I used to roll my eyes at food allergies, until my kid developed one – SheKnows

I will never forget the day I realized my daughter had a real allergy to cashew nuts. Another of my kids, who is dairy free, decided to make tomato soup. The recipe called for a dairy milk to create the creaminess, so we explored alternatives. We chose cashew milk, which would give a similar consistency.

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At lunchtime, two of my kids and myself tasted the soup. Within half an hour my youngest daughter had a rash and severe diarrhea. What was the deal? I realized something was up, but didn’t count two and two together until a few weeks later, when we traveled to Chicago. I pulled out individual pistachio packets for the kids to snack on in the car. My daughter ate some and then claimed she had a stomachache, the rest refused. A quick internet search taught me that children who are allergic to cashews are probably also allergic to pistachios.

Although my daughter’s initial reactions were not life-threatening, a visit to the allergist showed that later reactions can be worse. We were prescribed an emergency allergy pen and had to carry it with us at all times. We also had to read the labels on everything she ate to make sure she didn’t even get coated with cashews, pistachios, and probably other nuts. We also had our daughter tested for allergy, which confirmed our suspicions.

I’m ashamed to say that I used to roll my eyes at parents who claimed their children had food allergies. They always seemed to claim that their children needed exceptions, which I now know are medically necessary adjustments. There was always that one child who wasn’t allowed to have a certain food, so the rest of the group had to be extra careful. I felt that these parents were exaggerating. That is, until I became one of them.

It’s easy to sigh at others when you have no idea of ​​the seriousness of what their child is going through. A true food allergy can be life-threatening. We learned this quickly during our daughter’s numerous appointments and each time we had to pick up two new emergency pens from the pharmacy.

Normal errands, such as at the bank, became potentially dangerous. Bank employees, as well as employees of many branches (even medical offices), often offer children’s sweets. We trained our daughter early in her allergy journey to answer “No thanks” to every person who offered her food.

There were also times when our child was not with us, such as the two days a week she went to kindergarten or children’s church on Sunday mornings. Every time we entrusted our daughter to someone else’s care, we had to remind them that she had a nut allergy. Under no circumstances could they offer our daughter that day’s snack.

Most people don’t know how to check a food label to make sure food is safe. Others do not understand the difference between peanuts and tree nuts, such as almonds and cashews. There is also the danger of cross-reactivity and cross-contamination. Many, many foods are produced in the same factories that process nuts β€” even foods that don’t actually contain nuts can be contaminated, posing a danger to the child who is allergic.

Eating in a restaurant or takeout was almost impossible. We had to research each establishment, including what ingredients they used. Usually we made food for our daughter at home and got the restaurant food for the rest of us. We were not willing to risk taking our child to the emergency room, especially during the pandemic.

I regret every negative thought I had about the parents of children with food allergies. I was judgmental and cold. Raising a child with a food allergy completely changes the lives of everyone in the household and creates a lot of (well-founded) fear when going out. Events that are supposed to be fun, such as a birthday party, pose a danger to a child with a severe food allergy.

The reality is that parents of children with food allergies cannot be careful or protective. Exposure to the allergen can cause a child to become seriously ill – even die. As parents, our job is to ensure our child’s well-being, including their physical safety. We have to be hyper-vigilant.

We recently had our daughter retested which is known as a food challenge. She eats a little bit of nut butter over the course of several hours while the doctor watches her closely for a reaction. it turns out she’s one of those patients who has outgrown her food allergy. No more emergency pens, checking food labels and researching restaurants. We are grateful for this change, but in the meantime we have learned an important lesson.

It’s easy to judge allergy parents if you’re not part of their group β€” whatever that group may be. I made assumptions that were totally wrong, something I’m not proud of. Empathy and inquisitiveness go a long way and can make a big difference in making new friends, as well as in a child’s safety when it comes to food allergies.

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