What Parents of Kids With Food Allergies Want You To Know (But Are Afraid To Say)

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Do you know a family dealing with food allergies?

We are that family.

My son Sam has severe allergies to milk, peanut, and egg. I’m taking a proverbial “gulp” here, and spilling the beans on what I wish my friends and family knew about raising a kid who’s allergic to common foods.

I had the hardest time with this title. I kept feeling like it sounded angry, or aggressive. You know – that I’m “fed up” with everyone who doesn’t understand, and this is my angry-mama-bear vent.

Not at all.

On the contrary, I am blessed with some of the most kind and accommodating friends and family I’d ever hope for.

Like my sisters, who’ve all but given up peanut butter, and milk in sippy cups, and Cheez-its for the kids – just so their homes are safe for Sam. Bless them.

Like the folks at church, who for my son’s sake switched to dairy-free butter for the morning bagels, and feed every kid in Sunday School Glutino pretzels, which are safe for my son.

And then there’s my dear, sweet friends and neighbors, who are *new* to the whole allergy thing, but kindly tolerate my neurotic requests at play dates, wipe their hands, even hold off the cheddar Goldfish while Sam is around. And that’s not easy. We know how kids are with Goldfish.

I see all that, and I am so grateful.

Yet I know it’s a sticky road, and not everyone “gets it,” even though they may want to

I feel that way, about different things - I don’t understand parenting an autistic child, or battling infertility, being a single mom. I wish I did.

It’s hard to know sometimes what it feels like, how to act, what would help.

So, this post is for you kind souls who want to understand us, to include us, to love us – the ones with the food allergies.

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***Disclaimer: No, I wasn’t elected as official spokesperson for food allergies. But after four years of this, I know these thoughts are somewhat common. Yet every situation is different. If nothing else, read this for your friend – present or future – who’s dealing with allergies. Then tell her, I read this craaaaazy girl’s blog about food allergies. She said “blah, blah, blah…” You don’t feel that way, do you? And then they can tell you that I’m crazy. (Or not.)

Okay, that’s enough intro. Here it is – my version of what allergy-parents want you to know.

  • It only takes a little. Like, a ridiculously, unbelievably little. For kids who are very sensitive, a very small amount of food can cause a serious reaction.

If Sam gets a smidge of peanut or milk on his hand, he will get hives. (Yes, this has happened.) If that hand goes to his mouth or eyes, his face could swell. (Yes, this has happened.) If he swallows it, his throat could swell, and he could cough or have difficulty breathing. (Yup. Happened, too.) Sounds ridiculously dramatic, doesn’t it?

Bottom line: This is serious stuff.

Sometimes we think of “allergic reactions” in terms of “big exposure,” like eating a peanut butter sandwich on accident. However, it can happen from other (smaller) things. Like:

  • Peanut shells on your shoes from a restaurant or baseball game, rubbing off on the carpet
  • “Doritos” residue on your hands
  • Flour on someone’s shirt
  • A knife that cut cheese and wasn’t cleaned properly
  • Spilled milkshake or ice cream on a rug or carpet

If you seem overwhelmed by all of these possibilities, join the club. It is overwhelming.

  • Yes, I can be neurotic. (But you probably would be, too.) If you ever saw your kid with hives all over his body, if you ever saw his lips swollen twice their size, if you ever saw her scared and struggling to catch her breath, if you ever read an article like this one, and known that that could be my kid…You might be a little neurotic, too.
  • Your house may not be safe, and that’s okay. This is a toughy, but it’s true. If my child is deathly allergic to peanuts, and yours eats peanut butter sandwiches everyday in his playroom while he’s stacking blocks and building trains, it just may not be a safe place to play. Just let us know that! We will be so grateful that you were honest. We can still be friends, though! Outings we love: the backyard, the park, going on a walk, a fun field trip…

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  • Know how to clean the house for a playdate. If I haven’t terrified you of wanting to invite an allergic child for a play date, know that it is possible!

Here’s the tried-and-true cleaning method:

  1. Fill up a bucket with Dawn and warm water.
  2. Use a new, clean dish cloth to wipe off tables, counters, and large toys.
  3. Run the vacuum over rugs for crumbs.
  4. Wash everyone’s hands, keep allergic foods out of the way during the visit, and you just might make me cry tears of gratitude!

I know it’s a lot of work. Tell me all about it, and I’ll love you forever.

