children describing an allergic reaction - invisibly allergic blog

Children Describing An Allergic Reaction

Food Allergic Children

Lately I’ve been having fun brainstorming ideas for children’s literature that is disability inclusive and discusses and represents life with a food allergy. As I’ve discussed here many times, food allergy severity is a spectrum and food allergies truly can’t be generalized. I’ve been considering ways to successfully discuss mild to severe food allergy symptoms with kids through books, and need to consult my K-12 teacher friends, honestly! I imagine it would be hard to decipher what a child is going through if they are describing a reaction, so I began searching online to see what I could learn, as well as asking my own mom who navigated this uncharted territory with me.

As many of you may know, I don’t have children with food allergies, I’m the person with the food allergy in my family, so I don’t know the experience of being the parent of a child with a food allergy. My perspective and experience comes from being someone who grew up with a life-threatening food allergy and is now an adult with a severe food allergy. I am amazed still when searching online at how much information there is available, but it can also be overwhelming and hard to sift through. I found this amazing stop-motion video on YouTube, so that I wanted to share here on Invisibly Allergic. Someone mentioned this in the comments section of it, but it’s a non-threatening way to portray anaphylaxis symptoms such as face swelling and dizziness, and it even includes the correct place to inject an epi-pen, which I think is very important for children to learn because I remember as a kid there was always a lot of confusion around that due to TV and movie portrayals getting it wrong. Take a look:

The play-dough stop-motion video seems geared more towards children who are old enough to read, but I found lots of other YouTube resource videos similar for a range of ages.


For those of you who aren’t familiar with the blog, The No Nut Traveler, it is one of my favorite allergy blogs to follow. On their Facebook page a while back, they had a post covering the many ways children may describe their allergic reaction symptoms. I thought this was very important, so I took a screenshot of it, because of the difficulty and inability children may have describing their symptoms accurately. I feel like discussing this topic is a more recent development in the allergy community, one that wasn’t a topic discussed when I was a child, but also not even discussed 5-10 years ago, so I’m really thrilled it’s being discussed earlier and earlier in a food allergic child’s life.

The FB post:

invisibly allergic blog - peanut allergy

PS- Wow, I am connecting that this is the same MD Julie Brown who created the diagram I appreciate and wrote my blog post on how much allergen is needed to cause anaphylaxis. I’ll be looking into this more, for sure!

For now, I’ve written the same bullet points out on how kids describe allergic reactions to food, since I think they’re so important to share and discuss:

How kids describe allergic reactions to food:

  • Food tastes like something is wrong with it
  • Food is spicy, tongue is burning
  • Bump or something poking tongue
  • Tongue or mouth itches
  • Hair in mouth or on tongue
  • Lips/tongue/spit feels big
  • Rocks/bone/frog/something stuck in throat
  • Bugs in ears
  • Eyes itching, burning, or leaking
  • Eyes going in and out and dark
  • A sense of doom, “something is wrong”
  • Tummy hurts, feel sick, ate a volcano, bugs in stomach
  • Body feels heavy, stuffy, or hot

National Library of Medicine – NIH Results

I came across this 2012 article on the National Institute of Health that had a chart comparing adults symptoms of anaphylaxis compared to children. It states, “Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis for adults and children are summarized in Table 1. Although cutaneous symptoms predominate in adults, the primary presenting symptoms in children are respiratory in nature (e.g., wheezing, shortness of breath). In addition, cardiovascular symptoms tend to be less common in children (17 %) than in adults (30 %–35 %).”

I found this interesting, even with it being somewhat outdated, it seems respiratory issues are most common in children, and I absolutely had this same experience as a child. I was diagnosed with asthma and always felt wheezing coming on as the primary symptom of a food reaction when I was a kid. My symptoms have definitely morphed over the years as I’ve gotten older, and I no longer experience asthma, so I’ve attached the table in case you’re interested:

anaphylaxis symptoms adults vs children - invisibly allergic blog - food allergy

Out of the same article, I pulled another piece to consider, “In studies evaluating parents, only 48 % of parents could identify more than one symptom that would require use of epinephrine, and only 43.5 % reported receiving education regarding their child’s food allergy and management of his/her reactions.” They include a basic management of anaphylaxis table, shown below:

basic management of anaphylaxis - invisibly allergic blog - ncbi_nlm_nih

This anaphylaxis in children article is lengthy, but covers a lot of ground, I recommend reading it. I learned statistics I wasn’t familiar with before.


Please feel free to share either the YouTube video, No Nut Traveler FB screenshot, and/or this blog post to help spread awareness. Like I said, I’m no expert when it comes to parenting a child with a food allergy, but I have my own skillset and knowledge I can offer since I was that allergic kid and grew up with it and still manage it first-hand.

Are there topics you wish you saw discussed more in the allergy community? If so, drop me a line!




  1. Having worked in an elementary school, this is such good information for adults who may be around children with allergies. Just an understanding of the different ways a child might explain how they are feeling is so helpful. Would be nice to distribute this to the schools to post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree! I should pass this information out, or make it available somehow. I will have to research the best way to go about distributing it!

    I also would love to eventually get children’s food allergy books into the libraries at schools, as well as the public libraries. There are a few really good ones for kids, as well as DVDs.


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