Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Non Food Allergic Sibling

But Mo-om, I'm Allerbic to gween beans!


My son is now three, the age that we have been told that it is OK to try out our daughter's most severe allergens with him. Our plan is to feed him peanuts and tree-nuts outside of our home (as our daughter is severely allergic)  in a setting close to the ER, or at the allergist's office. While I am waiting to get the courage up to test out the peanuts, and tree-nuts with my youngest child, I am learning that the younger siblings of children with severe food allergies quickly learn to make the most of their sibling's allergies.

Recently my three year old son has been using his sister's allergies to his advantage. The other day he grabbed a whole bag of cookies off of the counter, put a serious look on his face, and announced "I eat all cookies for my Sissy, she's allerbic to cookies!", "Don't be sad Mommy, I keep her safe!" I was floored! I had no idea that at the age of three, he would be capable of using his sister's allergies to his advantage. It hit me that I need to get ahead of this fast! But what to do? How do I educate him about his sister's food allergies without scaring him. How do I help him understand that they are not to be trivialized, or be used to ones advantage. How can teach him about the importance of including everyone in family treats?

In another example of how he has used his sister's allergies to his advantage, he announced at dinner that he was not going to eat his green beans, as he was allergic to them. After pushing them around his plate for some time, he was coaxed into trying one, which he promptly spat out, and whined "But Mo-om, I'm allerbic to gween beans!"  This is not a new adventure for me trying to figure out if a complaint about a food is a real allergic reaction, or just a dislike of the food's flavor, or a texture issue, but it is new in that he is not really concerned that he may be allergic, as my daughter was, he just doesn't want to eat his green beans!

Figuring out how to explain allergies, their seriousness, and the difference between not wanting to eat something, and being allergic to it can be trying. How do I explain to a three year old that something may make your mouth feel hot, or "spicy", and while that is uncomfortable, it is not necessarily an allergic reaction?  How can I make sure he understands the seriousness of a real allergy vs. a preference in taste/foods without worrying him?  A food may taste bad to you, make your tongue burn, have a funny texture, make you gag, or seem to get stuck in your throat, but that does not necessarily mean you are allergic to it. This seems simple to do, but seeing his sister with hives on her face from a previously loved food, and a worried watchful mom hovering at mealtimes must be a bit confusing to a three year old. But he is sure making the most of it!

If you have any tips, please share!!!