It’s Not Too Early to Teach Your Preschooler to Manage Food Allergies

This piece was originally posted on October 1, 2013 at

I had a “proud mom” moment yesterday when I picked up my 4-year old daughter from Pre-K yesterday. She told me that her class had cucumbers and ranch dressing for snack yesterday. I felt a brief lump in my throat because although my daughters have outgrown their dairy fantasticallyfreekidswithdoughallergies they all have an anaphylactic egg allergy.

To my relief, she also told me that she informed her teacher and her friends that she could not have ranch dressing because she is allergic to egg. Whew!

I was impressed that she remembered that ranch dressing often contains milk and egg ingredients. I was even more impressed after she told me that her classmate told her that the ranch dressing was okay for her to eat but she insisted that she could not eat it.

That shows a lot of awareness for a young 4-year old, which brings me to my point: It is never too early to teach your preschooler how to manage food allergies. They soak things in like a sponge and grasp concepts quickly. While I would never expect a child to be able to handle food allergies with the same level of maturity and skill as an adult, it is beneficial to teach them how to be their own self-advocates when you are not around.

Here are 5 tips to for teaching preschoolers how to manage their food allergies:

1) Make sure they can recite their allergens. My 4 year-old has known her allergens since she was a 18 months old. Back then her only allergy was milk, so it was pretty easy. Today she will tell you that she can not have peanuts, treenuts, egg and soy. Plus pineapple and green beans. She says it the same way every time, in that order, without fail. It just flows off of her tongue.

2) Make sure they know where their allergens hide. Teach your children which foods and other products commonly have their allergens “hiding” in them so they know what to avoid.

3) Teach your child not to share food or eat any food that has not been pre-approved. My kiddos know to check with me (or their teacher) before eating anything. Make sure your child is in the habit of asking to have ingredients read to them and encourage them to read labels with you as they enter school. Tell teachers to call you if they ever have a question about what your child can or cannot eat. I also tell my kids, “when in doubt don’t put it in your mouth.”

4) Teach them tell someone when they are feeling bad. Instruct your child to tell you, or their teacher if they’re at school, whenever they are feeling bad. While you cannot rely on a preschooler to recognize the symptoms of an allergic reaction, they can tell their teacher when they are feeling bad and he or she can assess this situation and follow your allergy emergency plan, if needed.

5) Remind them that epineprhine goes everywhere they go. Whenever you go somewhere, take your epinephrine. This models good allergy management skills that your child will pick up. Make sure they know where their epineprhine and other allergy emergency meds are at school, as well as at home.

The main thing here is to teach your children age and developmentally appropriate strategies for managing their own food allergies. Children are not miniature adults and cannot be left totally responsible for managing their allergies in a high-risk environment, but they can begin to be strong self-advocates at an early age.

What are some ways that you have taught your preschooler to manage his or her food allergies? I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment below.

Disclaimer: Information on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please seek the advice of your physician regarding any diagnosis or treatment. Any implementation of the information contained herein is at the reader’s discretion. The author and publisher disclaim any liability for any adverse effects resulting directly or indirectly from information contained on this site.

About Tiffany deSilva

Hi I'm Tiffany deSilva, MSW, CPC, CHC, Founder of BrightFire Living, LLC. I am a social worker, speaker, author, certified health, wellness and lifestyle coach, certified green living coach and toxic-free consultant. I am passionate about helping women like you to detox each area of your life, safeguard your family's health, and live life fully charged and completely lit up! I am on a mission to empower women and families who are managing food allergies, autoimmune disorders, and other modern chronic health conditions to live a safe, happy, and healthy life that truly lights your fire!

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