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  • Understand that we do like you, even if we don’t come to your kid’s birthday party. Y’all, I like cake as much as the next girl. But birthday parties with allergic kids can be really tricky. The ice cream, the snacks, the random grimy hands, the chaos…

And some venues are trickier than others. I’m sure Chuck-E-Cheese, for example, is a great place for a party. I seem to remember it from one of mine back in the day, actually. But it sort of gives me a mini-heart attack thinking about bringing Sam into a pizza parlor with cheese-fingered rides.

I am not offended in the slightest if your party isn’t “allergy-friendly.” It’s not about us – it’s for you and your kid. And I love feeling included when we get an invite to a party, any party.

 But thanks for giving us grace if we don’t feel up to it.

  • Don’t bring allergens into our home. A baby bottle full of formula (held by a mom) is one thing I don’t mind. But a sippy cup of milk, splashing all over is different. I have gone from feeling apologetic and embarrassed about this, to firm, and unashamed.

It’s my responsibility to make our home safe for our child.

Much of the world isn’t safe for him. This should be his safe place. If you have questions about what is/isn’t safe to bring in our home, just ask. And please, please, show me grace if I say (kindly), “You know, I’d feel more comfortable if we had something else…Would he/she like some _____ instead?”

  • Don’t say: “I checked the label – it’s totally safe.” Instead, say: “I think these are safe for you guys, but here’s the label if you want to read it.” Ahhh…the magic words. “The Label.” I love the label. Are you thinking I’m a control freak? Maybe. Except that there are literally 986 different names for milk. And 38 snack companies who throw peanuts in random foods. (More or less.)
  • A “little cold” isn’t just a “little cold” to us. Many children who have food allergies also have asthma (like our son). For a child with asthma, a “little cold” can be terrifying to parents. I know this is true, because even my husband (also known as “Mr. Nothing Fazes Me”) actually gets stressed when Sam gets sick. We’re up frequently at night giving breathing treatments. And it’s just awful hearing a child cough and cough relentlessly. We decided it’s actually more nerve-wracking than dealing with allergies.

All this to say, years ago I would glare down strangers in public after they sneezed. How dare they, ya know?? I now realize though, that people with colds should be allowed out of their houses, and if we never played with a kid who had a runny nose… we’d never play with anyone.

HOWEVER.

If your kid is full-blown in the middle of a nasty, snotty, lung-hacking cold, maybe let’s do dinner on another night. Or at least let me know.

You know, so I can say, “Actually, I think that if I were up all night with a wheezing child this week, I might lose it and start plucking my eyebrows out.” Or: “Thanks for letting me know. Let’s do a cookout outside or something. We’re still up for it.”

But just let us know.

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  • Finally, be careful of physical contact. I know. It’s sad, right? It stinks. I’m not saying don’t give kisses, but if you just ate a peanut butter sandwich…you might need to wait. High-fives are awesome…if your hands are clean. Wrestling is great…but not if there’s Cheetos’ dust all over your clothes. If that seems sad, rest assured that my child at least gets plenty of cheese-free hugs and kisses everyday from his loving, somewhat neurotic mother. : ) Who wouldn’t want that?!

If you deal with food allergies in your family, does this post reflect how you feel? What would you add (or delete)?

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Comments

  1. I love your candid post! My children only have sensitivities to foods, not full blown allergies and I know how I stress about it.
    Our family is as accommodating as they can be, but I feel bad when they buy something and say “I read the label,” only to read it myself and say, “thank you, but this contains…”
    My children’s sensitivities are: dairy, wheat, soy, citrus, peanuts, and almonds.

  2. Awesome article, thank you! I would add that I wish people would be more understanding towards mental reactions as well as physical. Though not as scary as a life threatening reaction, it is still concerning when your child literally looses her mind for 2 days because of certain foods (can’t sleep, can’t focus, can’t stop jumping, uncontrollably crying, etc). I wish people would acknowledge that it is a real reaction and be respectful about it.

    • mom24boys says:

      Let me assure you I understand your situation Noelle. A cousin of mine and another family we are close to have these issues. It really is a case of “losing their mind” as you put it. And now, 45 years later, I realize that my brother with egg, wheat, milk and chocolate allergies was not a ‘jerk’ or ‘troubled’ or ‘anti-social’ like so often was thrown around. He had panic-attacks and similar events often and now I realize he was probably having an allergic reaction.

      Please know that you aren’t alone.

