Parents of Children with Food Allergies

Updated on June 18, 2013
K.L. asks from Fort Stewart, GA
11 answers

I have a 2 1/2 year old who has food allergies. He is allergic to milk protein and must also stay away from peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish until age three. According to his lab tests, his milk allergy is diminishing with strict avoidance, which we are very grateful for!

For those of you with children who have food allergies, how do you teach them to deal with it? My son already will say that certain foods have milk or nut in them, and tells me that cheese will make his tummy hurt, but he needs to learn not to eat ANY food unless mom or dad say it is ok. I guess this is a good rule for all children to learn, not just those with allergies! I know I can just tell him, but I also know he is only 2 and does not fully get it. Any tips would be appreciated! I am particularly worried about things that are not necessarily thought of as dairy products (an example would be bread . . . so many have milk in them and others do not, or steak at restaurant that has been brushed with butter for flavor).

He is getting older and we are going to more functions that have food spread out. Even at the library, the kids were making popcorn necklaces after reading books from Laura Numeroff and my son had to sit that craft out. I do say not the put things in his mouth, but 2 year olds do not have the total self control required to NEVER put things in their mouths! I have also made him some homemade cookies that her can eat, and now that he has had cookies, he gets really excited when he sees treats at parties or other functions (I do try to have an alternative for him!). When we go visit family, we make it clear to the adults about his food allergy, but still end up reminding them not to give him food because milk is a sneaky food that is hidden in a lot of things! It would be great if my son would just say "Let me check with Mom and Dad first," but he is still young so I am looking for ways to help him remember the rule.

Thanks for reading!

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answers from Los Angeles on

It takes a lot of work on your part, but the key is just keeping everyone around you as educated as you can, and always having alternate foods available. We also avoid dairy & nuts 100%, and mostly avoid eggs too (only recently can he start eating certain things made with eggs). So I totally get where you're coming from, especially with the dairy that is hidden EVERYWHERE!

If you know you're going to a party or family function, call and ask about the menu in advance. That way, you can be prepared to bring whatever alternative items you need. You'll also know how much, if any, food at the party will be safe for him. When my son (who just turned six) is invited to a party, I always ask the mom a few days before what they're serving. I bring him his own pizza, sandwich, hot dog bun, cake, etc - whatever is needed so he can essentially have the same food as everyone else. Most of his friends have been in our lives for a few years now and they actually know his allergies well, and have been happy to accommodate him whenever possible, without me even asking. It's really nice.

Don't ever assume that someone else has read the label on an item properly unless they also have allergies in their own family. People don't realize to look for words like whey or casein. You have to be vigilant.

And with your son, whenever you are around food served by others, make a point of reminding him "you have allergies. let's check if this is safe for you. we can't eat it unless we know for sure." He'll start to understand that he has to wait for your approval. When you arrive somewhere, make sure you tell the other moms (or the librarian, or whoever is in charge) that he has allergies and not to feed him without your permission. Always say to your son when you arrive, "remember, don't eat anything unless mommy gives it to you. otherwise, you'll get sick." It's true that the other adults won't realize it, so you have to tell them that dairy hides in things and they can't just assume something is safe.

It does get easier, and it sounds like you're lucky in that he's outgrowing it some. My son's dairy and peanut allergies are still really high, so we don't know if he'll ever outgrow them. Fingers crossed.

Whenever my son is going somewhere new or playing with a new friend, I generally tell the parents that fresh fruit is fine to give him but absolutely nothing else. Usually I'll send a snack or two if I think he'll need it.

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answers from Honolulu on

How severe... is his "milk allergy?"
For example: does it cause a sore tummy? Or a very bad reaction in which he requires an EPI pen, and he can't breathe etc.?
Is his milk "allergy" an intolerance, or an allergy?
Then: does he have to, avoid even that steak for example, that may be brushed with butter? Versus, avoiding eating a chunk of cheese or actually drinking, a cup of milk?
What I am getting at is: everyone is different. I have a sibling that is intolerant/allergic to milk. So she avoids dairy products. Such as: yogurt, or cheese, or drinking milk. But she CAN eat things with butter or sauces, and she CAN eat bread, etc. Because, the degree of a reaction... that a person gets as a result of ingesting "dairy", can vary. In severity or not.
So the point is: learning to gauge.... your son, gauging his reactions to food ingredients, and learning that. And he learn it too.

