Teenagers tend to spend more time outside the home and take more of a lead in managing their food allergies. At the same time, they face increased pressure to fit in with their peers. Some teens engage in risky behaviours, such as not reading labels, knowingly eating foods that could contain their allergen or not carrying their epinephrine auto-injectors when they are out with friends. These behaviours increase the risk for life-threatening allergic reactions.
For those with children not yet in the teenage years, it is vital to practice allergy management routines early on. This enables children to gradually develop the skills and confidence needed to manage their food allergy. Knowing some of the specific challenges in the teen years can be useful when educating and empowering children for the future.
Follow these tips to help them confidently manage their food allergy, no matter which situation they are in!
Empower your teen to take an active role in managing their allergy
- Encourage your teen to ask their allergist/doctor questions about managing food allergy in various situations.
- Make sure your teen knows how to use an epinephrine auto-injector.
- Suggest trusted resources for them to read and watch.
Encourage your teen to tell their friends about their food allergy
- Friends need to know about your child’s food allergy in the event of an allergic reaction. They should be able to recognize symptoms of a reaction and know what to do in an emergency.
- Allergy management will become a routine for friends too and will not be “a big deal” if they are educated. They can take our free AllergyAware.ca online course for the community, which is meant to educate family and friends. This course is interactive and mobile-friendly, and has won awards for innovation.
- Teens can connect with other teens living with food allergy by joining our Youth Advisory Panel.
Help your teen plan ahead for social situations
- Gather menus from popular restaurants. Encourage them to practice making good choices and informing restaurant staff about food allergies, and call ahead to find out about safe options.
- Problem-solve with your teen about how and where they will carry their epinephrine auto-injectors.
Talk about alcohol and drugs
- These substances affect a person’s judgment. Explain to your teen that if they are under the influence, they will have difficulty making clear decisions or recognizing symptoms of a reaction.
- Common allergens can be found in alcoholic beverages (e.g. Amaretto liqueur includes almond, beer contains wheat) and drug-filled products such as brownies, milkshakes and other baked goods.
Talk about dating and relationships
- Give your teen the facts about food allergy and dating, even if the topic is uncomfortable.
- Suggest ways to tell a partner about food allergies.
- Make sure your teen knows that kissing can cause an allergic reaction if someone has eaten an allergenic food up to several hours before a kiss.
- Make sure your teen feels comfortable suggesting restaurants that are good choices for them (for example, restaurants that you have checked out together) or speaking up if they think that a restaurant is a risky choice.
- Suggest to your teen that both meals (your teen and their date’s meals) should be allergy-safe. This is especially important if teens will be kissing.
Encourage open communication
Let your teen know that you are open to all questions and want to know how they are feeling. Allow your teen to talk about “rule breaking” without the risk of punishment.