As parents of children with food allergies, we often come to the KFA Community when our kids are young. Someday, they will be teenagers and moving towards independent adulthood. But as teenagers, they are at a higher risk for fatal food allergy reactions. This is because of the way they are developing and the way they are thinking. Teens typically think they are immune to danger and are natural risk-takers. They also want to fit in with their peers and not appear different.
We know, though, that life-threatening food allergies and risk are not a good mix! What are some of the best ways of teaching teens about staying safe?
Some Canadian researchers went straight to the source, deciding to ask teens about how they liked to learn. They gathered 16 teenagers into small groups. The group included 11 boys and 5 girls. Most of the kids were about 16 years old. All were allergic to peanuts, and most were allergic to at least one other food.
Most liked a combination of learning styles. This meant both auditory (spoken to) and visual. When it came to methods, they liked both hands-on and online. They said they would prefer being able to learn on a mobile application – on their phone, for example. The teens also said they would like a small group leader who understood food allergies.
Sarah, a high school cheerleader, is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts
and manages Celiac disease.
The teens had questions about managing their food allergies day to day, just like their parents! These included questions about:
- Recognizing a reaction when it happens
- Staying calm when you got sick
- They also wanted more information about how to confidently communicate the details of their condition to others.
The researchers, from the Children’s Allergy and Asthma Education Centre located in the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital in Manitoba, Canada, noted that parents are the teens’ first teacher and the biggest influence. Some children have education sessions with doctors or nurses, but usually when they are younger.
As children become more independent, some go online to find medical information about their allergies. But this information may not always be reputable. This points to the need for more information just for teenagers. The teenagers want more discussion about food allergies, said the researchers, who plan to hold more sessions for teens at the hospital in 2015.
This research was published in the December 18, 2014 edition of the journal Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology.