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Teaching a toddler about his/her allergies?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
My DS is 20 months old. He's got a severe dairy allergy as well as previous positive tests to egg and peanut. It's pretty easy to control what he eats at this point, but he definitely shows interest in other things these days. I'm curious how others have handled teaching their allergic LOs about what they can and can't eat.

I've also got the bizarre perspective of a T1 diabetic who was diagnosed at age 10. My response to what I couldn't eat was to eat it in secret. While it made me sick and wasn't good for me, it wasn't imminently life-threatening like eating dairy products would be for my son.

I'm just looking for ways to instill healthy respect without irrational fear or anger.
post #2 of 13
I have an allergic 20 month old as well. While I don't have much experience yet, I can write what my plan is. I plan on making sure he has a wide variety of foods that taste good and he can have. If we are going to a birthday party, I plan on making him a special cake that he can have (or finding out what treat will be served and making something similar so he doesn't feel left out). If we eat out, I will either check ahead with the restaurant that they have foods DS can eat or I will bring special food for him. I plan on having DS be very involved with food preparation so that he knows exactly what is ok and what isn't. I don't want DS's allergies to be in the way of his living a "normal" life. I don't want him to be afraid of going to new places or trying new things, so I will try to encourage him to not be afraid of his allergies. I found an essay written by an allergic teenage girl that has been very helpful in the way I think about the allergies, I hope you find it helpful as well:

post #3 of 13
What helped us is getting the medic alert bracelet. Dd was about 2.5 when we got it, so older than your kids. Anyways, we taught her that it was her special bracelet that said she couldn't eat peanuts or soy. From there we started talking about what peanuts were (since our house and playgroup are peanut free.) Now if she'll talk to you (she's shy) and you ask her what she can't eat, she'll say peanuts and soy are allergic to her. I found that when we are somewhere nuts are, that if she asks to eat it, I just tell her that it has X and you can't eat X because of your allergy. And then I wouldn't eat it either (show of solidarity.)

I pretty much always bring special food for S. The only times I don't are at my mom's house (she's gone peanut free in her house!) and playgroup (because everyone knows about the allergy and are learning with me.)
post #4 of 13
I taught my DD about her "happy food". This (the acceptable stuff) is your happy food. This stuff will make you sick. You only want to eat happy food. That kind of thing. And she's almost 3 now and if a platter is put in front of her, she'll only take the carrots off it for instance, because she knows they're safe for her. We do go out to eat, but not very often, and have things that she can have. I do the same thing where I make sure that they have a comparable snack or treat for a special event. And I tend to host holidays for family so that I know all the foods are safe for my kids. I know they also make shirts that say "don't feed me" and stickers and stuff. I don't remember what website I saw it on though.
post #5 of 13
Kathy, how old was your daughter when she started to choose foods she knew were okay, or ask you if she wasn't certain?
post #6 of 13
Hi there,

I'm at this stage with my two year old daughter as well. There are actually a couple really great kids books out that discuss both dairy allergies and peanut and tree nut allergies. A couple of them are written about here: http://theboylovestoread.blogspot.com... I think it's the newest post actually.

We also use the allergy labels from www.christa.mabel.ca. They have been really helpful in acting as a reminder to caregivers, grandparents, classmates and older kids as they learn to deal with her allergies as well. What's great about these labels is that they allow you to choose an icon that helps pre-readers distinguish their sippy cups, snack containers, lunch boxes, etc from other peoples even though they may not be able to read yet. We really like them a lot and they really do last forever (especially if you're using reusable containers)... I've had some stuck on my oldest son water bottle for years.
post #7 of 13
Dd is 2.5. We just say tell her that certain foods will make her sick. She's so used to it, it doesn't bother her, since it's all she's ever known. With her particular allergies, we really have to pack her food anywhere we go. We always have a special treat for her when we go to parties and whatnot. When we visit friends, I bring a snack along for her.

I'm hoping that she'll outgrow these allergies so we won't have to deal with it when she's older, but I know of an older girl with most of the same allergies and she just knows to bring along her own snacks when going to a friend's house after school. It doesn't seem to bother her either.

With our particular allergies, I imagine it will be a while before dd understands how to choose safe foods unless it's fresh fruit or something with no other ingredients.
post #8 of 13
My DD is turning 3 in a couple weeks. Last summer, I remember specifically, a platter coming out that was cheese, salami, a couple kinds of crackers, and carrots. She went to take a carrot and looked at me to make sure. And I told her it was okay. So she was just over 2 then. But I remember her doing it before then. If you asked her yes/no questions about what she could have, she'd answer right. Can you have milk? No. Ice cream? No. Rice milk? yes. She knows she can't touch anyone else's drink. She knows not to even ask for a lollipop at the bank or anything. But she'll ask sometimes for "her" lollipop (I get Barley Sugar ones with no flavor/color in them, or the clear rock candy lollipops as a special treat once in a while). But I also keep a lock on the pantry, where everything non-perishable is kept, just in case. She knows that "her" yogurt is in little glass jars (as opposed to Daddy's yogurt in regular containers). She's in a 2 year old program for Preschool, and she always brings in her own snack. She doesn't even ask for what the other kids are having. She has so many intolerances that the teachers know the only things safe for her to "share" are carrots and bananas. If it's processed, they don't give it to her.