  3. Thank You! My children don’t have allergies, but we do have two celiacs. One whom has asthma. And while him having a cold now at 5 isn’t a freaky thing, at 18 months or two or three, it was. Because we’d almost always have to go to the ER and sometimes spend days in the hospital.

    For us it’s not just about food. It’s about baby wipes, hand sanitizer, finger paint, play-doh and more! Those things contain gluten, and yes they can and do give celiacs hives. And not to mention that little kids put their hands in their mouth and then you’ve just made them sick. So please if my child is in church do NOT wash his or her hands with a baby wipe or wipe their face with it (even worse), and do NOT put hand sanitizer on my children’s hands. Plain ole soap is fine, no lotion soaps though as they most often contain gluten as well.

    Don’t get offended when I don’t send my child to ‘children’s church’ or other children’s activities. We’ve learned over the past 4 years that it’s safer for them to keep them with us. Yes, we know you want to help and accommodate us, but honestly it’s a lot to remember and I’m not upset that you forget for the 58th time and put hand sani on my children, it’s our responsibility to keep our kids safe, not yours. So when I opt to have all of my children sit with me at church or homeschool them, it’s not your fault. It’s just that I realize that I’m the responsible one for their health. Let me do what is best for my child without glares or unkind comments.

    • I have two daughters (and my mom) who are celiac as well. I had NO IDEA that wipes and hand sanitizer contained gluten! Seriously??? Man alive! I’ve learned to check labels on shampoo and conditioner (why do so many hair products contain barley?) and chapstick and hand lotion and every single food item. But I would never have even thought to check hand sanitizer; just assumed it was pretty much alcohol.

      The hard thing with Celiac’s Disease is that sometimes children don’t have an “allergic reaction,” so people don’t realize the potential dangers of gluten. Gluten absorbed through the skin (the body’s largest organ) gets into the blood stream. The immune system ramps up and begins to attack the gluten molecules right where they land, in the digestive tract. As the immune system kills off the gluten, it also causes damage to the the esophagus, stomach, and bowel. Sometimes permanent damage. Which can lead to a significantly increased risk of diseases such as colon cancer.

      But people are like, “Oh, she can play with play dough, can’t she?! It’s not like they’ll be eating it.” And I have to explain, once again, that no, playing with WHEAT and rubbing it all over their hands and forearms is actually NOT safe for a celiac!

  4. Oh yes! My son has a lot of allergies but thankfully they aren’t as severe. He is allergic to peanuts, lots of other nuts, wheat, dairy, egg and many fruit and veggies. He will never get to go to Chuck E Cheese. We avoid birthday parties or taking him to eat out. It’s just not safe.

    We have to be so careful. My son wont go into anaphylactic shock from most of his allergens but he will get horrible diaper rashes that last for days. His ever present eczema will flare up even more and become an open sore then get infected. It still affects our lives.

    Thankfully I’m surrounded by great, supportive friends. We want to be invited places too. I always volunteer to bring food. I think your list is spot on! Thanks for sharing!

  5. YES!!! Our food allergies are not nearly as severe as yours but I often feel neurotic and rude. And I do choose not to participate in many things because I don’t want to deal with the battle over food. Now the battle is with my 3 year old because he wants what everyone else has and doesn’t yet understand how much stuff he can’t have. Its so frustrating when people offer him things without asking me first. So many times I have to be the bad guy. I think you covered the range of emotions and issues beautifully. Thanks for this post.

    • I struggled with feeling neurotic and rude, too. But one time, while trying to find something safe to order in a restaurant, my daughter clammed up. She was acting ashamed and embarassed. She was prepared to go hungry rather than ask the waitress to bring us the bottle of salad dressing to read the ingredients ourselves. And that’s when I made the mental shift.

      My girls are not making special requests because they’re playing with the latest food fad or trying to get rid of their “wheat belly” like so many gluten-free people out there. My girls are not picky eaters. They have a DISEASE. And they need to be safe and healthy. And it is not an inconvenience for us to ask that others help us ensure they’re safe and healthy.

      I needed to shift my mindset and theirs, so that we all came to a place where we didn’t feel as though their Celiac’s Disease is an inconvenience or an embarassment. Because it’s not. If people act inconvenienced, they are the ones being rude. (Especially if it’s people we pay for service, like in a restaurant!)

      So you go ahead and do what you need to do to keep your son safe and healthy. No guilt, becuase you’re not guilty of anything more than being a good mom!

