4 Ways to Raise an Allergy-Savvy Child
Luqman Seidu, MD
When your child has severe allergies, there's a lot you can do to help him avoid anaphylaxis, a dangerous allergic reaction. Work with your child and with the friends, family members, and other adults who are part of his life to manage his allergies and, in turn, make anaphylaxis less likely.
How to Help Your Child
Get an early start. The sooner you begin, the better. If you have a 2-year-old with a food allergy, encourage him to check with you about what he puts in his mouth. "Ask him to do this, even if he doesn't get it right every time," says Christine Szychlinski, manager of the Food Allergy Program at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
"We start teaching children what foods they're allergic to at 3 or 4 years of age," says allergist Paul V. Williams, MD, of Northwest Allergy and Asthma Center in Mount Vernon, WA.
Make it less about discipline and more about learning. Start as soon as your child is diagnosed, Szychlinski says.
By the time children reach school, Williams says, children should know:
- Their allergy triggers and what they can't eat
- To not accept food from anyone other than their parents
- To not eat foods they aren't sure about
- Anaphylaxis symptoms
- How and when to call for help
Model a "can-do" attitude. How you react to your child's allergy will set the stage for how he responds, Szychlinski says. Sadness, anger, and frustration are normal, but if that's all your child sees, his allergy may become a burden.
"Kids need to accept this as a normal part of life," Szychlinski says. It may help to bring your child to school meetings where you discuss your child's allergy with teachers, nurses, or administrators. But if you do that, make sure you set a positive tone. Don’t portray the allergy as a problem.
Rehearse and remind. You can also help your child by role-playing. Act out what he should do if he starts to have an allergic reaction.
You’ll probably have to remind your kid about anaphylaxis symptoms from time to time. Don’t scare him, but make sure it’s not "out of sight, out of mind."