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How Children Describe Allergic Reactions

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A young food allergic child is unlikely to say, “My throat is swelling and I’m having difficulty swallowing - I think I’m having an allergic reaction.”

Because they must communicate with us via their child-size understanding and vocabulary, children have a unique way of describing physical discomfort, especially when it is a new experience.

So, if your child is at risk for an allergic response it is important to remind yourself, the grandparents, teachers, babysitters, siblings, and other relevant individuals how a child might describe their allergy symptoms.

Kids Describing Reactions

Here are several examples, put together by Food Allergy Research & Education, of phrases a child might use to describe a food reaction.

  • This food is too spicy.
  • My tongue is burning (or hot).
  • It feels like something’s poking my tongue.
  • My tongue (or mouth) is burning (or tingling).
  • My tongue (or mouth) itches.
  • It (my tongue) feels like there’s hair on it.
  • My mouth feels (or tastes) funny.
  • There’s a frog in my throat.
  • There’s something stuck in my throat.
  • My tongue feels full, or heavy.
  • My lips feel tight.
  • It feels like there are bugs in there (description of itchy ears).
  • It (my throat) feels thick.
  • It feels like a bump is on the back of my tongue (throat).

Other Indicators

Very young children may not use any words to indicate their symptom distress. Instead, they might pull on or scratch their tongue, put their hands in their mouth, or tug at their ears. Changes in the pitch of a child’s voice, or sudden hoarseness, are other possible signs of a food reaction.

Being aware of how children might communicate their symptoms - and having an emergency care plan at hand - caregivers can reduce the time between symptom onset and the administration of doctor prescribed treatment.

Source: Food Allergy
Photo credit: Merrimack College

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