Educating a toddler about his allergies

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My younger son, Kevin, almost 2, is peanut, dairy, and egg allergic. His first and only reaction to peanuts was at 16 months and involved itchy watery eyes, swollen whites of eyes, eyes swelling shut, and hives. His symptons were quickly relieved with Benedryl, and I doubt he even remembers this. He's never reacted to dairy, and his reaction to eggs was a red flat rash he didn't seem to notice.

I'm wondering how I'm going to get him to take his allergies seriously without worrying him because he does like to eat and will try to "steal" food. My older son, Ben, almost 5 is milk allergic and he got very sick (vomitting) several times between 1 and 2 years of age, and I always could say "remember when you got sick". Ben has always been so good about understanding his allergy. I guess it helps that he was never much of an eater.

But Kevin's a whole different child. We have tried to make the house as safe as we can for him. My husband and I eat dairy occassionally and tell him he and Ben can't have it because it will make him sick. Ben eats Quaker oatmeal which we don't let Kevin have because I don't trust Quaker. Today Kevin said to me "can't have Ben's oatmeal, make Kevy sick" and I said "yes, you have food allergies and some foods may make you very sick" and he started crying. I told him Mommy makes sure he gets lots of yummy special things to eat that won't make him sick. He still sad. I know he's so young, and I really don't know what's making him sad, knowing there are some foods he can't eat (he loves to eat) or the idea of getting sick. I'm wondering if this is typical toddler reaction to their food allergy. Ben was just always so accepting and "grownup" about the whole thing.

If you have any advice on getting through to the younger child I would appreciate it.

Thanks, Marietta Mom to Ben, 5, dairy Kevin, 2, dairy, eggs, peanuts, treenuts, cat, dust

On Mar 31, 2000

Hi Marietta,

I am also trying to educate my 2 1/2 yr old and he just doesn't seem to get it. I don't want to go overboard and make him paranoid by always talking about it though. I wanted to tell you our boys have the exact same allergies (less the dust) And same reactions - nothing to dairy, with his test saying he IS positive and a flat rash when eating egg!

On Apr 1, 2000

Hi,

This is a tough age to educate, but all I can suggest is just keep talking to them about it. My daughter is now 4 and she is more aware about her allergy now than when she was at 2. Because she has never seen a real 'nut', when we go to the supermarket, I show her the nuts in the produce dept.(if your child is sensitive to airborne, I wouldn't get very close) and also the ones in the jars. I have also told her to not accept any food from anybody, even tho she might think it is a safe food that she may have eaten before because you can't always see or taste nuts. I kept her home from preschool when she was 3, just to make her aware of her allergy and wanted her to be a little older when it came to expressing herself. She is in preschool this year, and I've told her she cannot eat anything except what I send in for her snack and unless I tell her she can eat something else. I am fortunate that her preschool chose to go pnut/nut free. We also play little games, kind of like when you want to teach them about strangers. Children learn from you! If they see you asking about pnut/nut products in restaurants, they will be aware as well! I also got my daughter a MedicAlert bracelet, which makes her feel special and she often tells people "See, read my bracelet, I can't eat pnuts." Hope this helps!

On Apr 1, 2000

We're working on this same issue with our 20 month old. So far, the best things we've gotten for him are a medical bracelet; the books, "Allie, the Allergic Elephant" and "No Nuts for Me"; and the "Alexander" video. He loves to be read to, and always points to his bracelet when we get to the point in story about Allie or Noah's bracelet. Also, ever since he was born, whenever we come across a peanut in the store, on TV, in books, etc., we say something babyish like, "That has peanuts - yuck - make baby sick!" We do the same with household cleaners or any other poison, too. Hopefully, this will stick when he gets to be a little older.

On Apr 1, 2000

i have a 2 1/2 year old with peanut, egg and shellfish allergy. what has worked with him is to just tell him it has egg or nut in it and it is yukky for him. he has responded very well with this, repeating has egg in it. he gets hives and his eczema breaks out with his reactions. hope this will help you. it has been hard as his sisters do not have allergies and are just starting to bake and cook things. they are adapting very well to not using eggs in many things, but sometimes they like to have regular things!!

On Apr 3, 2000

My 2 1/2 yr old pa/egg allergic son asks me if everything is "okay for Alex". When we shop, I say "let's read and see if this is "okay for Alex". I made stickers with a picture he made in the computer that say "Okay for Alex" I sticker his snacks at daycare. His teachers tells me that some of his classmates question her too. One day she sliced bananas and apples and a friend was upset because there was no "sticker". What ever words Alex is using at the time for "sick" I will use, "ouchies", "tum-tum sick"....When he askes for a food that he cannot have I tell him "it's NOT okay for Alex" and he seems to accept it?" I try to tell him that any treat he sees I can MAKE okay for him. (cookies, cake, cupcakes, ice cream, pancakes, brownies...) I just keep repeating the words allergy, repeated reading labels for in front of him....I have no idea what he REALLY UNDERSTANDS, but I do know he's good about asking first if something is okay! Good Luck. Please post anything that helps.

