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How To Talk To Your Child About A Food Allergy

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If your child has a food allergy and he or she is relatively young, you might not know how to explain to him or her that he or she can't eat what everyone else is eating. Your child might feel left out and not know how to process the information. Here are some tips to make sure that your discussion with your child about his or her allergies goes as smoothly as possible.

1. Categorize

If your child is extremely young, your first step needs to be to divide the foods that your child encounters into safe foods and unsafe foods. If your child eats something that he or she is not supposed to and remembers the incident, you can draw your child's attention to the fact that the food made him or her feel sick and is therefore unsafe. When you are at the grocery store, play a game with your child and quiz him or her on which foods are safe and which foods are not safe. This will make distinguishing between the two categories of foods fun and easy for your child. Finally, encourage your child to talk to other people, such as parents, about what foods are safe for them and what foods are not safe. This will help your child establish food boundaries at friends' houses and reduce the chances that he or she will fall ill.

2. Help Your Child Look at Ingredients

If your child is slightly older and is able to recognize words or read fluently, then you need to help your child learn how to read ingredient labels. Make sure that your child knows where they are and knows which foods are going to make him or her sick. Encourage your child to pick out two or three things at the grocery store each trip and to read the ingredient labels to see if they are safe or not. Also help your child recognize clues that a food might not be safe. For example, teach your child that any hummus is probably going to have chickpeas in it, if your child has a chickpea allergy.

3. Make Sure They Know What to Say to an Adult

Finally, give your child a simple phrase to say if he or she should start to feel sick as a result of something that he or she has eaten. This phrase could be something like "allergy attack." Train your child to the point where he or she is very comfortable with the phrase. Then, make sure that your child knows to say the phrase to an adult if he or she should feel ill.

For more information, talk to an allergy professional like Alidina Laila MD.