Don’t Go Nuts – Educating and Empowering Children with Allergies

It ranks in the top ten of every caregiver’s worst nightmares: your child eats a new food and has an allergic reaction. Their reaction could be mild or it could be severe. No matter what the allergen or reaction, every child deserves to understand what they are allergic to and what they can do to keep themselves safe.  

The most common food allergies include milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts (e.g., almonds, pecans, walnuts), peanuts, wheat and soybeans (FDA, 2018). These cause an immune mediated reaction, meaning the body will overreact to a food your child’s immune system sees as a threat. A food intolerance is not the same as an allergy. Though they can both cause discomfort, a food intolerance occurs when the digestive system is unable to breakdown food while an allergy can be life threatening and must be addressed by a physician or allergist (AAAI, 2020).  

While there is no cure for food allergies, there are treatment options with potential to reintroduce food in a doctor’s officeA treatment plan will be created by an allergist or doctor which will often involve avoiding the allergen and any food containing it. The best way to avoid an allergen is to read food labels and search for foods that do not contain it (Kidshealth, 2020).  

With all of this information at a caregiver’s finger tips, it’s important not to forget the most important part of this allergy diagnosis: your child! Even though most parents and teachers will be responsible for managing food allergies when children are this young, it’s never too early to begin education for a child on their food allergy. 

Here are some fun, educational websites for introducing the topic of food allergies to your kiddo.  

  1. PBS Kids If your child is a fan of the show “Arthur,” they can watch character Binky have an allergic reaction and watch him step up to manage peanut allergy. This is the episode titled “Binky Goes Nuts” . See here for allergy games and activities. 
  2. Sesame Street Sesame street offers great resources for children with asthma, and advice on eating well. They’ve also made a great video on the term “allergic” using dogs, chicken and shellfish.  
  3. Kids with Food Allergies – Find these resources and more through the Kids with Food Allergies website through the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America 

We hope these resources can help get your family started on tackling a food allergy head on. If you are looking for additional tips on meal planning, grocery shopping and diet substitutes, email me here to see how nutrition services can help your little Blue Bird.  

Audrey R, RDN, LDN, audreyroen@bbdprogram.com  

Sources: 

AAAAI 2020

Kid’s Health 2020