5 year old fear and anxiety about peanut allergy

My son is 5 and has a severe allergy to peanuts. He has recently become more aware of his allergy and the risks of peanuts which is good, but with that has come an increase in his anxiety around eating even foods that are safe, and his belief that he is having a reaction when he isn't.

Now he is afraid (screaming and crying) to go to pre-school out of fear for what the other kids will be eating around him at lunchtime, even when we know he is not near any foods containing nuts.

He has also had incidents, only recently, where he became convinced that he was having a reaction and got very upset about it. This has happened with a babysitter so now we're unlikely to be going anywhere without him until the fear is under control.

Does anyone have similar experiences or advice on how to handle this kind of fear and anxiety. We do not want to downplay the risks of his allergy but don’t want him living in fear all the time.

By kmn24 on Sun, 06-29-14, 22:22

I feel for you. My son is now 11 and has a class 6 peanut allergy with a history of anaphylaxis. He had his first reaction at 4 years old and went into shock after I missed peanut oil on a label when he was 5. He is also tested during his initial blood work to all tree nuts with the highest being hazelnut (class 5) and walnut (class 3).

It is a delicate balance of keeping them safe but managing their fear of food and food situations. When he was in elementary school he did sit at a separate table at lunch with a selected friend (whose lunch was screened). But he struggled with fear in food situations and when we were in the store and would pass peanuts he would be glued to my side. Once he was in Sunday school and the teacher, not realizing he had an allergy, had him smell peanut butter as part of an object lesson. I had to talk him down and actually give him some Benadryl to get him to calm down.

I actually enlisted the help of our allergist to have a frank discussion with him during our annual visit. We talked about what would possibly cause a reaction - would smelling it...what would touching peanuts do to him…is it OK to be around people eating peanut butter, etc. We went through the potential scenarios with the doctor and he patiently coached my son. He reiterated that my son should not ever eat or touch another person's food.

As he has gotten older, my son knows that he can keep himself safe by following the rules that we have set and by being vigilant around food. He still sits at a peanut free table at school but other kids who have self-policed peanut free lunches can sit there as well and I was happy that a boisterous group of his friends would join him daily. He has not isolated himself as much as he has gotten more confident. We still struggle sometimes but with frustration now more than fear.

As for growing out of it, I think that it depends on the kid. He was a class 6 at 5 and just got retested last year at 10 and is still a class 6. We have never done a skin test with tree nuts or peanuts because of his history so it is all blood work. I am not hopeful that he will outgrow it but perhaps there will be a therapy down the road that will make him less allergic.

Best of luck to you and your DS!

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By Hagginz on Fri, 03-28-14, 10:32

im 25 and ive been fatally allergic to peanuts/all tree nuts my whole life, and im gonna tell u right now, its a serious fear which can be heightened or lowered at different times. i still have anxieties about it and ive been in serious training since i could remember i neeeded to behave this way about food, around the age of your son. the only thing u can do is prepare the little fella without trying to scare him too much. some paranoia is going to come with the territory, but that is also a good thing. my parents were very great raising me, they talked to all my teachers and principals at the beginning of the year, met my friends parents and scoped the food situation and left snacks for me in case i didnt feel safe eating other places, teaching me what to stay away from, it's all in how you present the information, how he takes it is out of your hands. sorry i rant but i am very passionate about this as u can tell, it's serious. if you have any questions you can message me at any time

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By Theresa DB on Tue, 01-28-14, 02:22

I am a mom who has peanut allergy. Over the years I have overcome a lot of challenges with peanut allergy from going through elementary, high school, college and workforce not going to restaurants for breakfast, getting off the public transportation Bus because someone is eating a Peanut chocolate bar or not attending Christmas get together because of Christmas desserts and Christmas wishes that involve peanut butter breath hugs and kisses. Raising two children who only eat peanuts when visiting others or outside then the brush their teeth before kissing MOM Goodnight. Worried?? ANXIETY?? or Surviving environments that are potential painful and survivable??? . YES awareness and self conditioning is part of the challenge of living with a peanut allergy. My suggestion and what helped me was talking about my condition to people in my surrounding. If I meet someone new I let them know. Each new environment is a potential risk I carry Antibacterial wipes and I wash my desk everyday and every time I use a phone, I wash my own dishes and I don't shake people hands. I would suggest to give your child the skill and the habit of not eating anything elsewhere, he can bring home new foods and treats until he can learn to read the ingredients himself. Teach him to clean everything he touches when he is not home, his desk, if he borrows others toys, give him the antibacterial wipes as his shield teach him to use his shield from the rest of the world that could be exposing him to peanuts. I hope this is helpful. It works for me.

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