My daughter is a shy, gentile, loving 4th grader who likes to play soccer, LAX, draw and learn about rocks and minerals… oh, and she happens to have food allergies (a lot of them). To be clear, she has food allergies but she’s not an “allergy-kid”, she just has allergies. These food allergies are a part of her everyday life but they do not define who she is. She actually LOVES food and will try almost anything that doesn’t have shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, sesame, pineapple, whey protein or gluten in them.
She is actually moderately allergic to over 100 foods and carries her own epi-pen and can smell a food that she is allergic to from across the room. She doesn’t miss the food that she that she allergic to because she knows that it keeps her healthy and alive. Our house is free of all of her allergens except gluten but she has her own toaster and jelly containers. As a family, we have never known any differently and her siblings are always on the alert for foods that she maybe allergic to and they strive to protect her.
When she was 10 months old, she broke out in hives after eating eggs at a restaurant; at 18 months old, she broke out in more hives after I ate shrimp and touched her at a family party. She use to eat food and vomit when she was young, little did I know that was the start of anaphylaxis until she ate a walnut at a family party and stopped breathing. We found out the hard way that she has airborne food allergies when she actually went into anaphylactic shock at the allergists office while they were testing her allergies. In a world where parents are worried about whether or not their children are eating healthy foods, parents of children with food allergies have far more at stake. Cooking every night and avoiding fast food is a challenge but when your child has life-threatening allergies, there aren’t many options. My 4th grader is now in the kitchen with me learning to cook because she has no choice but to learn.
Four out of every hundred children in the United States suffer from a food allergy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the problem appears to be getting worse. From 1997 to 2007, the prevalence of food allergies increased 18 percent among children. Symptoms of food allergies range from mild tingling and hives around the mouth to a severe life-threatening reaction. Eight foods — milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat — account for 90 percent of allergic reactions to food. The good news is that in this house we eat cleaner, healthier and simpler because of it.
I have to say that I’m thankful that kids now- a- days are accepting of food allergies and they even seem to guide adults. My daughter is fine socially and emotionally with having food allergies and she approaches it with a fantastic seriousness and very little fear. While our kids seem to get it, I believe that it’s the adults who need a real shift in mindset and a little more education on the matter. Here are a few things that I, as a food allergy mom want you to know:
- Please don’t make assumptions about food allergies and tell me that “ you understand how it all works”– a food allergy is a life-threatening condition that can cause a child to Stop. Breathing. Immediately. It’s very real… and it’s terrifying. Even I don’t know 100 % how it all works.
- As the parent of a child with food allergies there is not a play date or school party or event that my child will attend without me speaking with the hosting parent, teacher or school nurse first. I know that I seem like a high maintenance parent but I need to know that my daughter is safe. It is my job to be mindful that an allergic reaction can occur at anytime.
- As the parent of a child with food allergies when you say “ instead of cupcakes the child with food allergies will eat an apple, my child feels different and not worthy enough to be considered. Please choose food items that include all children or no food at all for class parties.
- As the parent of a child with food allergies I have laid awake at night, wondering if I’ll be able to save my daughter’s life if the time comes. I’ve been told that anaphylaxis can happen in less than two minutes and up to 4 hours later so not only do I wonder if I’ll be able to identify an emergency, I wonder if my child’s teacher, babysitter, grandparent, friend or coach will know when she can’t breathe. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night to check if she’s still breathing.
- As a parent of a child with food allergies I often wonder if my child will ever be able to go to a college party or have a random kiss. Cross contamination is everywhere.
- We leave the house remembering the basics like phone, wallets, keys — and epi-pens. These little devices that carry a shot of adrenaline could save our child, or at least sustain her, until the ambulance arrives. If I leave home without it, I always go back.
- As the parent of a child with food allergies, I sit outside every kids party and sporting event and practice while other parents leave. This is fact. No getting around it.
- As the parent of a child with food allergies, I don’t sit back and enjoy a meal in a restaurant. Never. You see, I spend these meals playing and replaying the emergency plan in my head while quietly observing my daughters breathing as she enjoys her meal and then sigh with relief when it’s over.
- As the parent of a child with food allergies I don’t expect you to cater a menu to her allergies. If you invite us over, we’ll gladly join you and pack a couple of lunch boxes. It would be nice if you didn’t serve things that she is SUPER allergic to though:)
- As the parent of a child with food allergies, I regularly attend medical appointments where I see other children with medical problems. When I see these families, I am humbled and grateful that my child only has food allergies and can still live a full, wonderful life. Food allergies are manageable and with a little understanding and help from fellow parents, friends and families, my daughter will be ok.
My daughter carries the weight of her reality on her shoulders very well and I am so very proud of her for being hyper-aware of her surrounding and of everything she puts in her mouth. She will never carry this weight alone and I thank you for taking the time to read my little blurb and understand the reality of her everyday a little better. Thank you for helping to keep our children safe.
Are you a parent of a child with food allergies? Have something to add? PLEASE leave a comment below. Cheers.