Your allergist gives you the diagnosis along with a bunch of paperwork about food allergies. They explain to you how to use an epi-pen. They give you forms to give to your school that has the allergy reaction plan. Then they send you on our way. Once you get over the shock of your child having food allergies you’re asking yourself numerous questions. Here’s the questions I’ve asked myself or I’ve been ask by a new food allergy mom.
- Does the epi-pen really have to go with us everywhere we go? YES! Yes again. And YES. Even to the park where you know there will be no food. Even to grandma’s house where you’ll be in charge of all the food that goes into your child’s mouth. The severity of an anaphlatic reaction could be dependent on how quick the epi-pen is administered. We see numerous stories about how the child would not have died if the epi-pen had been on them and administered sooner. Sometimes the reaction isn’t severe enough to warrant that kind of response but it’s not worth the risk.
- Do we have to change our diet around our kids allergy? This is a case by case basis but here are some general things we do. Dinner is the meal we can all sit down for and it’s always safe for Bodie. Breakfast and lunch are customized for each individual. Bodie can be around peanut butter and Oskar will have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the table with Bodie. Oskar is required to wash his hands after and they are not to share the cups they drink out of. Oskar was not allowed to eat peanut butter around Bodie until he was old enough to be aware of Bodie’s allergy and be responsible to not make a mess and wash his hands. Bodie has his own pizza with a wheat free crust and vegan cheese while the rest of us have regular pizza. In general, anything we eat as a family needs to have an option of the same thing that is safe for Bodie. If your child cannot be around peanut butter or almond butter then yes you’ll have to keep it out of the house to ensure your child’s safety.
- What happens if were invited over to a friends house for dinner? In our experience we have some friends who will make a meal where is everything is safe for Bodie. Other friends may not because it can be overwhelming and they are worried about cross contamination. If your knife has been in peanut butter and you use the same knife for your jelly then your jelly is no longer safe for someone with a nut allergy. Honestly, it makes no difference to me what our friends do. We will still show up regardless and I will either have a meal for Bodie or I won’t depending on what’s being served. If it’s hot dogs and hamburgers which are generally safe then I’ll bring an a food allergy safe bun for Bodie to have. Now if you’re child cannot be around any allergens whatsoever because the food allergy is that severe then yes your friends will have to make some adjustments. You’ll then have to determine if it’s safe for them to go.
- My family has all these traditions around food and now none of them are safe. This is HARD. You’re mourning the fact that Christmas morning cinnamon rolls are a no go. You’re mourning all the motherhood dreams you had of ice cream shop visits, cookie making and more. Our society and holiday celebrations revolve around food. This makes food allergies even harder. I definitely went through a period of ‘mourning’ when Bodie got diagnosed with not just a nut allergy but dairy and egg. This is where you either find an alternative tradition or you find an alternative recipe. Cinnamon rolls do not taste the same without wheat and butter but you get used to it. Some of your family members will be understanding about the food allergies new traditions and some of your family members will think you’re making it up. I’ve heard enough stories to know this is true. You must stress over and over and over that it is not a matter of inconvenience but a matter of LIFE AND DEATH. Because it is.
- What about school functions? Birthday celebrations, fairs, Halloween, etc. You’ll need to provide a safe treat that the teacher can store in his/her room to give to your child when there is a Birthday celebration and they can’t have the treat brought in. I supply a box of Enjoy Life cookies that are individually wrapped so that they don’t go stale. Or I provide fruit snacks. As far as fairs where pizza or other treats may be supplied we either don’t eat there or I bring an alternative. Halloween is tough but there is candy that is safe. Sometimes I’ll carry some with me in case it takes a while to get a safe candy in his bag.
- What about Birthday parties outside of school? We have gone to a few Birthday parties where pizza and cupcakes are served. I provide Bodie with his own pizza and a cupcake that is safe for him. Yes it’s work. Yes it’s a pain in the ass but at least he’s not left out of a party because I’m either demanding the parent accommodate which gets him on the veto list or he’s left not eating because I didn’t bring anything.
- Do all restaurants accommodate food allergies? No. Not all and hopefully they tell you if you don’t. Eating out is gamble. Possibly a life or death gamble. You have to do your research. Call and call again, always talk to the manager or the chef. Then ask again when you arrive and explain all the allergies. We have a few restaurants we can go to. We do a lot of picnics when traveling or we stay at houses where I can cook so we aren’t stuck eating at the same restaurants all the time.
What other questions am I missing? Food allergies are overwhelming and hard. There are so many questions as to why and how. There are a few theories about why but no direct answer. Changing our diets in some areas to accommodate food allergies has been hard. I do not bake as much as I used to because everything I used to bake had butter, eggs and wheat. I’ve failed at so many new recipes because I can’t use a certain milk or eggs. As a baby and toddler Bodie was completely oblivious about his food allergies when he was around others. Now that he’s 6 he’s fully aware of it. He states how unfair it is and we agree. There are days where I get so angry that he is allergic to SO MANY foods. It’s hard and add in the pickiness of a toddler or a 6 year old boy and it’s even harder. But we are doing it. There is no choice. I know for a fact it could be worse. I know that we are lucky he can be around the allergens. That’s HUGE. So I don’t whine and remind myself I have the privilege to provide alternatives. I have the privilege to research new recipes, test them and then throw them in trash if they fail.