Bringing Up Children with Allergies

Explaining your child’s allergy to the ayi

After 5 years I am ashamed to say I couldn’t order a meal in a restaurant with non-English speaking staff if I wanted to.  So one can image the difficulty I encounter when trying to explain the severity of my child’s allergy where a mutual  language is not shared.

Now this is my way of bringing this important message across (I must warn you it is not the best way but so far I have had very good results):

Ayi (then I point at son with allergy and say his name for emphasis) eats nuts (I pretend to eat) die (and I pretend die, and this death would surely win me Baftas and Oscars).  My poor son is freaking out and my husband is at the side (when he is unfortunate to witness these interviews ) fuming and rolling his eyes at me.  I know later this would lead to the discussion (heated of course) on why I have to be so dramatic.

This is my explanation for doing it this way.  (I am by no means apologizing for my methods). I figure if I try to explain to ayi with my limited Mandarin that some nuts are more dangerous than others and that while he could eat coconut, hazelnut consumption on the other-hand would inevitably lead to shock and possible death, its better to tell her all nuts would kill him.

The usual question after this is ‘what about the other child?’ . My response to this is both children should never be given nuts.  My other son would chime in ‘I am not allergic to nuts’; thank God he usually says this in English but if the ayi is hired she will let me know that my sons have told her that the younger child is not allergic to nuts.  This is immediately dealt with.  Now more sign language is used and a few Mandarin speaking friends are called in to reaffirm and reconfirm the importance of the nut ban in my household.

I must say that in the five years that I have been here only once has an ayi ever cooked with nuts and as soon as I walked through the door I smelt it.  She immediately remembered and the kitchen was thoroughly scrubbed, pots washed so many times the ayi hands looked a mess.  She worked with us for 2 years (we had just moved to China) and she would never allow him to be given anything that she hasn’t checked, double and then triple checked.

Some will say ‘woman why the scare tactic’ (my husband being one) but my response to this will be ‘It is better scaring the daylights out of ayis, friends, schools etc than suffer the consequence of an allergic reaction.” Freaking out the ayi is worth having a healthy child.

So never believe you are making too big a deal of your child’s allergy.  You have a responsibility to protect them so do this the best way you can.

Till next time stay allergen free.



Image provided byYaiSirichai at

One response to “Bringing Up Children with Allergies

  1. better to say it that way than regret not doing the whole song and dance…I don’t think you are doing anything wrong.

    In fact we were in a restaurant about a year ago and one of the people in our group was allergic to shellfish…lo and behold her meal came out with the shellfish on it…now this was small for 15 or so and the head chef we over hear saying to the prep cook “no you can’t just take them (shellfish) off…she could die!” I think the idea of over emphasis is really really needed here

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