How to help your child learn about their food allergy
Kids are diagnosed with food allergies at different ages. In many cases, a child will only know life with a food allergy and will grow up with it. As a child grows up, they will take on some of the responsibilities of managing their food allergy, starting with communicating they have one. Here we cover the big things you can teach your child to communicate. Remember most children have a limited vocabulary, so keep things simple and don’t get emotional.
Help your child understand how unsafe foods can make them very sick
Food allergies can make children very sick. Most children have been sick before with the flu or another cold that kept them from playing or going to school. They know this is not something they want for themselves or their friends.
Show your child how to recognize what they can and cannot eat
Use your trips to the grocery store as a time to identify foods that are safe to eat. Look at pictures online. As a child learns how to read, start looking at labels together. When kids are very young, some parents teach their child never to accept foods from adults that are not a parent. Other families have their children avoid all foods that are a certain color. This technique works better for some allergies like strawberries.
Teach your child how to communicate how they feel if they don’t feel well (aka have a reaction)
You know your child better than anyone else. You are attuned to their cues when something isn’t right. But as children grow up, they can learn how to communicate that feeling to adults. Think of age appropriate ways to explain allergic reaction symptoms to your child. Explain that if he or she ever feels this way to tell an adult immediately and they won’t be in trouble.
You say hives. Your child says: itchies, scratchies, bumps, spiders are crawling on me
You say airway closes. Your child says: my shirt is too tight around my neck, I can’t take a breath, my chest or throat hurts
Teach them to say what they need to say with confidence
Practice. Practice. Practice. And remember age-appropriateness here. Your child needs to remember to always ask before he or she tries a new food. Here are some good phrases to practice:
- I am allergic to x
- No x
- Is there x in this
Role plays are a great way to practice and build confidence.
Need more help? Daniel Tiger to the rescue, again!!
Did you know Daniel Tiger is allergic to peaches?! Dr. Ana helps us understand new rules, and there are great examples of how to talk to your friends. Here is a link to the Daniel Tiger episode.