Found this article which describes perfectly the life and awareness of a parent of a child with a food allergy! Please read!
Both of my sons have allergies–food and environmental. My youngest son (6YO) has apparently grown out of his egg, milk, and wheat allergy, but he still has irregular bowel issues which has made us a gluten-free family, mostly dairy-free family.
However, my oldest son (9YO) has not had the luxury of growing out of his food allergy. It pains me that he will have to carry around a backpack or some form of a “pack” forever as it contains everything that could save his life if he ever comes in contact with an allergen. He has several of the “big 8” allergens recognized by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. The “big 8” are milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, almonds), fish. Jacob is allergic to soy, peanuts, and shellfish. However, he also has another food allergy that is not a part of the “big 8”–sesame seeds.
This journey of food allergy awareness and discovery really began when Jacob (my oldest) was about 10 months old (although I didn’t know it). Before I begin, a quick sidetone…I am so fascinated with the “mother instinct” God has given mothers. God has frequently given me wisdom when I was absolutely clueless, and didn’t even know what questions to ask. I prayed and just “discovered” a solution which popped into my head after prayer.
Anyway, it was Thanksgiving and I gave Jacob a tiny bit of dressing (Southern version of “stuffing”) as he was on solids and it was soft. I immediately noticed something was wrong. He looked distressed to me. He could breathe, but he just gave me a look of “something’s wrong mommy.” It just so happened that I had seen the movie “Hitch” prior to that where Will Smith’s character has an allergic reaction to shrimp, so I had his dad do an immediate run to the store for Children’s Benadryl. I guesstimated the dosage for his age, and there was an immediate positive response. Believe it or not, I still didn’t think about food allergy as no one in my family or anyone I ever knew had struggled with the ailment.
However, I did know enough to tell my pediatrician who referred me to an allergist for a skin test. It was determined that there was a 50/50 chance Jacob had a peanut allergy. Then he went to his two day a week preschool three months later where he was given peanut butter, and that traumatic stint to the ER sealed the deal!
Initially, I felt helpless and imprisoned by the labeling of “food allergy.” Unless your child has a food allergy, you have no idea how the world can really be perceived as a dangerous place. Peanut butter (which could literally kill my child) is a staple for most parents, so I lived in a cocoon of fear questioning water fountains, playground equipment, and toys. I also began researching little things that I NEVER considered like lotions (many are made with soy), all processed and canned goods (most are manufactured in a peanut facility), medicines (most have some type of soy casing gel). I even discovered the little sprinkles on cupcakes are made in a peanut facility. WOW!
The hardest part of all that was educating family and friends. Telling me “Oh, there are no peanuts in there” just wasn’t sufficient. I had to know if the packaging “made in a peanut facility” was anywhere on there, if when they cooked, there was cross contamination, etc. One family member was so shocked when my 2YO son asked, “Did you read all the ingredients?” Hahaha That was my first order of business–schooling Jacob on what to say and what NOT to eat.
And, Jacob was such a trooper. I remember his first birthday party. I had already schooled him on his not being able to eat the cake as we just didn’t know what was in it. He was perfectly fine being the ONLY ONE sitting there with no cake or ice cream. The scene just broke my heart. I cried (later at home) more than he ever did! Ha! But, it made me realize I could make something for him and just TAKE IT TO THE PARTY! Genius!!! My baby was never the lone man out again. Fast forward to today…at 9. He really doesn’t even want any cake or ice cream at parties for the most part. He’s not a big sweets eater. (God’s grace :))
This is still a neverending journey. We (me, Jacob, and his little brother Hudson) know the places we all can eat, the foods we all can eat, and which ingredients each of them must avoid. Hudson, however (who does not have a peanut butter or shellfish allergy), will not even touch anything which may have an effect on his brother in anyway! Ha! I, on the other hand, am not as legalistic anymore and now even bring shrimp and some peanut butter products into the house! I am just careful where I eat it, and I clean the area where I ate thoroughly afterwards.
But, I can never let my guard down. Jacob was accidentally given a peanut butter cookie that he thought was a sugar cookie at school last year, which he ate because he knew the school knew he had a peanut allergy–so he trusted them. sigh…He won’t break the code of “No ingredients, no eating it!!” rule again. That incident is really also a contributing factor to why I homeschool. Also because food allergies and environmental allergies (which both boys have) are triggers for upper respiratory/asthmatic issues (which both boys have) as well. That simultaneous journey, however, is a story for another day and another blog…:)