  6. This is excellent. Very helpful to those of us who have no idea what the allergy world is all about. I would never have considered how thoroughly I had recently eaten Doritos before playing with an allergic kid. Thank you for sharing all this.

  7. Great post Jessie! I think you hit the nail on the head without sounding crazy at all :) God truly knew what he was doing when he chose you to parent our sweet Sam. It’s so important for all of us to be reminded just how serious some allergies are! Love you!

  8. YES! Wonderful post – so well-written. I think the best way my friends have said I’ve explained it as far as how careful we have to be with our kids and their food allergies, is for them to imagine that the color orange had the potential to take their child’s life. They would see every speck of orange in their kid’s environment. That’s how I am when we are outside of our home or when people are at our home. It is stressful and anxiety-inducing and I swear I am NOT trying to be neurotic and rude (always a fear of mine, but in this case I have to not worry about that). Our family and friends have been absolutely incredible, but I have to give them grace when they maybe touch them with something on their hands that causes a reaction… they don’t live in this world 24/7 so their brains don’t have to work like mine. They wouldn’t think not to dry my kids’ hands with the kitchen towel vs. instead using a clean paper towel in case someone wiped their hands on there with something my kids were allergic to. There have been times we’ve had to turn down invitations or leave a party early when food comes out and we see that kids are running around covered in mac & cheese and touching everything, including our kids. We aren’t going to run off in a huff and upset that this party wasn’t accommodating – we know that it’s not possible for the world to accommodate to us – but we will have to sneak out if it’s not a safe environment for our kids. I would also add, now that my son has started pre-K, that I am eternally grateful to the parents for being nut-free (he’s not the only one with nut allergies in his class of 14) with the snacks they bring. And I get it… I grew up on PB&J – they are cheap and fast to prepare as you run out the door… but it could KILL my child and I’m not there to watch him every second of the day when he’s at school, so maybe it could be saved as an after-school snack instead. And it’s terrifying and I pray that his teachers watch the kids carefully for not sharing or touching each other and that they would notice signs of an allergic reaction if they saw it on him. And I pray that one day he won’t spend his lunches sitting alone at the “peanut free table.” And I pray for moms like you and me that we get out some time on our own for a meal that we can enjoy without having to order something safe for our kids for ourselves. And I pray for moms like you and me to have peace in our constantly worried minds.

  9. As a parent to children who DON’T have food allergies, I really appreciate this article. Spreading the word to other families, too!

  10. Thank you for putting into words, very eloquently, the feelings I’ve had for years about my daughter’s allergies. This post hits so close to home, I feel like I could’ve written it. (Although I don’t think I would have done nearly as good of a job). I have to remind myself that friends, family, people at playgrounds and malls…they never set out to put my child in danger. It is probably never intentional – it’s just that people don’t get it. I struggle with finding that balance between apologizing for the inconvenience to others without apologizing for standing up for what is safe for us. It’s a very delicate thing and I find it’s easier with strangers than it is with friends. Thank you especially for the first part of your post where you point out all of the wonderful people who respect your family’s allergies and do their part to keep you all safe. We are blessed with many wonderful people around us too. Great friends may not fully understand, but they ask the right questions and they try, and really, what more could you ask for? Thank you also for pointing out that despite some people’s best efforts, certain things aren’t going to be safe. That it may seem neurotic or even rude, but it’s just your way of life when you’re trying to protect a child. I so get it. I feel ya. And I totally appreciate your words and your positive perspective. When I read this, I heard myself saying outloud, “Yes, yes, yes!!!!!”

  11. Very, very good post! I’m passing this on for sure :) it’s also nice to know that I’m not being crazy when I turn down invites to parties and outings… Oh, And I couldn’t be more thankful to have you to go through all this with.

  12. Very well said. I have said and done all the above. My little guy is also severely allergic to dairy, peanuts and tree nuts. This article hits very close to home for me.

  13. I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this! This is exactly how I feel! My 3 yr old daughter has the same severe allergies as your son, except trade soy for egg! We are blesssed to have our parents, and some friends, very supportive and understanding, but it’s still terrifying to go places. A couple weeks ago, it killed me to turn down a last minute invitation (the first I’ve received all year) to join some of my 4 yr old son’s preschool friends at Chuck E Cheese. But even if I went home to pack a safe lunch first, the stress of all those cheesy hands touching everything that my daughter would be touching was more than I could handle. And my poor son, who’s not allergic to dairy, had to miss out on fun with friends because of my worry.

