We are less than a year into being parents of a child with diagnosed severe food allergies, but like most parents who have kids with anaphylaxis, we have known well before diagnosis. Usually that means a strong family history of food allergies or your child has had a severe reaction in the past. We fall into the latter category when we were encouraged to give Ethan peanut butter at 6 to 8 months.
Within minutes of exposure, Ethan developed hives, heavy drooling, coughing and he became lethargic. It was so fast and so scary. In an instant, trying new foods went from fun to frightening.
Now that we have confirmation of his food allergies and we have a management plan in place, we have to remind ourselves once and a while that it’s going to be ok and as Ethan’s parents, WE make the rules.
The month of May is Food Allergy Awareness Month in Canada and the US and May 14 to 20th 2017 is the 20th Anniversary of Food Allergy Awareness Week. FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) and Food Allergy Canada use this week to spread the word on how serious food allergies can be by promoting awareness, acceptance and food safety for the millions of people living with food allergies and anaphylaxis.
In addition to spreading some awareness about something that is so near and dear to my heart, I also wanted to share a few things that I have had to remind myself as I navigate parenthood as an allergy mom.
I don’t have everything about Food Allergies figured out yet. And that’s ok.
You might never have it totally figured out. The learning curve is steep! Allergies change over time making continued testing imperative to you management plan. Ingredients in your favourite products can also change over time. Your one time safe food may one day suddenly contain an allergen. Always read the label even if you read it 59 million times and can spell each ingredient backwards.
It’s ok to say NO.
Even if it hurts your Aunt Edna’s feelings because you won’t let your kid taste her famous Thanksgiving squares and she has sworn up and down that she didn’t use egg/nuts/dairy/whatever. If you aren’t sure, just say no. You kid, your call. Edna will have to get over it. You make the rules.
Ask questions. Ask the same questions again.
Do you know what kind of oil your favourite snack shop uses? Do you know what else they may cook in that oil/grill/kitchen? Do they use separate utensils to prepare food? Even if they post a sign in regards to allergens, ask anyways. Even if you feel super annoying and they look at you like you are just the worst, ask again. You never know if someone may have made an innocent mistake or forgot to update their allergen information.
Epipens are for Emergencies
Epinephrine auto injectors are for emergency situations when someone with an allergy unknowingly comes into contact with their allergens and suffers an anaphylactic reaction. This only buys time to get to a hospital to get proper treatment. It is NOT as back up plan to go ahead and risk being exposed to an allergen because Aunt Edna wont lay off about the bars she baked. Just because you have your child’s epinephrine with you at all times doesn’t give anyone permission to get lax with your food rules.
You are your child’s advocate.
And you always will be. Especially while your child is small, you will read all of their labels, triple check every snack and pace outside of every playdate and birthday party. Ask questions, ask them again, be annoying if you have to. Sit in your Allergists office and have them repeat themselves over and over until you are comfortable with the information they have given you.
You are doing a great job.
You really are!