Also, your son is 2. And although he sorta knows that he is allergic to Dairy and it makes his tummy sore... you also teach him to speak up... about it and how to say it, to others. Because, as he gets older you will not always be with him, at places. He is 2, and he can learn this.
When my daughter was that age, she got allergic to a fruit, and she would say to people "I can't eat/drink that..." or "I'm allergic to Kiwi...."
And any forms or paperwork per school, and to the Teachers, we clearly noted that down.

Or, carry around a Doctor's note, on you, about his allergies. That way, if anyone doesn't believe you, then you SHOW them the Doctor's note. ie: to relatives etc., who may push foods on him.
But you cannot expect, complete 100% perfection.
But again, it depends on the degree or severity... of his allergy.
For example, as I said, my sibling CAN, when she really craves something, she will eat something with dairy in it. Such as a dessert. But she KNOWS that her stomach MAY ache after. But she does not have a life-threatening reaction, to dairy. It just causes sore stomach and/or very rarely, diarrhea. She knows that.

And as you said, your son's reaction to dairy, is diminishing with age.
So that's good.

Then, per his Nut and Shellfish allergies... these typically cause more or different allergic reactions. Does he need an EPI pen for those????
You can ALSO: get a kiddie "medical bracelet" for him... which indicates "Nut and Shellfish Allergy" on it. There are many of these products online. Search for one. This is also a preventative and proactive thing... that you can do and get for your allergic child. Being he is so young.
And teach him, that when he is at places, to SHOW the adults/teachers, his medical bracelet. If you are not there.
AND if he requires an EPI pen per his allergies, then you ALSO... give one to the school/the Health Room/The Teacher. This is normal protocol... for schools per allergic kids. AND a Doctor's note.
And you ask the Teacher/school, how they handle children with these allergies, and if their school is "Nut Free" etc. Many schools, are.

My kids' have friends that have various allergies. Such as to: shellfish, dairy, nuts, pets and their fur, dust, pollen, dust mites, soy, etc. And they are in public school and have a normal social life. With or without their parents. And they are fine. And they have come over for play-dates, and its fine. I as the Host of the play-date, CANNOT avoid... having dust-mites or pollen or pets or nuts in our home. But the parents and the kids knows, that. And so, the kid, before coming to our home, takes their allergy meds. And I simply do not serve certain foods when/if they are here. Or the child themselves, stays away from it.

Going back to my daughter and her Kiwi fruit allergy... which is also in drinks and various kiddie type foods. When she was only 2... she DID say to others "I cannot eat that..." or "Is there Kiwi in it...." or "I have to ask my Mommy first." I taught her how and she did it. Or I simply TOLD the parent/teacher/whoever the Host was, and it was fine.

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answers from New York on

I am curious, what happens at the age of three? Just giving him an upset stomach is different then a full blown allergic reaction. The nuts would be my main concern. You just have to keep reminding him to check with you.
For ow, it's up to you. He is really too young to understand.

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answers from Chicago on

My DD has a tree nut allergy and is sensative to milk (her eczema goes crazy). From the day we learned that she had the allergy, she would see me read the labels at the store and over time learned what she could eat and what she could not (kids remember what items are at home and which ones you put back on the shelf when you say this one has it).

I would show her the label, how to read the allergyn statement, what to look for. I am lucky, she gets "it" and early on day care was nut free but, school is not.

It is sad when they are excluded, we have gone through the why me tears but, there is nothing we can do but accept it.

Don't assume other parents get it, start teaching him to look out for himself and ask everyone to call you if they are ever unsure. People look at me a bit crazy when I say tree nut...heck, I didn't know what tree nuts were until I had to do the research.

Good Luck!