    Yesterday, I was near tears in my daughter’s mommy&me preschool class when the substitute teacher unknowingly brought out buttery microwave popcorn for snack. Although I had crackers for my daughter, sitting at a table with 5 other 2-3yr olds eating dairy was almost too much for me. I politely asked all the parents to help their kids wash their hands really well, but not all of them complied. I was filled with frustration and anxiety as I watched “contaminated” little fingers touching shared toys and surfaces, and debated offending the other moms and reining those kids in myself. I never knew I could be so nuerotic or a control freak, but there’s no denying it now. :) It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one! I will be sharing this on FB.

  14. Great post! I have a son with severe food allergies to milk, egg, wheat, barley, peanuts, tree nuts and bananas and do things differently in our house and his life. He is my second child and had his first anaphylactic reactions at 8 mo old to barley cereal and milk based formula (I was getting ready to go out of town for 4 days and needed back-up for my mom in case she ran out of breast milk). We began that week teaching my son that he cannot eat what everyone else eats because it could kill him. We would say, “no, you can’t have this it will make you sick” and “this is your special waffle, cookie, pasta etc” I do not keep an allergen free house and felt if I did that I would not make the point each night at dinner to let him know I was serving him his “safe” whatever. I also did not feel it was the right choice to begin restricting my daughter’s diet just because it was not safe for her brother. We all still eat peanut butter and he has WOW Soy butter, we eat wheat bread and pasta and he has his safe rice pasta and safe breads. He knew by 2 to ask us to “weed the ingweedients” at the store to check and see if something was safe for him. I was concerned that if I did not make the point each and every day as a toddler and preschooler to say “this is your safe…..” that when he was older and began going to playdates he’d think everything was safe for him. From 8 mo- 5 yrs we had a basket on the counter that was labeled “Okay for J” and contained all of his safe snacks, so friends, relatives and babysitters knew where to find his safe foods. When he began preschool at age 2, I sent him a placemat to put on the table and requested that his classmates washed their hands after eating but I did not request an allergen free room 1) because that’s unrealistic and 2) I knew from seeing him eat at home that he knew how to eat safely around others. I cannot expect everyone to stop eating sandwiches and drinking milk and he just needed to learn to only eat what mommy sent him. He is now 10 and has attended public school since kindergarten, eats in the cafeteria (even buys lunch on occasion), goes to birthday parties, play dates, camps, even attended a 3 day/2 night trip to a camp with school, goes to grandma & grandpa’s for a week each summer since he was 18 months old and lives life to the fullest. I know we all do things differently and for what works with us but I encourage moms new to allergies to have allergens in their homes, so their children can recognize them when mom is not around. How will he know a peanut is a peanut if he never sees them and knows not to touch or in my case a banana? Just food for thought.

  15. Awesome Nanny says:

    I am nanny and deal with one little boy who has a peanut allergy. He has learned he can only have (insert name here) proof foods to eat. He also has a allergy mate bracelet that he wears when we are out of the house. I love this bracelet, because it says peanut allergy on it and has important info on the inside of the bracelet. I have also left early with him because other moms or nannies can’t respect my wishes to not serve any foods with peanuts or traces of peanuts to all the kids, even if I offer to bring food. You really summed it up really well. It would nice if for once other parents and nannies somewhat understood what we go through on a day to day to basis.

  16. Thank you for this. My son is anaphylactic to tree nuts, milk and all ‘Cillins. It is such a relief to know there are other mom’s out there who understands the danger.

  17. This is beautifully written! We’ve also experienced this in our family. Unlike you, we don’t have a lot of support. Some but not all family members are helpful and supportive, so holidays are a land mine of hurt feelings on their part and terror on mine. I’ve tried to be tactful and understanding, but almost four years in to it, they no longer are ignorant and are now simply being obstinate and reckless. I’m one more unpleasant holiday dinner away from banning them from our lives, unfortunately.

    We’ve had to stop going to church completely due to their insistence on serving snacks throughout both Sunday School and regular services, and the art supplies they use for crafts are all potential triggers for my sons. (And I’ve tried offering to bring safe snacks to replace what they serve; I was told no.)

