How much do I tell my 4 year old son?

Posted on: Fri, 01/07/2000 - 12:10pm
bakermom's picture
Joined: 11/30/1999 - 09:00

My 4 year old son has been told that he is allergic to peanuts. I tell him that he will get very sick if he eats any. I have felt strongly (up until now) that he is too young to know fully the danger. I felt it was my job to protect him until he can take responsibility for himself. My son's allergist was telling me that my son is the one who has to know the most about the allergy. He is the one who is ultimately in control of his own allergy. He's only 4. when and how, and how much have you shared with your young children? At 4, as you all know children can be defiant and impulsive. I have caught my son touching and eating things I have instructed him not to. He bit into a cracker and got hives, so I told him to stop eating it and gave him Benadryl. It was a cracker he had eaten a hundred times before, so he was used to it being safe. I'm not sure the hives were even from the cracker, but I had to be safe. He tried to sneak the cracker when I wasn't looking. I am with him most of the time, but that will have to change (unfortunately) in the near future. I would really like to know what you all think. I'm afraid to scare him.


Posted on: Fri, 01/07/2000 - 1:03pm
Renee's picture
Joined: 09/02/1999 - 09:00

My daughter is 4 and if asked what would happen if she ate peanuts she would tell you "I could die". She is always reminding adults to check the labels, but she will not trust everyone. It takes a lot for her to believe you if you say the food is safe. She trusts her preschool teacher, but reminds her to check labels, and watches to ensure she actually reads it. I am teaching her to read which will help her to check labels herself. I do not know if this was the best way, but it has kept her alive on more than one occasion. On other issues she is a loving trusting 4 year old, but when it comes to peanuts, thats a diffrent story. She even asks her friends what they had for lunch when they come over, and asks them if they washed their hands. On the down side she sometimes crys and says she dosent want to die, and pulls at her medic allert bracelet as though taking it off would change her allergy. I just assure her that I make sure she is always safe, and I remind her of the importance of reading labels, and reminding adults of her allergy.
[This message has been edited by Renee (edited January 11, 2000).]

Posted on: Sat, 01/08/2000 - 3:00am
Linda-Jo's picture
Joined: 07/30/1999 - 09:00

I try to keep my 4 yr. old daughter very informed of the dangers of her allergy. She often asks before she eats anything, "Any nuts in here, I can't have nuts." I also realized that because she was only 2 when she had her reaction, she had no idea what nuts look like! So, when we go to the supermarket, I show her the nuts, peanuts, etc. that are packaged so she can be familiar with them. She knows that she can become very sick if she eats them. Of course it's harder when they are hidden in things. They learn from you, and if they see that we are cautious, they learn to be as well. I'm not saying I leave it all up to her, but I try to include her when I'm reading the labels and show her that I check everything. Even tho she can't read yet, it alerts her to stop and at least ask before ingesting anything. I was told by a friend of mine who has a son who is 9 with this allergy, and now she is faced with the challenge of convincing him he will die if he eats peanut/nut because he doesn't remember what happened to him when he was little. It's like he's always been told "Don't eat this" but he doesn't know what would happen and wants to find out! Gee, something else to worry about as they get older!

Posted on: Mon, 01/10/2000 - 1:58am
Tina H.'s picture
Joined: 10/13/1999 - 09:00

Here's my two cents, for what it's worth. It is way to scary to tell a child that he will die if he eats a peanut. I believe they should be told that it CAN be life threatening, if they don't use an epipen immediately after a reaction. The truth is that most people do not die if they get immediate care and go to the hospital. Remember lots of people have this horrible allergy...many have accidental exposures and reactions, and very few die from it. We all know that it is possible to die from it, but how can we go through our lives thinking that the next reaction will mean automatic death? Anyway, I firmly believe that the kids must know what the worst possible scenario is, and they should be frightened enough to be extremely careful and to always carry the meds, but they can't grow up thinking they're going to die any second.

