Going Gluten-FreeMarch 5, 2014

What Would YOU Say?

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Posted by Alicia Woodward

A reader asks: "My daughter was just diagnosed with severe allergies. I want to explain this to her in a positive way. Can you help?" Living Without medical contributor, expert food allergist Mike Pistiner, MD, responds.

Your child learns from you, especially from your attitude and what you do. When your language, behavior and overall attitudes show that you are confident, your child will feel the same. The lessons you teach your child when she is young will help her successfully self-manage her allergies as she grows older.

Do not use terrifying words to describe her medical condition, such as "deadly food allergies," or "this food can kill you." Remember that your youngster is listening to conversations that you have with others, so be mindful of this when speaking about her allergies to caregivers, teachers and family members.

Talk about the fact that food allergies can be managed. Make the message age-appropriate. For young children, phrases like "eggs can make you sick" or "peanuts are not safe for your body" may work. As children grow older, they're more able to understand the role of the immune system. For example, "the immune system, the part of the body that usually fights germs, mistakes the food for something harmful. When the immune system fights back, that causes the allergic reaction."

What advice would you share? How do you explain food allergy or sensitivity to your child or loved one?