    We don’t get out much! LOL

    I wish people would understand how isolating and lonely it can be as the parent of severely food allergic children. We don’t get invited to events, play dates are far too dangerous foru our kids, and even going to the park is a landmine thanks to my youngest sons reactivity to harmless things like tree buds and snow (no joke). So the smallest gesture of support brings me quite literally to tears. If it wasn’t for my blog and the amazing people I’ve met online via support boards, I think is be crazy by now!

    I know it sounds like I’m whining; really, I’m not! My boys are wonderful and this will get easier as they get older. When they can confidently self-advocate about their food limitations I will feel much more comfortable going to visit people, play areas, and public places like church. But at 3 and 20 months, they’re too little yet to care for themselves in that way. It’s a time, a season, and it won’t be this way forever.

    I just wish people knew that food allergy parents aren’t crazy…we’re just doing the best we can to keep our kids alive and healthy and the measures we take may look absurd to others.

    I LOVE the analogy about the color orange being deadly. That was brilliant!

    Thanks for writing this. I’m sharing it everywhere I can!

  18. Thanks for this great post! We actually have a birthday party this weekend and I know that at least one of our guests has pretty bad allergies. I hadn’t thought much about the kids sharing toys. I see now that I need a tree nut and dairy free menu, rather than just menu choices for him. I can do that. :)

  19. I have a son with one life threatening allergy (cashews) and a HUGE list (all grains, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, strawberry, tree nuts, peanuts, coconut) of milder allergens and intolerances. I have Celiac and cannot eat corn, dairy, soy and at least one other thing I haven’t identified yet. Feeding our family and keeping us all safe is a challenge to say the least!

    I love it when people ask if there is anything they can get so my child can eat with the other kids at a party. Almost invariably though my answer is no thanks. Really, what can they do about a birthday cake with no egg or grains and ice cream without diary, soy or coconut? Every once In a while I get a mom who insists though and although I appreciate her desire to help and be inclusive, I secretly hate it. I know she is going to a lot of expense (alternate foods are not cheap to buy or make) and trouble just for my child. On the one hand, it is so sweet she wants to help include my child. I love that part. But what she does not realize is that it puts me in the awkward position of having to ask to see labels and to quiz her on how it was prepared and then to politely decline a food she has made just for him if it is not safe. I feel like a neurotic b@$&! when that happens. So to those moms, thank you for your sweet heart. I love that about you. But please allow me to decline the offer up front (if i need to).

    I would love to be able to teach my son how to advocate for himself, but right now it is not possible and I don’t know if it ever will be. He has almost no sense of personal safety. At age 5 he still does not make the connection that running in the road or touching a hot stove are dangerous. Of course we tell him all the time and he will say in a sing song “No touch the stove. Stove hot. It could burn you. Ouch!” while trailing his hand over the burners. We talk about food to him as well, but at least three times last month he grabbed food off the floor that another child had dropped and ate it. Twice while I was less than 3 feet way from him. It is my responsibility to keep him safe. I get that and I agree with it. But I need help to do it. He cannot safeguard himself and I cannot be on him every second.

  20. Thank you! 7 years ago, a sweet lady who knew about food allergies helped show me the ropes of having a gluten-free, corn-free, nut free, strawberry free, milk-free baby. It was quite a steep learning curve! Then when the second baby came along…well, we were ready for the allergies. It has been quite a journey.

    Thankfully, my family has been dealing with food allergies for generations (we are on to the fourth generation, now), so they understand. And I am blessed to be surrounded by such sweet friends who have taken the time to understand and know.

    But it can still get lonely when the parents of my children’s friends at school are afraid to extend an invitation because there are too many unknown variables.

    Thank you for helping to spread the word.

  21. Thank you for putting my words out there. It is exactly how I feel and I nodded my head the whole way through this post.

  22. The Atomic Mom says:

    Well, I think you are way more gracious that I am. I’m still working on it. This is the first year our peanut and tree nut allergic son has been in public school. And while my friends are mostly understanding, they still call me a Scrooge when I say that we shouldn’t be having birthday parties in class with food. It’s an every day endeavor, and I’m very thankful to read posts like this, because it helps me feel not quite alone in this food allergy thing. Best of luck to your little guy!

  23. I love this!

  24. Wow I have to say I am blessed. I have intolerance to all of foods but I am lucky that it’s just my tummy who can’t handle it and not my skin. Is there a reason that you guys don’t take out all the unsafe foods for your whole family?

