Our daughter has allergies. Not ones like mine, where she has to be wary of anyone she touches or spends time near, but furry pets give her eczema. And we have a cat. A fuzzy, meowing, ball of allergies. Our cat is adorable. He loves people, loves attention, and even comes when he’s called. Our daughter considers him a friend, picks him up, walks him around, rubs him all over, and has no concern for the consequences.
Allergies are hard for kids. My daughter’s allergies are considerably minor compared to many, but what child wants to be told they can’t do something? What child wants to leave a treasured pet alone, or avoid treats their friends enjoy? Schools have extended so far as to ban things that even look like peanut butter, eggs because some children avoid them for religious reasons, and dozens of other things. They also hold medication separate from the child who needs emergency treatment. They assume a child can’t learn to control their allergies, which is a whole other kettle of fish.
Children need interaction with others. They need to play, to feel love, to have opportunities for physical activity, and to make connections. We can temper these things by choosing less risky activities, such as outdoor sports for children with indoor allergies, non-contact activities for children with contact allergies, or taking their own, safe food to a birthday party. It’s all about being reasonable with our expectations. Kids may have snacks, but maybe they’re asked to wash up after, or there’s a separate space to eat than where non-eating activities are held. As much as we do this, we also need to explain to children *why* we are directing them towards these activities, so that they can make good decisions for themselves when we’re not around.
The truth is, kids will learn to control their allergies as much as they have to. For a child with life-threatening allergies, they learn at a young age to avoid contact and to administer medication. If they have food allergies, they learn to ask questions, and when older, to read labels. If they have non-life-threatening allergies or intolerances, like my daughter, they eventually get fed up with being itchy all the time, or having stomachaches. They learn to apply medication earlier to prevent things getting worse, if applicable, and they learn to avoid the cause of their allergies, or to wash off contact before touching other parts of themselves. The worse the allergy or intolerance, the faster they learn, and the more strictly they will adhere to the guidelines they must.
My daughter will not stop touching the cat. At least not now. Assuming she will touch him again soon, she won’t wash her hands, and then will forget and touch other parts of her body. She applies cream, but only when she’s itchy, even it that’s an hour after bedtime. We’ve mostly eliminated that one by asking her apply before bed if she thinks she’ll be itchy. Because the allergy only causes a rash, her compliance will be slow.
What about kids with atmospheric chemical allergies, especially when the symptoms are delayed from the contact? They’re still kids. Treatment and learning to live with allergies is going to be the same as with any other child. All we can do is give them the tools and teach them how to use them properly. Playing with other kids outdoors will be easier than playing with them indoors. The home can be a (mostly) safe environment, school not so much. They can still learn to bathe after contact with the chemicals that hurt them. They can learn when to feel the symptoms coming on and how to treat them to stop them from getting worse. They can learn to make or identify the body care products that will be safe for them. They will grow up understanding how to help themselves, feeling the consequences of not doing so, and over time they will begin to take on responsibility for the task.
As parents it’s our job to teach our children to look after themselves, as much as we might like to protect them. The world isn’t going to forever keep from them whatever causes a child allergies, and we’re not always going to be around to make decisions for them. Allergy care is one of these self-care necessities, and the more our children understand and grow, the safer they’ll be, confident in the fact that they can look after their own needs.
What do you do to help your children to deal with their allergies? Comment below.