Unusual Ways Children May Describe an Allergic Reaction

Unusual Ways Children May Describe an Allergic Reaction

Children are very creative and descriptive, despite (or perhaps because of) their limited vocabulary.

That means they sometimes describe sensations and pains in ways that don’t match what you might read in medical literature.

Allergic reactions to foods often affect the lips, mouth, tongue and throat, so pay particular attention if your child alerts you to an odd sensation in these areas. However, food allergies can also manifest as skin rashes and gastrointestinal upset.

Descriptions Children May Use for a Food Allergy

Here are some examples of ways a child might describe a sensation that is actually an allergic reaction:

  • Hot or burning lips, tongue, mouth or throat
  • Itching lips, tongue, mouth or throat
  • Heavy tongue
  • Stretched or tight lips
  • Thick or sticky throat
  • Bump in throat
  • “This food is too spicy” (especially when you know it’s not spicy at all)
  • Hair on tongue
  • Something stuck in throat
  • Bugs in mouth, throat, ears or stomach
  • Something poking tongue
  • Generally feeling hot and/or claustrophobic
  • Body feels heavy
  • Feels like “something is wrong”
  • Stomach ache
  • Can’t swallow
  • Mouth tastes funny
  • Tickling or itching in bones and under skin
  • Back hurts (which can precede vomiting or wheezing)
  • Chest feels heavy or tight


Non-verbal children might become distressed at the feeling in their mouths and scratch at their lips, tongue or throat, or gag or have trouble vocalizing. The pitch of their voice may change or they may sound hoarse or lose their voice altogether.

Being Pro-active: Teaching Your Child the Symptoms of A Food Allergy

To improve communication between you and your child during a potential emergency, try to teach him or her some descriptive words that might indicate a reaction.

If your child has never had an allergic reaction but has tested positive for a food allergy, review some of the common signs and symptoms. “Tell me or another adult right away if you feel …”

If your child has already experienced an allergic reaction, review what the symptoms were and what steps should be taken whenever these sensations occur. For guidance on how to teach your child about his or her allergy in a fun and engaging way, check out the MKFA Games section and the additional printable games in the MKFA Awareness to Action Toolkit.

And of course, call 911 right away or follow your doctor’s emergency plan if you suspect your child is experiencing an allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis must be addressed quickly or it can be fatal!

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