I never realized what parents go through when their children have food allergies. Luckily, I never had to deal with this as my kids were never affected with food allergies. Recently, I sat with a mother and friend who lives each day in fear that her two children who both suffer from food allergies do not come in contact with anything that can trigger a reaction. Her children, Amelia age seven and Jude age five, both suffer from severe allergies. Amelia is allergic to tree nuts and Jude is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and sesame seeds. Their allergies are life threatening and they have to carry epi-pens and benadryl everywhere they go. Amelia experienced anaphalaxis at age 3 and they almost lost her….”It was the most awful thing I have ever experienced in my entire life and I still cry thinking about it.” Here are some things Nicole and her husband Rod deal with in their every day lives.
“My daughter suffers from severe anxiety disorder because of her allergies and what she has experienced. As a result, she is now seeing a therapist bi-weekly. Amelia and Jude both have severe OCD. They constantly want to wash their hands, sometimes until they are raw. We cannot go anywhere without packing an assortment of food and snacks. Restaurants are way too challenging, so we avoid taking them; they do not get to experience going out to dinner like most families. We can’t take any chances! Birthday parties!!! Ugh!! I will never be able to drop them off or pick them up until they are old enough to give themselves a needle if needed. I have to bring them their own treat and they often feel left out or different from the rest of the kids! I took my daughter to a spa party and thank God I checked what kind of masks and creams they were using because they had almond oil in them!!! I had to bring my own spa kit made up just for her…I always have to be on my toes. We recently went on an airplane, and I had to ask to board first so that I could wipe down all the seats and trays with Clorox wipes because who knows what anyone ate who sat there before us. My kids have both developed hives all over their face from touching a surface that had a dusting of an allergy on it….
I have trouble finding babysitters who want the responsibility of watching them nor do we want to leave them because we will be in fear of something happening if we are not there. Playdates can be a bit of a challenge too because I have to stay with them and ask that the other kids not eat what my kids can’t if I want to be able to relax. I cannot control this at big parties. I just have to watch them and continue to educate them. I don’t want to rush their young lives, but I’m glad they are getting a little older to better understand. I was a wreck when they were real small! I am always that mom at every party asking about what kind of ingredients are in this and that and always paranoid that something may happen.
I am constantly reading labels afraid I may miss something. My son never wants what I pack for him, he wants to eat like the other kids! My daughter is paranoid for my son even if something is safe, if it is not from home, she panics and cries. Everyone stares and asks what is wrong. Kids have even made fun of them and it breaks my heart. It is hard trying to make them feel like they are not different. I screamed at my son the other day for approaching a water fountain at camp. He ran up just as all the other kids did and was ready to take a drink because he was thirsty…people looked at me like I was nuts!!! The counselors did not understand why I reacted until I explained. When I explained they understood and all I could think was “hello, you are watching my kids.” Kids put their mouths on water fountains and touch them with their hands, if there is any trace of peanut butter, nuts, sesame, mayo, etc……. it could result in a bad situation. It is so scary that food could be the enemy, but in our case many foods can be. It is hard to find a balance of awareness vs making them paranoid…I do my best.”
After talking with Nicole I realized just how scary this can be. My niece’s daughter, Reese, also suffers from allergies from peanuts, soy and beans. I remember them coming over and I made brownies with nuts and there was absolutely nothing for Reese to eat. Then I thought OMG, what if I was watching her and didn’t realize and gave her a brownie?!?!?
I can’t imagine living in constant fear the way Nicole does and so many other mothers do. My heart goes out to all PARENTS that have to worry about their children having a reaction. Please always try and be aware that this is a serious problem and WE as parents must always be aware that we may have a child at our house that has severe food allergies.
Here are some Myths about food allergies to keep in mind:
Myth: Food allergies are uncommon:
As many as 15 million people in the U.S. have food allergies, including approximately 6 million children.
Myth: Food allergies aren’t dangerous:
Food allergies are potentially life-threatening. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that is rapid in onset, and can cause death.
Myth: It can take several days before an allergic reaction can appear:
Fact: Symptoms of allergic reactions typically occur within minutes to two hours after the individual has ingested the food to which he or she is allergic.
Myth: One little bite is okay:
Fact: In fact, less than one little bite can cause a severe reaction in some with a food allergy. Some individuals with food allergies have experienced reactions to trace amounts of the allergen in the food.
Myth: Peanuts are the only food that can cause a severe reaction:
Fact: While it is true that peanuts can cause very serious reactions, other foods have been known to cause severe reactions as well. These include, but are not limited to, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and milk.
Myth: A food can be made less allergenic by cooking it:
Fact: A food allergy is an immune system response to a protein in a food. The protein remains in the food during heating, therefore, you cannot make a food less allergenic by cooking it. The exception to this is sometimes seen with egg and milk allergy; some individuals with egg allergy are able to consume egg or milk that has been extensively heated and in smaller amounts, such as in baked goods. Ask your doctor before trying this. Also, many people with allergy to raw fruit/vegetable based upon having hay fever (pollen allergy) tolerate the heated forms.
Myth: A positive skin prick test to a specific food means that you will react to that food when you eat it.
Fact: A positive skin prick test can be highly predictive of a food allergy, however these tests can sometimes yield a “false positive” result. An oral food challenge is the most definitive test to determine whether you have a food allergy. Consult your allergist for advice.
Myth: Adults don’t develop new food allergies.
Fact: Though most individuals develop food allergies in early childhood, food allergies can develop at any age.
Myth: Reactions will become increasingly severe each time you have one.
Fact: Reactions are unpredictable. When they occur, they can be the same, less severe than, or more severe than previous reactions. Additionally, an individual may not always experience the same symptoms of an allergic reaction (for example, an individual may have hives with one reaction, and vomiting with a subsequent reaction). The nature of a reaction depends on a person’s level of allergy and the dose of the allergen that was ingested.