Food Allergy, Teens: The Danger Years
The approach he uses is from the school official’s perspective, but it works for a parent as well. Young has said in a friendly way to groups of at-risk students, “Guys, we can only do so much here. You’re 14, 15, 16, some of you are 18. I’m not going to walk around and hold your hand like we did in elementary school. We are not going to make a table in the cafeteria peanut-free and have you guys sit there because we know you don’t want to do that.
“At your age, ultimately, it rests on your shoulders. You know what you can eat, and what you can’t eat. You know that if you go through the cafeteria line, there are questions you have to ask. It is your responsibility.”
Ham Pong adds that as high school brings with it new friends, a parent should try casually making the new acquaintances aware of the allergy – in case the teen has been reticent to do so. Possibilities include ordering a pizza and mentioning that you’ve checked to find out that it’s peanut free or reminding a teen on the way out the door about his auto-injector.
As nothing is more important to teens than the opinions of their peers, friends can become allies in keeping your adolescent vigilant about allergies. Kathleen’s schoolmates won’t even let her eat a homemade sandwich in the cafeteria if she has forgotten her EpiPen in her locker. And her good friend Tessa has never forgotten how seriously ill Kathleen took from one tiny candy. “Sometimes when we go to eat someplace, I’ll say: ‘do you have it [the auto-injector]?’ But now, she always does.”
First published in Allergic Living magazine.
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