This week, I was lucky enough as a member of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, who do some amazing work, to attend their conference as part of my CPD. I got some delicious food as well so what could go wrong
I have been a nurse for years and spoken to many people with many medical conditions all of which can have an impact in some way. I think what is often overlooked or not discussed is the psychological impact of these often hidden conditions.
This was a whole conference dedicated to just that, the psychological impact. I heard first hand from a mum who had raised a child with severe allergies, as well as a young man who has grown up with them and it was fascinating.
There was talk of the co morbidities that often exist with allergies – rhinitis and eczema for example, both of which can have an impact on the sleep of a young person for a start. The knock on effect of this is of course struggling in school with extreme tiredness.
Then there is the social impact – never being able to relax when you take your child with allergies to a party or out for the day in case they inadvertently consume something they are allergic to, or come into contact with someone who has a trace on their skin – peanut oil.
The financial cost – food which is allergen free often costs more, and taking self catering holidays as many end up doing can work out much more expensive. Add onto this travel insurance – you will be charged a premium if you have had a recent allergic reaction – and the cost is mounting all the time.
The impact it has on the parents can be significant – more particularly the mum who is often tasked with the primary care along with the food shopping etc.
Finally sending them to school or nursery – parents experience the anxiety of sending their allergic child to school where they can no longer control what happens. Then children can face the chance of being bullied or excluded from certain activities if schools lack understanding. Another risk is an uninformed parent sending food in with their child which the child in question is allergic to. Even if you the allergy police are on duty this is something to be aware of.
Having said all of this it is important to put the risk into context while not negating the experience of the family in question. At some point the child in question will develop their own strategies for managing their condition and will communicate it in their own way with those who are important.
Schools can be of assistance by keeping staff training and risk assessment etc up to date and by being sympathetic to the concerns of parents.
Allergies can have a significant effect on family life but with the right support and approach it is possible for children to attend school and achieve many things in their life.
Below is a toolkit for both children and teenagers on managing allergies.
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