or other emergencies, allergy-friendly school supplies, an epinephrine auto-injector if appropriate, and an emergency contact list.[10]
    • Encourage children to be vocal about their allergies to other students and their friends. This can be difficult, but helpful to make everyone aware in the classroom.
  4. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 9
    Check-in regularly with both your child and school officials. It's important to regularly check-in with your child and her school about the management of her food allergies.
    • Don't ask your child on a daily basis, but keep abreast of any possible bullying, isolation, or other issues that can crop up.
    • Also ask your child if she feels safe at school or her opinion of how her allergy is being managed by the school staff.
    • Continually check-in with teachers, the school nurse, or other officials about the allergen and how they are managing it. Check on the her medications and possible expiration dates, how the staff thinks your child is handling the allergy, and if any rules or policies have changed.

Part 3
Managing Food Allergies at Restaurants

  1. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 10
    Review multiple restaurants and menus in advance. If you want to go out to eat with your family and a child has a food allergy, you should do some research in advance to find a restaurant that can accommodate your needs.
    • Check out menus online to see if they offer an "allergen-free" section or list that they are able to make changes or substitutions in their meals or foods.
    • Call restaurant in advance. Ask if they are willing to make changes to menu items or are able to accommodate specialty foods and preparation.
  2. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 11
    Ask to speak to the chef, manager, and wait staff. When you arrive at the restaurant make sure to speak to the staff and alert them of your child's food allergy.
    • Download and carry a "chef's card" or "allergy card." You can find these online and even in your allergist's office. They state your child's particular allergy, reaction, and importance of specialty foods and preparation needs. It can help restaurant staff and others understand the seriousness of your child's allergy.[11]
    • Stress the importance of cleaned and sanitized preparation surfaces, utensils, pots, pans and all utensils.[12]
    • Get your child involved. Your child should practice alerting staff about his food allergy and ask about the options that are available to him.
  3. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 12
    Bring along specialty items if needed. If you're unsure if a restaurant is willing or able to make changes for your child, consider bring specialty items for your own use.
    • You might want to consider bringing extra utensils that you know have been cleaned and sanitized appropriately.
    • You may also want to bring wipes to help wipe down plates, cups, or other items on the table prior to sitting down to reduce risk of cross contamination.
  4. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 13
    Always be prepared for an emergency. Like school, it's important to be prepared when going out to a restaurant — even if it's somewhere that you've previously eaten.
    • Always carry the child's medication in case she does come into contact with an allergen.
    • Be aware of signs of possible symptoms. It can be easy to get distracted while eating out, so pay extra attention to any issues that may arise.

Part 4
Educating Your Child and Family About Food Allergies

  1. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 14
    Teach your child about his food allergy. Spending time one-on-one and with your child's allergist is important. You both will play a key role in teaching your child about his food allergy.
    • Talk to your child about his diagnosis and what that means. Explain that he will be able to eat most foods, but a select few will make him sick.
    • Encourage him to ask questions and be comfortable telling adults about his allergy or if he is having any symptoms of an allergic reaction.[13]
    • Try to remain calm while teaching your child. You may unintentionally scare him into thinking he is in danger anytime he is outside your home or "safe" zones.
  2. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 15
    Review different foods and food labels. If your child is old enough, teach her about different foods that contain her allergen and how to read a food label.
    • Show your child different foods with her allergen. Teach her to look on the food label for the allergen listing and in the ingredient list.
    • Have her accompany you to the grocery store so she can get regular practice reviewing different food labels and understanding the amount of foods that may contain her allergen.
    • Also teach her to never accept foods from strangers or those who are unaware of her food allergies.
  3. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 16
    Talk to him about possible symptoms. It's also important to help your child understand what happens to his body if he does ingest a food that contains an allergen. Again, it's important to be calm and understanding when teaching your child about the potential dangers and (scary) side effects. Try to keep him calm and focused as well.
    • If your child is younger, it may be more difficult to explain serious medical side effects. Ask your allergist for assistance when explaining these tougher terms to your child.
    • Have your child repeat back to you the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and tell you what he would do.
    • Signs of a reaction vary and may include:[14]
      • Tingling or itching in the mouth
      • Hives, itching or eczema
      • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
      • Wheezing or nasal congestion
      • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
      • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Signs of anaphylaxis include the symptoms above as well as the following symptoms which are life-threatening:[15]
      • Constriction and tightening of airways
      • A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe or talk
      • Shock (a severe drop in blood pressure)
      • Rapid pulse
      • Confusion, Anxiety or loss of consciousness
  4. Image titled Protect Kids with Food Allergies Step 17
    Teach her how to use her emergency medications. Teaching your child about taking emergency medications is a must when dealing with food allergies. An auto-injectable epinephrine medication, or EpiPen, is the most common and effective emergency treatment for food allergies.
    • Spend adequate time with the allergist and your child explaining how to remedy a bad reaction to a food.
    • Emphasize that the child should stay calm and to take the medication as directed.
    • In addition, review your child's plan of action and knowledge of medications a few times a year to ensure she hasn't forgotten what to do.
    • It's also essential to teach everyone in the family, school officials, and any close family members or friends.


  • Always talk to your doctor regarding any changes in food allergies or symptoms.
  • Ask your doctor or registered dietitian for information staying safe outside the home.

Article Info

Categories: Allergies and Immunization