Coping with your toddler's food allergies - Part 1

Posted by Kath Megaw on 30/06/2015

Most common toddler allergies

The prevalence of food allergy in children between 0and 3 years of age ranges between 2.1% and 4.2%.  In 90% of cases, it is caused by 8 foods, namely cow’s milk, hen’s egg, soya bean, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.1-3  Most children only react to one or two foods but there are some children that react to several.  This can make it very tricky to ensure that they have a balanced and varied diet.

For young children in the toddler years, one of the most common allergens that can have the biggest impact on a child’s nutritional status is an allergy to cow’s milk proteins.  For toddlers the milk and dairy food group provides a significant percentage of protein, energy fat and calcium.  Eliminating this food group without providing suitable alternatives can put a child at risk of poor growth and micronutrient deficiencies.

There are however suitable dairy alternatives and appropriate dietary advice and support will ensure that child with a cow’s milk allergy has an adequate protein, energy and micronutrient intake.

 Challenges at parties, school, play dates

Parties are one of the great joys experienced by a toddler!  For many parents with children of severe allergies however, the thought of going to a venue where there is food freely available like at a party can be very frightening indeed.  Many parents will want to avoid the situation completely rather than putting their child at risk of accidental exposure to the allergen.  It however does not mean that children need to stay away from these special occasions. 

While children are small and do not understand the implications of eating an allergen more supervision is essential.  Preparation and communication are key to ensuring that a child’s allergy requirements are understood by all who are involved and that the child can also get to enjoy one of these great joys of being a toddler. Discuss with the host beforehand, the nature of your child’s allergy.  It is important that they understand the particular allergy, nature and severity of symptoms and treatment required in the event of a reaction, particularly if you are not going to be there. 

Make available suitable allergen free alternatives so that toddlers don’t feel left out.  It is important to ensure that the host understands hidden allergens and depending on the allergy and severity, the issue of cross-contamination.  It might mean providing separate plates, boxes or party packs – toddlers can be made to feel special rather than left out if they have their own ‘special’ party box.

Offer to provide alternative safe sweets or snacks for the party pack and for the party games. It is important that all carers are educated about the foods that need to be avoided including foods containing hidden sources of allergens.

Ensure that all carers involved are aware of the allergy and signs and symptoms of the reaction and what to do if the child reacts.  If your toddler will be left on their own with the host it is important that the host understand the allergy action plan and how to use the inhalers and or epipens.

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