For adults it’s usually easy to explain how we are feeling, we can say exactly what hurts or what doesn’t feel right, but for children, especially younger children/toddlers, describing symptoms can be difficult.
This is especially true when a child experiences an allergic reaction. Terms such as swelling and tingling aren’t in a child’s vocabulary, often a child will try to show what they are feeling using hand gestures like grabbing at their skin or itching. If they are experiencing tongue or throat swelling they may be unable to close their mouths or may stick out their tongue.
When it is so difficult for a child to explain how they are feeling, how do you explain to them what might make them feel that way? Theo has a multitude of allergies with varying symptoms, and at 3 years and 8 months he is only now really starting to pay attention to food ingredients and uses terms like ‘I’m so itchy’ and ‘My tummy hurts’. If you’re a parent of a child with allergies you probably feel like your constantly telling others what your child can/can’t have, your probably tired of repeating yourself, but it is vital that a child learns about their allergies and the kind of reactions they have. Before we know it they are off to school/nursery and will have to communicate their dietary needs themselves.
Visual aids are a great way to educate children – images such as the one above require little explanation and are straight forward. Images like this are easy to find on the internet and can be printed and laminated for repetitive use. Always remind your child never to take snacks from anyone other than their parents or another trusted adult.
Of course as parents of children with allergies we have to check the ingredients on absolutely everything. Theo cannot yet read, but when in the supermarket I always give him the package to look at to reiterate the importance of checking. Ingredients often change without warning.
An allergic reaction, especially anaphylaxis, is scary even for adults. When an allergic reaction occurs it’s important to try to appear calm. When your child is experiencing an allergic reaction it is gut-wrenching, but by appearing calm your child will remain calm.
Allow your child to be present when you are being Epi-Pen trained, making sure to talk them through it, explaining what the Epi-Pen does and why it may be required.
Here are some children’s books that explain allergies –
- Freddy Meets Nutmeg.
- Freddy Meets Ginger.
- The Princess & The Peanut Allergy.
- Humfree The Bee Has A Food Allergy.
- My Zoo Adventure (Dairy Free!)
Allergy Adventures also provide some fab resources.
For advice/guidance on teaching your child about allergies please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.