Question of the Day:
“Will you please post an article about allergy awareness? My son has severe food allergies, and the food culture in America is such that there HAS to be food EVERYWHERE.
People without food allergies have a difficult time respecting the seriousness of this issue. They think if my child can’t eat pizza or a cupcake, he’s suffering a deprived childhood; I must be a controlling, freaky mother.
Even your family thinks that about you, until your mother-in-law decides to feed your son a crumb of chocolate cake and his skin starts getting red and splotchy within 5 minutes as you frantically dig for the Benadryl and EpiPen in your bag.”
Some people choose not to eat pizza. You can call them crazy if you want. Some people don’t eat it because the eggs and cheese give them a rash and diarrhea. You can certainly say that’s “too bad,” and it is!
Some people can’t eat pizza because they really would just die. Silence.
A very special little boy I know has multiple food allergies. He’s a cute, tiny, little thing. It took him awhile to grow. He wouldn’t eat. He was either allergic or intolerant to just about all staple foods in the American diet: wheat, milk, eggs, and nuts. About the only time I’d let him and his mom come play at our house was on the day the best cleaning lady in the world had just finished working in the kitchen (and it wasn’t me).
The boy has two older brothers, each with varying degrees of allergies, and I talked with this mom about food allergies. It is a constant, daily struggle in her life. Just last summer, a fun family drive on the Appalachian Trail turned into a family nightmare as her son suffered one of the worst asthma attacks of his life from a new, supposedly safe snack.
Whether we like it or not, food allergies and intolerances are increasing. I want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. So I listened up, and here’s what my friend helped me to understand.
Tell Us the Dangers You Face
Definitely waiting rooms. Crumbs of Cheerios and Goldfish litter the crevices, floors, and toys of dentist, doctors, and therapists’ offices. After I wipe down a chair as much as I can, I have my son sit right next to me there. He can’t play with any of those toys unless I wipe them down with disinfectant wipes. I carry wipes everywhere I go.
Movie theaters. Those chairs and floors are ticking hive and asthma-attacks.
Schools. They can’t eliminate everything. I listen with horror to those stories of kids finding nuts on the playground at school and dying.
Vacation. Hotels and condos and even homes of family we visit and stay with. I make sure everything is inspected before my son wanders freely, particularly under couches, under couch cushions, on the floors, and in the bedrooms. But what can I do at Auntie’s house without offending her too much? Not much.
Well-meaning friends, acquaintances, and store employees offering ANY food product to my children. Sure, I can catch them and stop them, but then I have a crying, pouty child because he can’t eat the darn treat. Why? Why do they have to offer food at all? Now that my son is getting old enough to communicate it’s getting a little easier; when offered a treat the other day, he asked the person, “Is it ‘itchy’ food?”
Changes in the ingredients of products we normally buy. Read EVERY label EVERY time. Don’t just trust the bold allergy label screaming “Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free” at the bottom. The manufacturer can change the ingredients of something we’ve been using for years, and it’s not labeled on the front of the package. Formulations change all the time. Even the same item can have different ingredients.
Restaurants are nearly non-navigable. There are crumbs all over. Nothing is prepared as whole foods, so the French fries have dairy protein in them and the hamburger has gluten. Workers don’t understand how to read labels, either. To them, milk is milk; whey protein, well, it’s not milk to them.
Lotions, shampoos, and other skin care items can often contain allergens, like milk and wheat protein. Nobody thinks about this, but my son’s skin breaks out horribly when exposed to some of these products. Labels on anything used that comes in contact with my son must be read.
How Do Food Allergies Limit Your Family?
All the playdates are usually at my house.
The kids don’t go out much without me since most people don’t understand cross-contamination, crumbs lurking on floors, and how complex processed food ingredients are.
Overnight stays, even to grandparents’ homes, are a very big deal.
Family dinners require lots of extra work on my part.
…We do the best we can to “do normal things,” but in a world where EVERYTHING revolves around food, it is very hard. I wish just for once we could have a get together with family that didn’t involve food. There’s never anything my son can eat.
…And, although I haven’t mentioned it yet, perfume can also set off asthma in our family…sometimes I think people bathe in it. I wish people would think about this a lot.
…I think teachers and coaches need to come up with an approved snack list and hold everybody to it.
…”Don’t feed other people’s kids ANYTHING.”
So there you have it, folks. Don’t feed the animals-er–children.