I used to roll my eyes for food allergies, until my child had one – SheKnows

I will never forget the day I realized that my daughter has a real cashew allergy. Another of my kids, who is dairy-free, decided to make tomato soup. The recipe called for dairy milk to be used to create the cream, so we looked for alternatives. We settled on cashew milk, which would make for a similar texture.

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At lunch, two of my kids and I sampled soup. Within half an hour, my youngest daughter had a rash and severe diarrhea. What was the deal? I knew something was going on, but I didn’t put two and two together until several weeks later, when we were traveling to Chicago. I pulled out individual packets of pistachios for the kids for a snack in the car. My daughter ate a few and then claimed she had a stomach ache, and refused the rest. A quick internet search told me that kids who are allergic to cashews are also likely to be allergic to pistachios.

Although my daughter’s initial reactions weren’t life-threatening, a trip to the allergist revealed that subsequent reactions could be worse. An emergency allergy pen was prescribed and we were required to carry it with us at all times. We also needed to read the labels of everything I ate, making sure it didn’t even get a flick of cashews, pistachios, and possibly other nuts. Our daughter’s allergy was also tested, which confirmed our suspicions.

I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been rolling my eyes at parents who claimed their children had food allergies. They always seem to claim that their children need exceptions, which I now know are medically necessary accommodations. There was always one kid who couldn’t eat a certain food, so the rest of the group had to be extra careful. I felt these parents were over the top. That is, until you became one of them.

It is easy to sigh for others when you have no idea how seriously their children are facing. A true food allergy can be life-threatening. We learned this quickly during our daughter’s many appointments and each time we had to get two new emergency pens from the pharmacy.

Ordinary errands – such as going to the bank – can become dangerous. Bank tellers, as well as employees of many institutions (even medical offices), often give children candy. We trained our daughter early in her allergy journey to respond, “No, thanks” to everyone who gave her food.

There were also times when our child wasn’t with us, like the two days in the week she attended preschool or children’s church on a Sunday morning. Every time we dropped our daughter into someone else’s care, we had to remind them that she had a nut allergy. They cannot under any circumstances provide a snack for our daughter that day.

Most people don’t know how to check a food label to make sure a food is safe. Others don’t understand the difference between peanuts and tree nuts, such as almonds and cashews. There is also a risk of cross-reaction and cross-contamination. Many foods are produced in the same factories that process nuts – so even foods that don’t actually do that Contain They can be contaminated with tree nuts, which poses a risk to a child with allergies.

Eating in a restaurant or eating out was almost impossible. We had to research each institution individually, including the ingredients they used. Normally, we ended up making our daughter’s food at home and then getting restaurant food for the rest of us. We were not prepared to take the risk of taking our child to the emergency room, especially during the pandemic.

I’m sorry for every negative thought I had about parents of children with food allergies. You are judgmental and cool. Raising a child with a food allergy completely changes everyone’s life in the home and creates a lot of (established) fear when going out. Events that are meant to be fun, such as a birthday party, pose a risk to a child with a serious food allergy.

The truth is that parents of children with food allergies cannot be very careful or protective. Exposure to allergens can cause a child to become seriously ill — and even death. As parents, it is our job to ensure the well-being of our children, including their physical safety. We must be very vigilant.

Our daughter has recently been retested, and we’re doing what’s 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 searching for restaurants. We’re grateful for this change – but in the meantime, we’ve learned an important lesson.

It’s easy to judge allergic parents when you’re not part of their group—whatever that group may be. I’ve made assumptions that are completely outside the norm, which is something I’m not very proud of. Empathy and a willingness to learn goes a long way and can make a huge difference in making new friends, but also in a child’s safety when it comes to food allergies.

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