For those of you who have a child with food allergies, you know how hard it is to keep them safe. Always checking and rechecking labels, having to tell them that they cannot have this or that all the time, and teaching them to the best of your ability what to do when they are offered food. Just when you think your child has his/her food allergy figured out, they go and do something that totally throws you off. It makes you question how well you have taught them and what they will do in your absence.
My daughter was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy at 18 months. Since then, we have taught her and told her time and time again, not to eat ANY food without checking to make sure it’s safe. If it does not have packaging to check ingredients, she may not have it. We have also told her that just because someone tells you it is safe, unless they have the packaging with the ingredients listed to prove it is safe, she cannot have it. In fact, we have gone as far as telling her that unless her father or I check her food, she may not eat it. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Yesterday, she came home from school with a ziploc bag of cookies in her backpack. I asked her where they came from & she explained her friend on the bus gave them to her. Then fear built up in my chest, and I asked her if she had eaten any. Slowly, she looked down, and mumbled, “I just had one.” I asked her how she knew if they were safe, and she explained that her friend told her that they were, and they looked like cookies she had eaten before. At that exact moment, I was filled with dread, fear, and anger – dread that she could still have a reaction, because I didn’t know how long ago she ate the cookie, fear that even though she knew she shouldn’t eat it, that she did anyway, and anger that she would put herself in harms way even though she knew better. After a LONG talk, and explaining again that she cannot eat ANYTHING without checking with us first, PERIOD, I hugged her and held her tight! The reality that she could have died hit me hard. I then had to reiterate to her what “could” have happened if they did have peanuts in them. I had to explain to my 7 year old child that she could DIE. It terrifies me daily, that something so simple as a peanut could take my childs life away. A concept I don’t think she quite understands, because she said to me, “but mom, if they had peanuts, I would just use my Epipen”. I then had to explain that her Epipen could cause her to become extremely ill also, and even still she would have to be rushed to the emergency room. I don’t want to terrify my child, but on the other hand, I would rather have her terrified of peanuts than use the try it and see approach.
After she agreed to not eat ANYTHING without checking first, then I became angry at the allergy itself. WHY does she have to have a peanut allergy? WHY can’t she be like other children who can sneak a cookie on the bus? Why can’t she eat whatever she wants without reading labels? WHY can’t she attend birthday parties and eat whatever cake they serve instead of having to bring her own snack, just in case?
Then I reminded myself, that in the grand scheme of things, a peanut allergy is not some horrible debilitating disease. It makes life difficult, sure, but is still very doable. More children have food allergies now than ever before. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s a good time to have a food allergy. Since food allergies are so common nowadays, schools have special plans in place, and people have a greater knowledge and understanding of them. I am hearing more and more research and trials done to figure out what is causing them, and hopefully soon they will have a cure.
I know there are so many others out there who are dealing with or have dealt with food allergies too. I would love to hear some of your comments and thoughts. For those of you with food allergic children, has your child ever done this?