It seems in the past few years we have been hearing more and more about children with food allergies. I personally had heard of many children suffering from these allergies and felt sorry for the kids in my oldest daughter’s class that couldn’t enjoy the same snacks as the other kids. But beyond hearing about it and feeling that sense of sadness for the kids going through it, I had never really taken much time to think about the actual struggle that is it to have a child with food allergies. It wasn’t really on my radar until the day my youngest daughter ate peanut butter and I began to learn just what it’s like to be an “allergy mom.”
She only ate four tiny squares of peanut butter toast but within minutes she broke out covered in hives all over her little tummy, up into her arm pits, with a few hives on her face and her lips looked plump. My husband and I immediately grabbed the Benedryl and gave her a dose and called the doctor. Without even seeing her, the Doctor suspected as we did, that she was allergic to the peanut butter. Later testing would indeed confirm that our sweet girl has a peanut allergy. Since then it’s been a whirlwind of emotions for me. I know that my child is not the only child allergic to peanuts, in fact there are so many kids becoming allergic to common foods that it’s alarming, but as a mom of a 21 month old toddler who doesn’t understand what she can and cannot eat it’s terrifying.
Her diagnosis only happened this month and I have already spent so much time reading, learning, and educating myself as best I can about the safe foods for my child. It’s exhausting, overwhelming and really scary to learn all the things that have peanuts in them that I had no idea about. The week her testing indeed confirmed her allergy I felt like I had somehow failed her. It didn’t make sense to me. I followed all the “rules” about giving her peanut butter as an infant (she would barely eat it but we didn’t notice any reaction), we feed her, her twin and older sister a mostly organic diet and I breastfed for over 20 months and yet she still has this allergy. My husband was the one to calmly remind me that I did not cause this to happen and that we have been raising her in the exact same way as her twin brother and older sister and yet she was the only one to have this allergy. It is just her body’s way and not something I could have prevented. While I know he is right, as mothers we want to shield our children from anything that can cause them harm and a food allergy is no different.
Since my little one was diagnosed, I have been lucky enough to find comfort in speaking with other “allergy moms” who get it. I think that for some people on the outside looking in, they may not understand just how serious it is for these children to stay away from the food they are allergic to. I have learned that a child who may only break out in hives the first time they eat the food they are allergic to, can actually go into anaphylaxis the next time. You never know how serious an allergic reaction may be as each time can be different. In many cases it can mean life or death for a child to stay away from a certain food, and when you think about it in those terms it is truly eye opening.
My hope is that while everyone may not have to keep food allergies in the front of their mind like us allergy moms do, that everyone will at least be aware enough to respect those of us who do have to think about this on a daily basis. Please remember that the mom sending in her child’s “special” cupcake on the class party day should never been seen as overbearing, she is trying to give her child the same experiences as the non-allergic children while also protecting her child’s life. It’s also important to remember to never feed a child a treat or food without first asking their parents. Many families follow special diets based simply on their personal beliefs but then there are also those of us who have to make sure that each food is safe before our child eats it. I am still unsure as to why food allergies are on the rise, it’s alarming and something that I think needs to examined with closer eyes as we move forward as a society, but in the meantime all us allergy moms can do is stick together for support and keep our eyes fixed on those food labels.