On Apr 3, 2000

My daughter is now two and a half and had her first reaction to peanut butter at 16 months. She is in Day Care and one day when she was 18 mos old, took a Peanut Butter Ritz Bitz from another child. Since that day, I have drilled into her head that she cannot take someone else's food. I have taught her to tell people that she cannot eat nuts. One of her first phrases was "No Nuts" Some days she doesn't seem to get it at all and will have a tantrum because she wants to eat a chocolate which may or may not contain "traces of peanuts," or some unlabeled candy from a goodie bag. Most of the time she understands. I have shown her the peanut butter jar many times and she knows what the peanut butter smells like and that she should not touch it. She often asks "That has nuts, Mommy??" when she sees a food she does not recognize. I was surprised and relieved that she seemed to understand it so well.

On Apr 3, 2000

Your kids are certainly light years ahead of my 3 year old p.a. son. When I tell him that pb and pnts are yucky, he just laughs and starts singing the pbj song from the Barney videos he has. This is how I know what a profound effect videos and tv has on little ones. We no longer play the ones with pbj songs, but he still remembers them from watching them as a young toddler.

Does anyone else's 3+ child still not quite get the dangers of the allergy?

On Apr 3, 2000

dhumphries, I just read your reply to my post about mystery reaction and potty training. I was going to ask you if your son was slow to speak by any chance. This obviously has nothing to do with food allergies, but I wanted to let you know that my son is language delayed (receptive as well as spoken) and according to his speech therapist that is why his pottying is delayed. He has peed in the potty since about 3 1/2 but he is actually afraid to poop on the potty, thus we let him wear pull-ups because he is way too anxious if we try to make him wear underwear. (Sorry to Chris or others for adding this to the thread). This brings me to explaining his peanut allergy to him. He still doesn't get it. He is a young 4 and will be in a half day Pre-K program next year where he goes to preschool this year (they took peanuts out of the whole preschool for him this year!!yay!) so I don't have to face the lunchroom issue for another year. His slow language development scares me because he just wouldn't be able to fend for himself if someone gave him something he shouldn't eat. Fortunately he is a very picky eater and is slow to try any foods. Good luck with your son!

On Apr 4, 2000

Thanks so much to everyone for sharing what they do. It sounds like my son Kevin is pretty normal about not quite getting it. I guess I'll just keep plugging away. He still puts everything in his mouth. He tried to eat some dirt in our front yard a few days ago. He likes to collect treasures like berries, flowers, acorns when we go out and he's always popping things into his mouth. I'll be glad when we get past this phase.

On Apr 4, 2000

Hi Lisa,

Is there anyway you can e-mail so that we can discuss the delayed language development? You are describing my son exactly, yet my pediatrician says to wait until he is four to worry about it. I am afraid we are losing valuable therapy time with the wait until age 4 business. Well, don't want to take up too much space on the boards about this, so I'l look forward to your e-mail.

On Apr 6, 2000

I have a 21/2 pa daughter. Just recently we started showing her pictures of peanuts and saying YUK-GROSS-STINKY, then we tell her that peanuts are no good for Greta. Peanuts will make her sick. She has definitely picked up on it because I overheard her telling her 4 year old friend"peanuts are not good for Greta". I was and still am thrilled!! We haven't even begun with cross contamination issues yet!! Just take it slowly. Good luck!

On Apr 18, 2000

My son has no memory of Peanut reaction. he was diagnosed at 14 months by blood test. he had hives on first exposure at around 12 months. My son is allergic to most foods. The only foods that are not confusing to him are peanuts, chocolate and eggs. he can identify these. He knows to ask people to check ingredients (though now I am the only food preparer) He is confused by the ones he cannot see, like wheat, soy, dyes etc. I still do not expect him to be responsible for his own safety, he is only 4. Four year olds still run out into the road even though they "understand" the danger. I try to teach and comfort, and eventually he will take the ball himself...when he is mature enough.

On Apr 18, 2000

My 2 year old son just had his first skin test yesterday and tested positive for peanut. His reaction was to peanut butter at 14 months and again at 18 months, just a mild rash around his mouth. The other day he asked me to make him a p.b. and jelly sandwich... saw it on Barney. I tried to tell him that he cannot have p.b., it will make him sick. He does not understand this. He will try to eat anything he can get his hands on. He is starting preschool in the fall, and I am very worried about him accepting food from another child. I do not know how to explain to him (without frightening him) that he has to be a picky eater. He hasn't had a reaction to anything else, and the p.b. reaction he had was so mild, he doesn't even remember it. He loves to try new things and I am petrified that once he "ventures" out into the world (preschool), he may eat something he shouldn't. Any advice? Thanks!

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