What do food allergies have to do with running?

Photo by Kolleen Gladden

While admittedly I am not a runner, I regularly watch the Olympics.

I watch with amazement as the runners take off, run their hardest and pass the baton off to their teammate who then runs their leg of the race.  As a team,  they are determined, dependent upon one another and dedicated.

Unfortunately, the handoff is not always SMOOTH.  Sometimes the runners get bumped, tripped, fall, and even drop the baton.   They regroup, pick up the baton and finish the race.

This scenario makes me think about food allergies, I know probably a little random.

Hear me out.

As parents, we do what we can to prepare our children to live in this world with food allergies.

We learn about food allergies and teach our kids to manage their allergies in age appropriate ways.

Overtime, we will need to gradually and carefully PASS the responsibility over to them or PASS the baton to them to run their leg of the race.

Baton between mom and children with food allergies


Because they are not always going to be under our watchful and protective eye and at some point they are going to leave the “nest”.  When they do, we want them to be prepared to not only survive but thrive.

Just like with Olympic runners, this transition is not always smooth, quick or predictable.  

The transition is a process that may occur over many years and progress at different rates depending on you and your child.

The process is not perfect.

At times we will need to pick up the pieces and continue to move forward.  

As the mother of two sons with life threatening food allergies, a support group leader, physician, and food allergy advocate, I have had over 17 years of experience in dealing with the challenges of food allergies.  I have had my own Aha moments and realized the importance of teaching children and young adults how to manage their allergies.


Whether you are new to food allergies or a veteran, I hope the following 3 E’s to Empowerment will assist you in helping your children navigate the world with food allergies.


african mother and her son in doctor's office with doctor and nu

The 1st E is EVALUATION.  First you need to make sure that you are on the right track.  

Are you certain that your child has an IgE-mediated food allergy or perhaps another medical condition?

– Have your child evaluated by a qualified medical professional, often an allergist, which may include a history, physical examination, skin test, and blood tests.

Have your child evaluated by a qualified medical professional. Click To Tweet

-If your child is diagnosed with food allergies, you want to make sure that they have appropriate medical care and medication for treatment.

-Ask your medical professional to explain when and how to administer epinephrine.

-Obtain educational materials, including recommended online resources and/or support groups.

-Make follow up doctor appointments.

-Have an epinephrine auto-injector, or  prescription,  in hand when leaving the doctor’s office or called into the pharmacy.

-Get the prescription filled immediately.

-Have your child’s doctor complete an emergency action plan as soon as possible. (A 1 or 2 page document detailing how to treat your child’s allergic reaction depending on symptoms in addition to contact information which is available at Food Allergy Resource and Education (FARE), Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) and some schools).


Woman reading book to educate her children with food allergies
Photo by Anna Demianenko


Now that your child has been evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional, this brings us to the 2nd E which is EDUCATION.

-Learn food allergy basics including how to prevent, recognize and treat an allergic reaction.

Learn food allergy basics including how to prevent, recognize and treat an allergic reaction.Click To Tweet

-Resources include your healthcare provider, professional organization websites such as AAAAI, AAFA, ACAAI as well as food allergy organizations such as FARE, KFA and FAACT.

-Understand that epinephrine is the drug of choice for anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction.

-Learn to read labels looking for potential allergens.

-Consider attending food allergy conferences, subscribing to magazines or joining support groups.



Child with food allergies in sneakers with wings
Photo by amanda belec

Now that you have been educated about food allergies, it is time for the 3rd E which is EQUIP.

It is essential to equip your child in age appropriate ways with the proper education and tools to help them manage their food allergies.

It is essential to equip your child in age appropriate ways with the proper education and tools to help them manage their food allergies.Click To Tweet

Over time, they can take on more and more responsibility.

-First educate your child/children about food allergies via books, websites, conferences, specialty camps, CD’s or DVDs.

-Teach your child how to read labels and how to determine if a food or product is safe.

Model how to speak with restaurant staff and eat out safely.

-Help them assess consequences.

Role play various situations like respectfully declining food that might be unsafe.

-Encourage them to educate others, including their peers.

-Help your child to self- advocate.

Involve them in decisions.

-Show them that food allergies don’t define them.


Hopefully these 3 E’s will assist you in helping to EMPOWER your children and pass that food allergy baton a little more smoothly so that they can run THEIR race and safely explore this world and all it has to offer.

Children with food allergies at the finish line

I would love to hear from you!

Do you have an example of empowering your child?  Have any tools worked for your family? Please share in the comments below.


*There are many other lesson and tips that I’d like to share, based on my own experience and those of others.  If you are interested in diving deeper into this subject and discovering more tools to implement based on the developmental stage of your child, click here for an opportunity to continue the conversation.


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Empowering Children with Food Allergies: Passing the Food Allergy Baton

Leave a Reply

  1. foodallergymom

    Such great suggestions for those trying to help their families manage food allergies. It’s easier when our kids are young to do most everything for them, especially when managing any kind of dietary restrictions. However, I think it’s more important to figure out how to ‘pass the baton’ to them so they can learn to advocate and take care of themselves. In the big picture, we only have for them for a small portion of their lives. To survive successfully in this world, they must have the confidence to know they can take care of themselves because we won’t always be there by their side.

    1. Donna DeCosta Listing Owner

      So true, foodallergymom! It’s not always easy but we do need to help them take on that responsibility in age appropriate ways.