As mothers, many of us spend nine-ish months wondering what kind of child we will have. Will it be a boy or a girl? Who will he look like? Will the child love math? baseball? pickles? More importantly, perhaps, we wonder if our child will be healthy. The definition of healthy can vary from person to person but many of us spend our pregnancies praying for the simplicity that is 10 fingers and 10 toes. Then, the time comes, and you get to meet your little one. You count his fingers and toes and breathe a sigh of relief. A healthy child is a wonderful gift, but sometimes the struggles with health aren’t obvious right away. For me, that was the case. My seemingly healthy baby developed severe eczema around two months old and thus began our journey into the world of food allergies.
Some of you might be thinking: “Oh great….another one of those ‘allergy moms. Her kid is the reason my child can’t bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school in his lunch. What causes all these so-called allergies these days? Kids just need to toughen up.”
I understand where you are coming from because if I didn’t have a child with life-threatening food allergies, I might be thinking the same thing. I was raised with a very “dust yourself off and get back up” kind of mentality. My son’s allergies have opened my eyes and softened my view because my reality is that at any time, my child could end up in the emergency room because of exposure to certain foods.
It is difficult to explain what happens in my house — in my car, at my child’s school, at birthday parties, etc. — every day to ensure my child stays safe and healthy. Difficult in part because most of the things I do are automatic these days. Having dealt with allergies for about six years now, I have a routine that allows for a mostly smooth existence. But there are scenarios that pop up that I can’t always plan for. Storytime at the library, for example, includes a super fun activity of decorating cookies… that my child can’t touch. So we leave, with a disappointed kiddo and a promise to find him a treat that he can have when we get home. This kind of scenario has happened more times than I can count.
Sometimes, I take it in stride. This is good for my child, I tell myself. He is learning life lessons that many kids his own age haven’t had to experience yet, and that is a good thing! Other days, I want to cry, or I do cry because this isn’t fair. I grow weary of the routine that includes making multiple dinners, purchasing expensive “allergy friendly” foods, leaving the library with a disappointed child, and wondering what effect it’s going to have on my child long-term.
While not always negative, my child gets a lot of attention because of his allergies. Many of his friends and classmates learn about allergies because of him. Friends and family are innocently curious about our situation. I am happy to explain how we navigate allergies, and many of these conversations occur within earshot of my child. He knows that he is different. I hope I can frame his allergies in a way that allows him to feel as normal as possible. I strive to equip him with the tools to see the positive side of things so he doesn’t spend his life thinking he has been slighted, that he drew the short straw in life.
While I do grow weary, I try to focus on the positive. I have a ridiculously awesome kid. He is a joy and a bright spot in most of my days. I will spend as much time and energy as it takes to make sure he is safe, and that we provide well for his physical and emotional needs. I am thankful for a supportive family, and a community of friends that are always there for me.
If you have a child with a special health situation or circumstance, know that you are not alone. You can do this. You will find the right foods, medications, and doctors for your child. Be gentle with yourself. Find some like-minded parents and lean on each other. If you know a mom who is working hard to support and advocate for her child’s difficult situation, tell her that. Let her know you see her struggle and that she is doing a great job.
90% of food allergies come from these eight food sources.
- Tree Nuts
Other food allergens include corn, meats, gelatin, seeds, spices and some fruits and vegetables.
FOOD ALLERGY SYMPTOMS
Symptoms can appear within minutes until hours later. Symptoms can also be anywhere from mild to severe including anaphylaxis and affect the skin gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract and in severe cases the cardiovascular system.
MILD TO MODERATE SYMPTOMS
Hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin) • Eczema flare (a persistent dry, itchy rash) • Redness of the skin, particularly around the eyes or mouth • Itchy mouth or ear canal • Nausea or vomiting • Diarrhea • Stomach pain • Nasal congestion or a runny nose • Sneezing • Slight, Dry cough • Odd taste in the mouth
Swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat that impedes breathing • Trouble swallowing • Shortness of breath or wheezing • Turning blue • Drop in blood pressure (feeling faint, confused, weak, passing out) • Loss of consciousness
- Chest pain • A weak or “thready” pulse • Sense of “impending” doom
If you see any of these severe symptoms seek medical attention immediately.
Source: FARE Food Allergy Research & Education