  25. Great post but…Please be careful when you say something is “free of ALL allergens.” Glutino pretzels are NOT SAFE for all soy-allergic people because they contain soy lecithin. They also have corn in them, plus other chemicals (citric acid) that are usually made from corn. These pretzels are NOT safe for all soy-allergic people, and NOT SAFE for any corn-allergic people.

  26. I stumbled upon this post by accident. Thank you for posting it. It is wonderfully written. Our son is 17 and has had severe allergic reactions to tree nuts since he was 4; face swelling, throat swelling, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, chest tightness, hives, lightheaded, confusion. This happens within 2-5 minutes if him ingesting anything that has touched a tree nut. He will be graduating from high school this year and heading off to college.

    I had gotten to the point where I wasn’t a total freak about his food allergies. The upper-grade school years and middle-school years were pretty good with only two bad reactions. I was pretty calm about the whole food allergy issue, because it was being handled well. I thought I would continue to worry less as he got older, but I’m finding that’s not the case. Even though we’ve warned him about the dangers of drinking alcohol, especially with a food allergy, I worry about him going to party’s, drinking alcohol and making bad decisions about the things he eat’s while under the influence. I worry about his new friends not knowing about his allergy and thinking he is just sick, not knowing he’s having an anaphylactic reaction. I worry about him being too embarrassed to ask girls if they’ve eaten nuts before he kisses them and then having a severe reaction. I worry about the new restaurants and dining halls where he’ll eat. I worry that he won’t carry his epi-pen at all times, especially in social situations. I worry because he’s a young adult, and they tend to think they’re invincible. I worry because he’ll be at an out-of-state college and it will take at least 9 hours for us to get to him if something should happen. I sometimes stay up at night worrying about all these things.

    I always hoped he would out grow his tree nut allergies, but only 9% of kids out grow them. He had a reaction two nights ago at home. A food product I’d used in the past changed their ingredient list and I hadn’t double-checked the label. He is ok after his reaction, but I’ll admit it rocked my world. I was responsible for getting too comfortable and not rechecking the food label. I barely slept that night as I checked on him every thirty minutes to make sure he wasn’t having a delayed reaction, too. Delayed reactions can happen up to six hours after being exposed to the food and after they’ve already had the initial reaction. Be aware that even at home, where you think it’s safe, food products can pull a fast one on you.

    I try my best not to be too neurotic. My worrying comes and goes in spurts. When big events are in the near future I tend to worry more; prom, spring break, senior party and graduation celebrations…ugh! I’m surprised I haven’t broken out in a rash…ha!

    As parents, what do we do? In our family, I hope that we’ve educated daughter, our extended-family, our friends, our kids friends well enough. Mainly, I hope that we’ve educated our son enough to send him out into the world as a responsible young adult, knowing the dangers of his food allergies and how to handle them quickly should they arise.

    I imagine I’ll worry about his allergies as long as I live, but that’s what moms do.

  27. ” Understand that we do like you, even if we don’t come to your kid’s birthday party. Y’all, I like cake as much as the next girl. But birthday parties with allergic kids can be really tricky. The ice cream, the snacks, the random grimy hands, the chaos… ”

    AMEN! My kid has Celiac, not an allergy, but I agree with every word you have written. Grateful for those who ‘get it’ and those that want to. x

  28. Best article ever! Im not alone thanks for reading our minds!

  29. Charity Luiskutty says:

    I appreciate this article SO much. I could have written every single word of it (If I were so articulate). :) I have three food allergic children, my youngest being severely allergic to milk to the extent of what you describe…Dorito residue giving me a small heart attack and Goldfish crumbs on the floor make me turn in the opposite direction. Thank you for sharing!
    People around me are kind and gracious, but yet I don’t think they can fully appreciate my level of stress in all of these situations.

  30. Excellent article! So gracious and well said!

  31. Lisa Clapp says:

    Yep! Totally agree!! With having a 7 year old boy with the same exact allergies, I understand ALL the points made and not being an outspoken personality, I have struggled with all these issues too. THANKS!!

  32. Dorinda Gonzalez says:

    My grandbaby is highly allergy to milk,penut,egg,etc. It break my hart because it so hard because we have to read the back of every label in the back of any items we buy because is the life of my grandson. I would like to do a foundation to educated people who are not aware of kids allergies and also to educate the staff in the schools. My grandson will be staring kindergarten this year,however they have never hear anything about kids allergy or 504 program. He will be the first kids with foods allergy. I need help to educate people how important is…..I live in tampa florida any information will be appreciated.

