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Monday, March 31, 2008

Allergic Barbie

Our 3 year old daughter is severely allergic to peanuts and, to a lesser extent is allergic to egg. One of the challenges of managing an allergy in a young child is to ensure that she knows that peanuts can 'make her sick' while not causing her to have overly heightened anxiety.

Recently I tried to get the point across by telling her that her Barbie was allergic to peanuts and eggs. I wanted her to understand that her 'allergic Barbie' could do all the things her other Barbies could do as long as she did not eat peanuts or eggs. Not surprisingly our daughter has latched onto the 'allergic Barbie' and become somewhat protective.

Tonight she took the game to a whole new level.

Apparently at 6:25 PM this evening 'Allergic Barbie' ate a peanut. Our daughter surprised me by playing out an entire emergency situation. She did not panic and dealt with emergency swiftly. First she took down Barbie's pants and used a needle in her doctor's kit to give Barbie an 'EpiPen'. She then used her Elmo phone to call the 'ambuhlance' and had Mommy open the front door to let the paramedics in. The paramedics helped make Barbie safe and everybody went to the 'hostibal' together.

I was very impressed. Since our daughter is three, she would not likely have full comprehension of the seriousness of an emergency. She simply knows that Barbie is 'sick' after eating a peanut, and she wants to help make her better. That being said, the emergency game clearly demonstrates that she knows to act fast, use an auto-injector and call an ambulance. Understanding the basics of an allergy emergency will make her safer.

In this month's issue of Allergic Living there is an article about children developing heightened anxiety as a result of managing their severe food allergy. The Barbie games we are playing in our home seem to be a healthy way to deal with a serious health issue without shocking our daughter.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over time.


Linds said...


I found your blog through My Kids' Allergies.

That was a good idea to introduce and allergic Barbie. We have a 2 year old son who is severly allergic to peanuts and we've been trying to teach him little by little. I might have to try a similar idea with one of his stuffed bears or something.

Thanks for the idea!

Growing in Grace (Nicole) said...

I worry that my son is one of those kids with heightened anxiety. He's just an anxious kid and I wonder if it's because he sort of has to "be on guard" when it comes to food. We've really tried not foster that anxiety but it's tough. I'd be interested in reading that article.

mama o' the matrices said...

I think I would be surprised not to see heightened anxiety in a kid with a severe allergy.

One of the things we teach our kids - protectively - is fear. We teach them not to touch the food, we're very strict and careful about it, and no way, no how is the kid fooled by the oh-so gentle voice. They know absolutes when they hear it, and they learn.

We've found that our older son (multiple FAs) has developed some anxiety issues, but caught early they're not too tough to manage.

We had a little proving ground this past month, when he saw his younger brother anaphylax to something new and exciting. After, the Eldest still trusted his parents (even though we fed the Toddles the anaphylactic allergen), and while he was a little protective of his brother, the kid wasn't walking around like the sky would fall.

A little fear is fine. A lot of role play is great - if we teach fear, we should also teach power to go with it, no?