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answers from Chicago on

Right now he's only 2 so he can't be expected to make a judgement or to remember to ask. It's good that you're discussing it with him. I would do that every time you are at a party, buffet or even at the store: "Oh, let's make sure we check that this doesn't have milk or nuts..." You should do this every time so that as he gets older, it becomes second nature. When he starts school, you will have to pack his lunch and remind him constantly to not eat anything other than what you packed for him. You will have to teach him to be careful with classroom parties where kids often bring in something that has allergens even though they are told not to. You will have to tell him never to eat anything he is unfamiliar with.



answers from Dallas on

It's hard with it's stuff that most people don't think about. My son's have a milk protine allergy but they have have cheese and butter. Which I am thankful for. They can also have milk when it's cooked in stuff. So that's is a little easyer. But it just takes time to get them used to not just eating everything. My kids went to daycare and I would know within the first 24 hours they had some milk because they would end up in the ER with an ear infection and then it would trigger their asthma. Unfortunatly it took them getting to about 4 or 5 before they learned on their own to ask. I make sure when they go somewhere with anyone else they know just to be safe. My kids are 14 and 11 and I still ask at places what's in stuff. They drank soy, rice and almond milk, so if you are to stay away from nuts I would say rice milk would be a good alternative.



answers from Chicago on

My son is 4 almost 5 and since he was two we have to avoid.. Chocolate and Red Dye (well all the dyes). Now in the last 6 months, we have to avoid Gluten.. It is never easy..

Do your best to not give him anythng unless he says, mom may I? My son would ask if Red dye and now gluten is in something. But parties are the hardest, because there is so much right there.

Good luck



answers from Washington DC on

You are doing the right thing, and just be prepared when an allergen sneaks in. My DD is allergic to apples. Seems pretty straightforward, right? No, she had an adverse reaction to a ring pop at a party. They are filler in so many things, like that sneaky steak butter you mentioned.

My DD understands, "I can't have apples. They make me sick." She's understood that for a couple of years now. It will take work to teach him to say, "I need to ask." When he goes to someone's house, or daycare or Sunday School or wherever, make sure they understand that he's allergic. Provide him snacks the way you already do so they can give him something like the other kids.

I put Mabel's Labels allergy labels on DD's lunchbox and water bottle. It's not just a reminder for them, it's a reminder for her. You can also get a wristband for him. - they have ones with multiple allergens as an option. DD's classmates in preschool would even tell you, "DD can't have apples, so I can't share."

That's another one - don't share food! Teach him to politely decline food items offered by his friends.

When my sks were older, there were a few friends who had dietary concerns - be it keeping kosher, or being vegetarian or having a peanut allergy. The kids read their own labels and we were just there in case they needed us.

Educate him and the major players in his life so you can all be a safety net for him.



answers from Raleigh on

Luckily, mine was a picky eater. And he didn't like any of his allergen foods- peanuts and eggs. We label watched and hovered over him at food type events. But to be honest, occasionally, he still got something that would be processed in plants where nuts were processed. After watching his reaction to those foods (and taking daily allergy meds), we didn't notice much of a reaction. So we let it go and ended up not getting all worked up over those "processed in plant" foods.
Miraculously, my son outgrew his peanut allergy a couple of months ago (at 6 years old). Literally, just like that, after years of testing positive, it was poof-gone. I think even the allergist was surprised.
But now we are starting up with environmental allergies. It's a no win situation.
My advice is to just keep on hovering, and when he's old enough, you can drill it in him. We had my son so freaked out about nuts that, even when he was given the clear, he wouldn't go near a PB&J. One step at a time.



answers from Washington DC on

Just keep reminding him, always ask. Let Mom and Dad check the ingredients first.

CVS now sells some Allergy wrist bands from AllerMates. They have one for most of the new common allergies.

When my son was younger, when we would go places where I knew there would be food that he possibly couldn't eat, I would take a snack bag of 'safe' stuff with us. If it was a party, I would try and include cookies, a single cupcake, chips, etc. Stuff that would 'blend' in with the party and not standout as being different.

When he got to daycare we did the same. There was a box of 'safe' stuff that was kept with his name on it.

When he got to Elementary school, we did the same thing. Each year, I would provide the teacher with a box, with his picture and name on it, of snacks, desserts, drinks that were safe. When there was a party at school, especially if they were homemade items, he would just go over to the box and get a snack. That way he was included in the celebration.

In school, the nurse had several kids with extreme or multiple allergies. She designated a 'safe' table where these kids could sit and eat without worry of coming across nuts.

He's in middle school now, and we just had a function where I forgot to contribute something. I was nervous, he was nervous, but found he found some store bought stuff that you could tell hadn't been messed with, he hadn't had that item before so we double checked the ingredients before deeming it okay.



answers from Oklahoma City on

He's 2, he's not cognitively able to determine what he can or cannot eat. It's your job to manage his food. You cannot leave him for a moment when food is around. So you have to be right there holding his hand at any function or activity he attends.

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