Family Health Guide

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Allergies: Child's Experience

Allergies affect children in innumerable ways, large and small.  While some kids deal mostly with unpleasant symptoms or frequent doctor visits, others live with the fear of having a life-threatening reaction.   

  • “He asks me questions when I offer him things to eat—he wants to make sure it is safe,” says Kim Peters, 46, in Beverly Hills, MI about her son, Zachary, now 5, who was diagnosed at 18 months with allergies to tree nuts, peanuts, dairy products, eggs and chocolate.  
  • “The biggest thing he has to cope with is the coughing attacks and the lack of sleep,” says Elizabeth Mooney, 30, of Massapequa, NY. Her son, John, 2, has seasonal allergies, and is also allergic to dog saliva.  “At two, he doesn’t really know he has allergies, but he does know when he’s not feeling good!”

Children may also resent the limitations they face due to their allergies, such as staying inside on a day when pollen counts are high or not being able to eat things other kids take for granted. And they may feel embarrassed about their condition or worry about not fitting in.       

  • “If you ask him, he would shrug and tell you that it stinks, but that’s the way it is for him,” says Jessica Cohen, 37, of Bucks County, PA, about her son Shane, 6, who has multiple food allergies. “It typically depends on the day, but I don’t think he ever forgets that he is different. Every once in a while he comes home sad and just cries, which is completely understandable. Now that he is in elementary school he is worried about kids making fun of him because of his allergies.” 
  • “He might show some frustration because he is not able to have what everyone else is having,” Peters says. “But by in large he is very accepting and smart about it.”
  • It’s hardest for her around other kids’ birthdays, when they are eating pretty bakery-decorated cupcakes and cakes,” says Sharlene Breakey, 46, of New York City, whose daughter, Edie Fine, 7, is allergic to eggs. “The ones I make at home just don’t look the same!”
  • “When Aviv went to a sleep-away, three-week summer camp, they did not allow him to administer his own medications. He had to go to the nurse or medic every morning and evening which took time away from fun and didn’t allow him to do the normal routine that the other kids had,” says Marcia Delgadillo, 47, of Richmond, CA. Aviv, 14, has asthma triggered by seasonal allergies. “When he gets hives during the summer swimming season, it embarrasses him for others to see it,” she adds.