You don’t want your child to be afraid, but you want him or her to be safe. How do you teach your child to take control of his or her potentially deadly allergy while feeling empowered instead of victimized?

Start Teaching Control As Soon As Possible

“We start teaching children what foods they’re allergic to at 3 or 4 years of age,” said allergist Paul V. Williams, MD, of the Northwest Allergy and Asthma Center in Mount Vernon, Wash.

Focus on learning and listening. By the time your child gets to school, he or she should know what the allergy is, which foods to avoid, not to accept food from others, not to eat unfamiliar foods, the symptoms of anaphylaxis, and how to get help.

Get A Medical Alert Tag

And don’t leave home without it. The tag should be such a part of dressing that your child won’t be comfortable without it. There are some very cute and fashionable bracelets available for boys and girls which will blend in with their everyday wardrobe.

Tell The Adults Who Interact With Your Child

It takes a village, right? The adults around your child need to know what triggers a reaction, what a serious reaction will look like, where the epinephrine auto-injector is, and what they should do in case of an attack.

“The more people who know about it, the better,” said Williams. Inform teachers, coaches, parents of friends, neighbors, babysitters, bus drivers, playground supervisors and the school nurse.

Be Positive And Create A Can-Do Attitude

Your behavior tells your child how to react. While working around the limits of an allergy may cause frustration, don’t let that be the only emotion your child sees.

Of course, you can go to the party, of course, I’ll make you a sandwich, yes we can go out to dinner – be positive and focused on what can be done without drawing too much attention to the modifications that need to be made. Diet is a part of life for everyone; how to eat healthily is something everyone must learn. In that way, your child is no different than anyone else.

Be Consistent

Food rules for a child with a severe allergy cannot be broken. While some may outgrow their allergy, are you really going to be comfortable testing that one out? Be consistent with the food rules. Even the smallest compromise may send a message that a little cheat is OK. For many kids, a little cheat could take them to the hospital. Reinforce consistency.

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