11/30/23 blog post
tips to help your teen navigate their social life while living with allergies
There’s no doubt that the teenage years can be difficult when it comes to navigating middle and high school, making friends, playing sports etc. But it can be even more difficult for teens and tweens that suffer from food allergies. We sat down with Dayton Children’s chief of pediatric allergy and immunology, David Morris, MD, to talk about how parents can help their kiddo during this time.
“Children of this age are undergoing a lot of changes both physically and mentally due to puberty. These changes can make them impulsive in their behavior. At the same time, many of them want to “fit in” amongst their peers,” shares Dr. Morris. “This can cause them to ignore their food allergies and sometimes consume food which may cause a reaction.” For example, eating pizza at a gathering with friends.
Teenagers may also take more risks when they’re around friends. They may taste foods that they’ve never tried before and assume if there are no symptoms in their mouth that they’re fine to proceed with eating it. “Most teenagers do not want their peers to see their EpiPen so they will hide it or leave it at home,” explains Dr. Morris.
When it comes to dating, teens should make sure their dating partner is willing to accommodate their food allergies. This could mean avoiding the food when they’re together and making sure to brush their teeth and wash their hands before kissing and holding hands.
Playing sports also poses a risk of being exposed to food allergies. Someone with food allergies may not be able to share the same snack after a game or practice. And they should also ensure that teammates wash their hands before sharing any equipment as allergens can persist on surfaces. According to Dr. Morris, “Exercise can also induce food reactions so be careful not to accidentally eat a food allergy prior to practice or a game.”
three tips to help parents navigate their teen and food allergies
Dr. Morris provides several tips on how to help teens navigate this time in their lives while still enjoying all the social aspects and staying safe.
- Education is key! Prior to the teenage years, I recommend educating children about their food allergy. This includes how to use an EpiPen. Kids shouldn’t fear their allergy, they should respect it and know what could cause a reaction. Knowledge is power and will allow your child to navigate their food allergy as best they can.
- Normalize their lives as much as possible. Make sure your teens are able to participate in social activities. And if you’re worried about the snacks being provided, bring your own.
- Teach your kiddos to choose friends wisely. Kids should have friends that will embrace their food allergy. Their friends should be willing to be trained to use their EpiPen if needed and try different foods alongside their friend with allergies.
If you have questions about your child's allergies, talk to their allergist. Or if you think your child has allergies and needs to see a pediatric allergist, click here to schedule an appointment.