    May the lord blessed each one of you. AMEN

  33. Great piece! My 3yo is ana to dairy, eggs, peanuts, and extremely contact reactive! You touched on everything I would’ve said myself. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I checked the label it’s fine.” …ahhhm NO, give me the label and I’ll see for myself if it’s “fine” smh. Of course, 9 out of 10 times it’s not. Big surprise! Sadly, the non-allergic world just doesn’t get it. Hopefully one day, with enough advocacy, They will! Keep up the great blogging!

  34. Well Said!!!!! My oldest son is a peanut/tree-nut allergy and an asthmatic. We found out the day he turned 5-months, yes I said months, but that is a whole other post. He his now 15 years old and NEVER had a second reaction. So it is possible. We have his blood tested every few years and recently did a skin test to find out exactly what tree nuts he is allergic to. We always just avoided them all. His blood test comes back off the chart every time and he will never outgrow the allergies.
    I will say that I feel like the key to our success has been education for us and others all around. I personally am not afraid anymore of telling someone that he has a deadly allergy and have even refused to have him to shake the hand of a teacher because she was seen eating a bulls-eye treat. I visit his teachers and talk with the staff of the school every year and tell them what I have for expectations and that I am also available for them to contact in order for him to have a successful year. Countless times I have had a parent or teacher call me at home to verify ingredients or ask if I could provide something. I am always willing to help whenever just to keep him safe. I frequently tell people that “I am always concerned for the ingredients, I panic more about the hidden and unseen than the blatant. If you make grandma peanut butter cookies and then an hour later make sugar cookies on the same baking sheet for a class treat then the sugar cookies are cross contaminated and that is not okay for my son.” People understand that a little more.
    My son is obviously extremely aware of his allergy as he has always had it, as are all his younger brothers, none of them have a problem speaking up now. I just want you and other parents to know that you should never feel embarrassed or anxious about keeping your child safe. Most of the time the people you have to talk to about the allergies, if the tables were turned would be your biggest advocate and feel the same as you.
    Keep your head up and know that there is always other folks out there that support you. Some days a good rant is the best medicine:)

  35. Katie Murray says:

    I would add, too, that for our family the worst thing “helpful” friends and family can do is suggest that maybe our son really isn’t sensitive to anything, but rather, we’re just neurotic. Or say to us, or him (yes, to my 9 yr. old), “Maybe if he tries it now, you’ll find out that he isn’t ‘sensitive’ to it anymore” [hint, hint, he never was]. Ingesting gluten makes my son sick to his stomach, and affected with a general malaise that he does not need at school. We also used to deal with nightly vomiting, but no one saw that. No hives, no anaphylactic shock, so it must be all in our heads, right? Our pediatrician advised us that we don’t need to spend thousands on a test to confirm what we already know, that removing wheat from his diet solves the issues, so we don’t even have an official diagnosis. It is so, so, NOT helpful for people to suggest that we’re just “making it up” as it were; THIS is what I would like people to know.

  36. We were lucky to only have a mild dairy allergy and she has out grown it now… Allergies are very overwhelming and scary for a parent of a young child – or any age child I am sure. It was a lot to process and a lot of work to manage. I am thankful she was able to out grow her allergy. But the one thing we experienced a lot was people not understanding that a milk allergy is NOT the same as lactose intolerance. I constantly had people telling me about lactose free food to give her – which still has dairy in it… It would annoy me so bad when people would say just a taste won’t hurt b/c with an allergy, yes it will! Yes she will break out in hives. Why do u think I have to carry an epipen with me every where I go… That was my biggest frustration when dealing with her allergy. Also people don’t understand just how many foods have dairy products in them. Things u would never expect like lunch meat… I was so scared someone was just going to give her something without asking me. My family was the worst offenders… Couldn’t take my eye off of her at a family party

  37. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m a mama who’s new to the allergy scene and I’ve already run into some of the scary, gray areas. I’m thankful I’m not alone and thankful to be my little one’s advocate.

  38. Love this! As the mother of a child with multiple food allergies all your thoughts ring so true. Especially about how just a teeny, tiny minuscule amount can cause a lot of harm. Even derivatives and cross contamination and sprays on the veggies and what the dishes were washed in really do matter (A LOT). Great post, thanks for putting into words what so many of us feel but just can’t put into eloquent words. :)

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