A Day in the Life of an Allergic Child…

February 25, 2009 at 7:49 pm Leave a comment

I dare say that the majority of the population has no idea what it is really like to have a food allergy or, in my case, have a child with food allergies.  In recent years, the topic of food allergies has made its way to the media and more popular places, but not to the degree it ought to be.  So, for those of you who may not have any experience with someone living with a food allergy, this is for you.  This is my daily experience with my child who has allergies to milk, peanuts and eggs.  My thought processes and daily strategy, the perspective of a 3 1/2 year old, and other thoughts.

The Caregiver – (aka. Body Guard)

  • Grocery shopping has changed dramatically.  It takes more time to shop because it is medically necessary for me to read EVERY ingredient on EVERY label of the items I am wanting to purchase.  And this hasn’t changed over time.  Some things I know off the top of my head what ingredients are included, but I still read the label everytime.  Why?  Some of the same products are manufactured in different plants and therefore could be exposed or processed on the same equipment as an item that could potentially be fatal to my child.  So, every label is read.  This is one change that was very hard to adjust to.  Most people just go through aisles, pick up the item they want and throw it in the cart.  Well, those days are long gone.  Believe me, I know how hard it is to pay close attention when you have 3 children with you at the grocery store and you’re trying to get them to behave themselves, not beg for food, not throw tantrums when you tell them they can’t have that cereal that is $5 a box because it has Barbie on the front of it….nevermind the fact that it tastes like dirt.  I know all about it.  But the fact is, reading EVERY label is extremely important for the health and safety of my child.  And I’ll do whatever is necessary to ensure she is protected from those allergens that could threaten her life.
  • Eating out is another biggie.  Whew.  This has become a bigger challenge as my daughter gets older.  At first, it wasn’t so bad going out to eat.  We could go anywhere because she was still too young to eat all of the table food.  Once she began eating normal table foods, my research on restaurants has become a necessity, as well.  In fact, one time (while we were still bringing her own food with us to restaurants) we went to a steakhouse that serves peanuts at the table without really thinking anything about it.  And although I cleaned the table where she was sitting, brought her own portable placemat, cleaned the highchair she was sitting in, etc. just being in the same room with all of those peanuts started to make her react.  Immediately, I left the restaurant and took her to the car with me.  I must admit that was probably the dumbest mistake we’ve ever made as far as her allergies are concerned.  It was just one of those small, yet hazardous, oversights that non-allergic people do not have to even think twice about.  But, these days when we are planning to go out to eat, I go online and try to find an allergy menu.  If I can’t find one, we don’t eat at those restaurants.  We only eat where we know for sure what is in the food.  And thankfully, because of the recent awareness of food allergies in the media, you can find several restaurants with an allergy menu or list of ingredients.  I plan to add a page to this site in the very near future of those restaurants – good and bad – who have these types of menus.  I have to give a big shout out to Fatz Cafe!  They were excellent about my child’s allergies and the manager came out to the table to find out himself what allergies my child had and he made sure it was cooked apart from any other foods.  What a blessing that was!  Needless to say, we’ve been back to that restaurant a few more times.  But our lives have changed, as far as eating out is concerned, in other ways, too.  Going out with friends is a little difficult because we are limited on the restaurants we can visit.  And then, just on a whim, we cannot go if we do not already know about a certain restaurant.  So, in that way, we are limited.
  • Birthday parties and other outings – This is one that is hard.  I have found some terrific alternatives to your normal baked goods and other things that are present at birthday parties and many other events.  They have been a lifesaver!  I am crushed at the look on my daughter’s face when she sees all of the yummy stuff her friends are eating and knows that she cannot have that.  She has a great attitude about it and rarely cries about it, but the look in her eyes of disappointment is enough to make me want to cry my eyes out.  As a mom, I want her to have all of the great delicious and tempting foods that her friends are having, but I know that it is for her own safety that I cannot allow it.  It is heartbreaking.  So, I’ve learned that I have to keep ‘her’ cupcakes and ‘her’ ice cream and ‘her’ cookies on hand at all times – just in case!
  • Sunday School and Preschool – At our church, snacks are given out at some point during the service.  This is one thing that I never used to think twice about, but that now I constantly wonder why it’s necessary to feed kids at church.  If you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense other than to kill time.  Seriously, the child eats breakfast before Sunday morning church, eats lunch after Sunday morning church and either eats dinner before or after Sunday night church, and dinner before Wed night church.  So, why feed them?  I am quite sure this is a battle I will not win because the majority of parents do not have to be concerned about their child’s safety around food.  So, I try to bite my tongue and just deal with it accordingly.  I always try to have a snack in my daughter’s bag that she takes to church, along with her EpiPens that go EVERYWHERE with her.  And her teachers are good about giving her her own snack and/or checking with me on whether or not she can have whatever snack they are handing out during that class.  I am very thankful for those teachers.  It is always better to err on the side of caution and so far, her teachers have done that.  As for pre-school, well, I wish that she could go to preschool, but we decided that she would be better off not going right now since we do not know yet whether she has outgrown any of her allergies.  She will be tested in another year so that we will know for sure by the time she starts K5.  For now, I’m attempting preschool at home….attempting is the keyword. =]

A 3 year old’s view:

  • Constantly surrounded by kids who are eating things that she cannot eat.  She’s beginning to understand why and always says, “When I outgrow my allergies, I can have that.”
  • She gets told no almost everyday over certain foods that she sees.  For example, her older sister is in Kindergarten and brings home a sweet treat every Friday that she gets as a reward for being good all week.  She recently brought home a bag full of candy from her Valentine’s party at school – most of which her food-allergic sister cannot have or else it isn’t marked with ingredients so we don’t know what might be in it that is harmful to her.  Part of this dilemma is just the fact that my oldest daughter is in school and gets to experience these things – and that happens to any child with an older sibling, but part of it is the fact that her sister gets to eat anything and she is very limited.  This is just part of living with food allergies.

Life is definitely different for those who face food allergies.  Even the environment can be hazardous to those who live with certain allergies, including Hand Soap, for instance.  I found one handsoap with the scent of ‘milk and honey’.  I thought surely there wouldn’t be milk in it – it’s just the name, right?  No!  There really is milk in the soap.  Then, the following week, we were at a church and when I took my daughter to the bathroom and was helping her wash her hands, I noticed it was the same soap.  Thankfully, I had already found out about that previously.  But, it just made me realize that it doesn’t matter where I am, I always have to be on-guard!  Allergies are very serious and cannot be taken lightly.  It could mean life or death in some cases.

Entry filed under: The Caregiver, The Journey, The Target. Tags: , , , , , .

How I Became a Part of the Allergic Lifestyle Tips for helping your child live a ‘normal’ life.

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