< 1 min read
Many kids have allergies or other health conditions. As parents we all do our best to make sure that our children’s teachers and the parents of their friends are aware of these – but there is always a chance that this information slips through the cracks (for example when a substitute teacher takes a class).
We all teach our kids important information such as their address and the phone number of a trusted adult, but what health information do you think it is important for them to know?
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As a school nurse and a person who has to advocate for myself due to food intolerances, I advise that children should be very aware of their health considerations which require daily diligence for safety and health.
Thanks to wise parents, many kindergartners coming into school with food allergies are already quite aware of what they should not eat and know to advocate for themselves daily. That does not mean that the staff should be unaware and not be able to help out with food decisions. But having an extra layer of knowledgable persons (the child) keeps optimal health under control.
I have noted that although children with food allergies are very well informed, children with other health problems are not adequately prepared or knowledgeable about their conditions. Health problems such as asthma may be overlooked by parents when educating their children about ways to control and treat their condition. Applying simple health measures such as slowing down when overly active, taking a drink of water, and reporting shortness of breath comes as a surprise to many young asthmatics.
In my opinion, knowledge is safety when educating children about their health conditions. Learning what their health condition is called, how to recognize symptoms, what to do if they have had symptoms, and how to avoid making the condition worsen are all vital points to cover when educating your child about their health issues.
I strongly agree that kids should know how to take care of themselves. In certain conditions it is crucial that children know about things dangerous for them.
I think it is imperative that kid is apprised about his/her medical condition. Important thing is to explain things in an age appropriate way.
I know many kids who have epilepsy, dietary allergies or other health problems. Educating children about their medical condition and collaborating with the school is a constant struggle.
I know a 5 year old girl who has gluten intolerance. Her parents avoided eating regular food in front of her so she could develop a taste for gluten free diet. Once she entered the school, it became more challenging because her classmates were bringing in all type of food as lunch. Parents collaborated with the teacher and invited a nutritionist in their class. She explained to kids how certain type of food can be injurious for kids having certain allergies. She used puppets and videos to educate the kids. This strategy really worked in given scenario.
You can also use age appropriate videos and stories or can take help of a professional to make your kid aware of his/her medical condition.
I agree that I think it's important for kids to understand their own medical conditions at an early age. I have seen a lot of handy tools, too, that would be great for younger ones or kids that might not be willing to speak up. For example, I saw rubber wristbands for kids the other day that had "nut allergy", "asthma", etc. written on them. I thought this was great for when they might be in a large crowd or around people that might not know them.
Kids absorb so much and they take note when we put an emphasis on important details like their own specific health needs. The more we talk about it when they are younger, the more comfortable they will be sharing this information with people outside of their comfort zone. They also pay attention to their friends and their needs. My son is always catching me when I put something that isn't nut-free into his lunch, watching out for his buddy who's allergic.
This is a very real worry for many parent...especially those who have children with severe allergies and anaphylaxis. I think it is always a good idea to teach your child as much as possible about their allergies, medical conditions and needs and encourage them to be confident in speaking up when needed. Knowing their own address and phone number is certainly important but its good to help children to become confident in sharing any other important information that relates to themselves. It could be simple things such as 'I am sensitive to smells' or more complex things such as 'I have diabetes'. For children who are less confident to speak up, you could place an information booklet in their school bag for them to produce and show others if the need arises.