When a parent has to deal with a child’s potentially life altering illness, the stakes are raised. There are, however, excellent resources available to help parents navigate their children’s health challenges.

Disorders like type 1 diabetes and severe allergies are manageable when parents receive the information and coaching needed to help keep their children safe. Similarly, access to current literature regarding the safety of vaccines gives parents the tools they need to go forward with an inoculation plan. 

The biggest threats to children’s health and well-being are often not the diseases themselves, but the lack of information and support that can enable parents to properly prevent and manage them.

“Everyone should know how to spot the signs of an allergic reaction.”


Parents whose children suffer serious allergic reactions can attest to the grief such allergies can cause. The vigilance needed to keep their children safe can seem overwhelming.

“Everyone should know how to spot the signs of an allergic reaction,” says Dr. Susan Waserman, a professor of clinical immunology at McMaster University. By implementing a solid management plan, children with severe allergies can lead normal lives.

For serious allergies, parents should have an anaphylaxis action plan for home and school that details how to spot the signs of a severe allergic reaction and how to properly administer an epinephrine auto-injector.

For seasonal allergies like allergic rhinitis, parents should consult with their pediatrician about the use of medications for symptomatic relief, including runny nose, itchy eyes, and swelling.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is another challenging disease for parents because constant vigilance is required for the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels. But as in the case of severe allergies, effective disease management can allow children to live normal lives.

“Back in the day, people would check their blood sugar levels with urine strips. Today we can get better and more accurate readings,” says Dave Prowten, President of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

In fact, technological progress in insulin pumps and blood sugar sensors have made living with type 1 diabetes much easier. And the continued uptake of these technologies will increase afflicted children’s quality of life.


The decision to vaccinate children is perhaps the most important health-preserving one a parent can make. While vaccines are highly safe and effective against potentially deadly diseases, some parents continue to opt out of the regimen.

“What’s most important is learning why parents refuse,” says Dr. Noni MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics at Dalhousie University. “It’s usually one of three things: convenience, complicity or confidence.”

Addressing these concerns means educating parents about the strength of Canada’s vaccine safety system and why community immunity is so important.

“Between the years of 1900 and 1999, our life expectancy increased by 30 years. 25 of those 30 years are due to only three things: vaccines, clean water, and to a lesser extent, antibiotics,” MacDonald says.

Moving forward

As medicine and health technologies advance, the menu of health problems that children face will continue to gradually shift from deadly to manageable.

What remains most important is that parents stay informed about children’s health and the means to effectively manage diseases and conditions.