I'm trying to remember when she was 20 months... we went to FL for a week... and I'm trying to think if she had to "choose" foods. Can't remember, sorry. I make sure as soon as we go somewhere though to tell everyone not to give her food. Even now, people will ask me before they give it to her, even if she asks for it by name. I've taken stuff out of her mouth if I've had to. My kids only have intolerances, not anaphylactic allergies, so it's not AS imperitive (it's only me and her who have to deal with 3 screaming long nights). I probably would get one of those "Do not feed me" shirts if it was an allergy.

post #9 of 13
my dd (3.5) has been on a special diet since she was about 2. i prepare all her food, and bring it to go everywhere. i tell her that her body doesn't like certain foods, and what the consequences are of eating those foods. in her case, it's eczema & itching, grumpiness, constipation, dark circles under her eyes. she especially does not like being constipated so she makes sure to always check with me before eating something. i told her that everyone's body is different, and that other kids have allergies too, and sometimes they don't know it. some of the foods i restrict are just plain bad for anyone's body, so i tell her what happens when you feed your body too much sugar, for example.

it's not easy for her and especially not for me. there have been a few occasions where i have seen her watching other kids eating and i can tell that she is feeling bad. i try to balance the negative with positives, such as occasional cheating (not sure if that's an option for you, though), and finding new and exciting ways to prepare the foods she can eat. for example, making cookies with nuts instead of flour, and making shapes with cookie cutters. i also try to make her meals beautiful, because she seems to really like this. i garnish the dish with fruits & vegetables, i make flower or heart or smiley faces, i add color as much as possible. i have special parfait glasses that i serve a lot of her food in. this type of thing makes her feel special. if you take his food-to-go in a fancy container he will be the envy of the other kids. also my daughter really likes dipping so i usually include something she can dip. sometimes i cut her cheese into shapes with the cookie cutters.

it does get easier as they get older.
post #10 of 13
We have been working with my 2 year old on this. If she points to something she cannot have, we tell her it would hurt her tummy...that works for her right now, and she'll even laugh and point and make throw-up noises!
But I am also just teaching her what she can and cannot eat..its tough. She cannot have gluten, dairy or soy so we usually cannot let her eat anything at gatherings unless its raw fruit and veggies. We bring a ton of food with us for her, which helps because then she still can make choices
post #11 of 13
We eliminated the allergens just before my dd started on solids so they're never in our house. But she spends alot of time at my parents who live next door and do have things around that she can't eat. My mom has always told her "that will hurt you" or "that's poison to you". She's almost 3 now and it's just something she has totally accepted. If it's "poison" she doesn't ask twice.
And in the grocery store she only picks out the candy we've bought her before. She's never picked up a chocolate bar and asked for it. She picks up the gummie candy we always buy her. So it's just something they get used to. You just need to adopt a paticular phrase for the "bad" foods and be consistent.
post #12 of 13
DD is 2.5 and is starting to get it. She doesn't think to ask me if something is okay first, but she know that certain foods are "yucky to her". She knows she can't have goldfish crackers (we know lots of toddlers who carry little baggies of those around). She says that cow milk is for daddy and cows, and that soy milk is for her and mommy. She talks about how daddy's cheese is yucky and that her cheese (soy cheese) is "yummy for her". Things like that. She is getting pretty accepting when I tell her that a food will make her sick and then give her a substitute.

I would definitely recommend keeping some treats in the car or your bag AT ALL TIMES. We have had more than one incident where I wasn't expecting there to be treats in one of her activities and wouldn't have had anything to give her while the other kids ate if I hadn't kept single serve dairy and egg free cookies packets in the car. I found individual size cookies by Enjoy Life that I keep in the car all the time.
post #13 of 13
My daughter just turned 4, so she's no longer a toddler, but I clicked on this thread because we think she has become lactose intolerant in the last few months and we are eliminating dairy products from her diet.

She has had to eliminate certain foods before for eczema - currently, it's oranges that seem to most trigger an outbreak - she was probably one of the few 24 month olds that could actually pronounce the word "eczema"! We simply told her: "When you eat oranges, you get a rash and it hurts." It really helps that oranges are distinctive, unlike something like soy which is easily hidden in processed foods.

I'm hoping the same strategy will work with dairy: "When you eat dairy, your tummy hurts a lot." We have spent some time going over what constitutes "dairy" too. She doesn't like drinking milk, but I'm hoping she won't feel deprived or punished by giving up pizza and macaroni and cheese for the time being. We don't eat a lot of dairy at our house, but we do occasionally have those at a party or restaurant.
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