Keeping Safe and Sane with Food Allergies
by Noa Miller
If you have a kid with severe food allergies, you know the struggle well. On the one hand, it’s impossible to keep your child in an allergen-free bubble his whole life, and you want them to feel “normal”; but on the other hand, you are terrified of exposure to a food that is dangerous for your child and want to protect him at all costs.
How do you balance that equation?
I recently had a personal scare with my 9-month old. I fed him something that we didn’t know he was allergic to and I noticed that he developed some hives. I reached for the Benandryl, but quickly realized that he needed the Epipen as the hives were ballooning all over his little face and neck.
In case you weren’t aware, Epipens can talk. It’s a good thing, because in the whirlwind of an emergency, I didn’t have to think too hard. I jabbed him, he cried, and I called Hatzolah, who came right away to take him to the hospital for monitoring (which is important, because rebound reactions can occur, and the Epipen wears off after about 15 minutes.) Thank G-d he is ok.
After experience like this, it’s understandable for someone to be extra-anxious about exposure to the offending allergen, but ultimately it is important to work toward balance and neutrality in order to keep everyone sane. Here are some tips that can help you keep your balance throughout this challenge:
· Request a complete testing regimen if you believe your child has allergies – the more allergens you test for, the more foods you’ll be able to feed him without fear of a reaction. Skin prick tests (relatively painless) are usually done as an initial test and bloodwork to test antibody levels gives more precise information. (Drawing blood from infants is tricky; make sure your baby is well hydrated and ask for warmers to be put on the veins to make the process easier)
· Stay positive and calm (and your kids will follow your lead). 1 in 13 kids in the US have a food allergy. Many grow out of them. It’s a manageable condition for the most part and there is hope for the future. (fun fact: my sister grew out of her egg allergy at age 19!) In case of a reaction, try to stay calm. Consult with a pediatric therapist if your child is suffering from anxiety and trauma from their allergies.
· Ask your allergist about foods that CAN be tolerated. For example, many individuals with a nut allergy are not allergic to almonds, which can add much nutrition, variety and fun to an allergic kid’s diet. Some people are allergic to sesame, but can tolerate sesame oil; others are allergic to eggs but can tolerate eggs in baked goods.
· Research products and recipes that you can make using the foods that are tolerated. (For example, almond yogurt, almond butter, roasted bean snacks, brown rice pasta, spaghetti squash, etc.) Allrecipes.com has a “search by ingredient” option that allows you to search for recipes based on the ingredients you want to use/omit.
· Educate your children on allergy safety. Talk about the things you do to keep your child safe, such as, “We have our safety kit, so now we can leave the house” or “I’'m checking the label and there are no nuts so now we can eat it”. Check out foodallergy.org for more tips on how to educate children. https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/talking-children-about-their-food-allergy
· Find Friends. Allergies are pretty common, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a friend or support group to connect, commiserate and brainstorm with others who know the struggle.
I’m with you in this!