Children living with a food allergy – advice for parents

Paediatrician and Clinical Fellow at Bupa UK
05 December 2016

Food allergy is becoming increasingly common in children – one in 12 young children are now living with one, and they seem to be getting more common.

Although many children outgrow their allergy by the age of five, some allergies can last a lifetime. This will bring about challenges for both you and your child, therefore it’s important as a parent to teach your children how to live with a food allergy.

Two young boys sat at the table eating doughnuts and juice

New challenges

Receiving a diagnosis that your child has a food allergy can be upsetting and worrying. There will be challenges to overcome and you’ll need to consider lots of things you probably haven’t had to in the past.

You may need to adapt your food shopping and cooking, which will be a change for the whole family. You’ll also need to explain about your child’s allergy to their school, friends and leaders of any clubs your child attends. It’s equally important that both your child and the key adults in their life understand that an allergy could be serious, unless it’s managed correctly and consistently.

It might take some time initially to work out which treatments are most effective and how best to avoid any symptoms in the first place. Therefore, be sure to keep everyone who is key in your child’s life up to date with the best way to manage their allergy.

Nursery, school and activity clubs

If your child goes to nursery or school, it’s very important that teachers and staff are aware of your child’s allergy and how to manage it. It can be very helpful to have a clear allergy management plan that both your child’s school and you have agreed to.

This should include the following.

  • What type of allergy your child has (eg nuts, milk, eggs).
  • The signs and symptoms that your child may show if they have an allergic reaction.
  • What to do in an emergency and details of any medicines that your child should be given.

Make sure the school or nursery keeps any medicine your child needs and the management plan together in an easily accessible place that all staff are aware of.

Make copies of the management plan to give to the key adults at  activity clubs or parties that your child may go to.

Key points to discuss with your child

Most of the time, your child will be able to lead a completely normal life and will rarely run into any problems, as long as their allergy is managed properly and trigger foods are avoided. Here are some key things to discuss with your child and other members of your family.

  • Talk to your child about what they are allergic too, which foods might contain that ingredient and alternatives they can eat. The more they understand, the safer it is for your chid when they’re not with you.
  • Depending on the age of your child, reading and understanding food labelling might be challenging. Still, make time to explain about food labelling when they are old enough. Organisations such as Allergy UK have lots of information about food labelling if you’re unsure yourself. Or ask your child’s dietitian.
  • Explain to your child, as well as carers and teachers, about what to do if he or she has an allergic reaction. Keep an allergy management plan with any medicines they need to take in a safe, accessible place.
  • If your child is at risk of having a severe reaction (such as anaphylaxsis) it’s important that both your child and those who care for them are trained in how to deal with it. Support your child if they are curious and want to know more – there are also many groups that can offer guidance and advice.

Most importantly, remember that you and your family are not alone. If you’re unsure of what to do, or if you’re concerned about a new allergy, see your GP, your specialist or dietitian, or contact an allergy organisation for support.


If your son or daughter is diagnosed with a food allergy, you, your child and your family will have to go through some adjustments and changes to manage it. However, once a new routine is established, there’s no reason why your child can’t have a completely normal childhood. Just take a few simple precautions, and encourage your child and those who care for them to learn about allergies. Then let your child enjoy meal times and snacks, like any other child.

Dr Edward Gaynor
Paediatrician and Clinical Fellow at Bupa UK

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