Posted on: Mon, 01/10/2000 - 5:11am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Tina,
My son is 5 years old and his initial reaction to peanut butter at the age of 10 months was full blown anaphylaxis...facial swelling, hives, eyes swollen shut and severe vomiting. My son has been told from the time we have taught him about his allergy is that he could die if he ingests peanuts. This is "his" allergy and we feel he needs to be fully aware of all the dangers his allergy presents so he can manage it to the best of his ability when out of our sight. I understand where you are coming from as children really don't have a concept of death, but the reality of it is, death could occur and we have been upfront with our son regarding the possibilities of this if he eats peanut products. (My son is also allergic by touch to peanut products). I hope what we have taught him and by using the term death is what will help keep him alive! We are very matter-of-fact with him and he conveys to people that he could die if he eats peanut products.
Stay Safe.

Posted on: Mon, 01/10/2000 - 5:18am
Tina H.'s picture
Joined: 10/13/1999 - 09:00

I agree with you. But the difference is that you used the words "could die" instead of "will die". To me, there is a big difference with those words. My daughter, too, knows that she could die if she ingests peanuts. That's why she won't ever go anywhere without her epipen. She knows that that will save her life.

Posted on: Mon, 01/10/2000 - 5:36am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Tina,
You're absolutely right..."could" and "would" is a big difference. I went back and re-read your post more slowly this time and sorry I misunderstood what you had said.
Stay Safe.

Posted on: Sun, 02/06/2000 - 10:01pm
cautious mom's picture
Joined: 03/07/1999 - 09:00

We have a 4 year old son with PA. We have know since he was 11 months old I believe.
Knowing early has help with his education as well as ours.
Jeffery is very frightened about his allergy, so we do not say "you could die" for fear of making him afraid to eat anything. We say "That would make you very, very sick and you would have to go to the hospital."
As Jeffery can still remember his worst reaction, during which epi was not given until reaching the hospital due to malfunction of ana-guard locking system, he is very cautious as to what he touches and eats. As he gets older he is able to control more and more of his allergy management.
Just our way of dealing with this acpect of allergy. I think each does what they feel thier children can handle. I'm sure that as he grows we will discuss the deadly danger of he allergy with him.
Jackie and Brian

Posted on: Mon, 02/07/2000 - 8:48am
CVB in CA's picture
Joined: 10/15/1999 - 09:00

My son is 4 and is pretty aware of his allergy. He vividly remembers how sick he got the last time, even though he was barely 3 and doesn't want to feel that way again.
He is a little too trusting that if there is an accident, "his medicine will make him all well again and that's why he has an allergy bag". I'd rather he had faith he can recover than think he will automatically die.
He doesn't really understand death, but he does understand hurt and sick. I'm sticking with the makes you "very,very sick" approach for now.

Posted on: Tue, 02/08/2000 - 4:07am
CB's picture
Joined: 01/17/1999 - 09:00

Hi All
I tell my 5yr old that she will die if she touches or goes near pb. She once said "mom I have my epi" I had to remind her that if no one was around to help she ill die. Then she asked me what it was like to be dead. I told her that if that happened that we would never play together , play in the sun, see her family ,get hugs, and presents at christmas. When ever i hear an ambulance i feel sick, as my daughter did go into anaphylatic shock at age 2. Death is a very unpleasant reality . I choose to remind her of what will happen especially going to school. I plan to have her around for a very long time. Take care

Posted on: Tue, 02/08/2000 - 1:16pm
Momma Kitty's picture
Joined: 04/04/1999 - 09:00

The Food Allergy Network puts out a great pamphlet called, "Letting Go... Teaching your child to take responsibility". It helped me come to terms with this issue of teaching my 4 y.o. daughter. I highly recommend getting it. It was also one of their topics at the '99 conference in California which I also highly recommend attending if near any of their conference sites! (Unfortunately, I have moved to the South and they don't come down here so I will miss out this year [img][/img]).
I too shielded my daughter from the bad peanut until I realized that education is the key. Being educated and aware could save her life. It's best to lay a trusting foundation now. Let her know it's her allergy and she needs to do everything she can to protect herself. (Of course, Mommy will protect and help her too). When she's a teenager she will do it because she knows she has to for herself not just because "mother says so".
Last summer we sat together, cut out pictures from magazines of all different nuts, peanuts, peanut butter and places where it's hiding. She glued the cut out pictures onto plain paper and then we stapled them together and made a "No Nuts For Me" book, by Christina Conger. It was a good learning experience and she felt proud of her work. She shows anyone who will listen. She also included her own drawings and a pictures of herself with hives and a frown. Her last page was a "happy" face becasue she knows by sight what to stay away from. Good luck.



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