My name is Lauren and I have had food allergies my whole life. I can’t imagine what must go through parents’ minds when they find out their kids have food allergies: probably feelings of fear, anxiety, overwhelm, and confusion. In this article, I will interview my mom (who has 16 years of experience) to help you get started working through your child’s food allergy journey.
What was your reaction when you found out I had food allergies?
“Confusion. We had fed you a tiny spoonful of dairy-containing baby food when you were 8 or 9 months old and you broke out in hives. We thought the rash around your mouth was something that had just irritated your sensitive skin. It wasn’t until later that we discovered hives popping up all over. Looking back, we are so grateful that your first reaction was a very mild one. Allergies were not a part of our lives at that point and we truly did not fully understand what was happening. The pediatric allergist we consulted doubted that there was any real allergy given your young age. After we pushed for skin testing, she was most definitely proven wrong!”
Where is the best place to start once your child is diagnosed?
“See a pediatric allergist with a good reputation. Regular pediatricians are often not fully aware of all things allergy and it is best to see a specialist. Then, educate yourself. Use all reliable resources such as FARE. Learn how companies label food, call them to determine what products are safe, read every label every time, and practice using a trainer Epi-Pen.”
What are some of the best resources you wish you knew about?
“It truly takes a village to work through this journey. Any group of allergy parents in your community or online will be a valuable resource. Connect early on and reach out for support when you need it.”
What is the best way to tell teachers/other parents about your child’s food allergies and their severity?
“We found that organized, brief, face-to-face meetings with teachers, administrators, nurses, and cafeteria staff before the first day of school are effective. Give background on your child’s allergies and reactions. Devise a plan not only for treating a potential reaction but also for creating a safe and inclusive classroom environment. Offer your help and cell phone number. Take the lead; teachers have lots of their plates!”
Is there anything you wished you learned but instead experienced through trial and error?
“Bring wipes everywhere you go! The world is full of allergy residue.”
What is one piece of advice you wish all parents of newly diagnosed children could know?
“You will figure this out and learn to manage. You may have to adjust your lifestyle to adapt, but you will find your way, and your child will follow your lead, so be as positive as possible!”
There you have it! Food allergies will seem scary at first, which I am sure you know, but they are absolutely manageable. My Mom and I wish you the best of luck!