About six million children in the U.S. have food allergies while 75% experience fear and anxiety associated with their allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Those staggering statistics are the reason why Dr. Rania Nasis founded Super Awesome Care, a comprehensive healthcare platform focused on providing the best food allergy support for kids and families by offering guides, care and specialist teams.
“Food allergies impact every aspect of a family’s life,” Nasis said. “Unfortunately, many are left feeling alone. And they need more than just a doctor — they need support with nutrition, education, tools and even mental health.”
Nasis said food allergies among children have risen in recent years with experts estimating that peanut and tree nut allergies have risen three times from 1997 and 2008 and all other allergens have been on the rise as well.
Today, the top nine allergens among children are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy and sesame, she said.
“Almost any food can cause an allergy — over 170 have been noted to cause a reaction,” Nasis said.
Some children can even have allergies to toys, such as arts and crafts.
“Play doh, for instance, can be a problem for kids with a wheat allergy,” Nasis said. “Everything from chalk to crayons to finger paints can have hidden allergens. The younger the child is, the harder it can be as they put objects, including their hands, in their mouth all day long.”
So, how can parents and other caregivers help their children cope with food allergies?
“The best way parents can help is to ensure their kids can take part in all the kid stuff, safely,” Nasis said. “Rather than keeping their kids from taking part in things like birthday parties or school activities, find ways to work with the school and other parents to create a safe environment. It can be daunting work — it helps to identify allies in your community that can advocate for your kid even when you aren’t there.”
Nasis also recommended that adults teach children to be advocates for themselves.
“For instance, while a young child may not be able to understand what an allergy is, you can teach them to only accept foods from certain approved adults,” she said. “You can teach them to never leave the house without their auto-injector, even if they don’t fully understand what it is.”
In terms of bullying, adults can help children cope with negative comments by encouraging open communication.
“Making sure a kid knows what bullying is and what to do about it,” Nasis said. “And making them feel comfortable telling an adult when it happens. You can even role play ‘what if’ scenarios to practice different responses. Or ask them what they would do if a friend was being bullied.”
Nasis also encouraged parents to be aware of signs of bullying such as physical changes like bruises, torn clothes or damaged property. Behavior changes caused by bullying may include sadness, loss of interest in doing things they previously liked, and emotional outbursts.
“Frequent headaches or stomach aches, declining grades or any excuse to avoid going to school can also be signs,” Nasis said. “Bullying is often a result of ignorance on the part of the bully. Talk to the school administrators and teachers about providing food allergy educational programs.”
However, the biggest way to tackle bullying surrrounding food allergies is awareness, she said.
“We need more general awareness of food allergies and their consequences, which can be life threatening,” Nasis said. “Let’s teach kids how to be allies to their friends and classmates with food allergies. And let’s help parents model welcoming, empathetic and inclusive behavior for their kids.”
For more information about Super Awesome Care, go to superawesomecare.com.
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