Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Allergy Education - when to start

When dealing with young children with food allergies, we need to educate the adults who are around them, but we also need to educate our young children. At what age should we start teaching our kids about their allergies? Do we want them to feel different?

We have two boys with multiple food allergies, now 3 and 6 years old. Do we want them to feel different? No, but the truth is, they are different. Pretending that they are not, is a recipe for disaster, especially when dealing with anaphylaxis. However, teaching them about their food allergies need to be done in a balanced and an age appropriate manner.

If you are unsure about where to start, or what would be appropriate to teach your child, here are some guidelines we have used. Keep in mind, that every child is different, and the age and stage will vary with the individual.

The age at which you choose to introduce them to their Epipen, and other medications is up to you. The age at which you choose to teach them that their allergies not only make them sick, but can be deadly is a very personal decision. I have not included these aspects in this diagram because I do not feel comfortable suggesting an age for this. Our oldest son practiced using an expired Epipen at the age of 3. He was able to understand a lot of his medical needs at a very young age. At the age of 6, he now knows that his allergies can be deadly. We discussed this by reading an article about a boy who was of a similar age who died from undeclared dairy in a coconut product. I will save those details for another post.

If you are hoping that your child grows out of their allergies by the time they reach school, that is completely natural. But allergy education needs to start as early as possible to make it a way of life, and not an imposed restriction that your child comes to resent. If your child no longer has food allergies when they are at school, you will have prepared them to be the most understanding friend to another child with food allergies. Wouldn't that be great?

Our child is not "the allergy kid". Our child is Matthew, a boy who loves the trampoline; a boy who loves Pokemon and bike riding; a boy who has allergies to milk, eggs and nuts but loves eating chicken, tomatoes and fresh peas.

If you'd like know more ways to educate your child in a balanced and age appropriate way, please check out our book Allergy Fun.


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