Today, one in thirteen children has a food allergy. If you’re looking for child care jobs, it’s important to brush up on your food allergy awareness. Even if you don’t live with food allergies, there’s a good chance you’ve meet a family who does—or you will someday soon. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Begin With Empathy
Humans are social creatures and so much of our social lives revolve around food and eating. What can be joyful and enjoyable for some, is fear-inducing and exclusionary for food allergy families. If you’ve never had to work through the process of diagnosing and managing a food allergy with someone you love, take some time to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has.
Here are some resources:
- The Moms You Meet on the Playground podcast, Ep. 19 | Trusting Your Gut On Allergies
- Childhood Food Allergy Prevention Q&A with Lil Mixins Founder Meenal Lele
- University of Michigan: Personal Food Allergy Stories
- A True Trooper: Brooks’ Story
- Phoebe’s story: “No, because you have a food allergy”
As with every other part of the job, be ready to ask questions in order to thoroughly understand what you need to do to keep the child safe.
- Type | What exactly is the child allergic to? Does the allergen exist in any non-obvious forms?
- Severity | How bad of a reaction will they get from any amount of the food? Is there medication on hand to treat a reaction?
- Management | Does the child know how to identify foods that contain their allergen? Is the child familiar with what their reaction symptoms are? Does the child need help to administer medication if they have a reaction?
- Family Culture | Is there food containing the allergen anywhere in the home? Can the allergen be consumed by other family members? How familiar are the siblings with the allergy?
- Community | Are there playdate friends/homes that are allergy-friendly?
If you’re interested in being prepared to skillfully handle food allergies on the job, check out ChildCare Education Institute’s course, Food Allergies in the Early Care Setting. This course covers the major food allergens and how common they are in the US, how to provide a safe environment for children with food allergies, how to identify contact and airborne sensitivity, and the importance of food labeling and packaging.
Sittercity sitters get a special 20% discount off a year of courses, so start with Food Allergies in the Early Care Setting and keep going from there! In addition to this course, they have over 150 online child care training courses in English and Spanish that meet licensing, recognition program, and Head Start requirements.
Taking continuing education courses is a great way to build your credentials on your profile as well as having strong talking points in the interview process. CCEI offers the convenience of taking coursework from work, home, a library, or anywhere internet access is available, so they make it easy for you to learn at your own pace and around your schedule.