When I pictured having kids, I envisioned happy days at the zoo with fun grocery shopping trips to the store in between. While I have had those happy moments with my children, I have also been faced with some really difficult challenges that were not part of my plans. Food allergies changed my life, my parenting and how our family functions in everyday life.
Let’s start at the beginning. My oldest son, Brandon, was a wonderful baby! He was chubby, sweet and oh so loveable! But, he was a really, really hard baby. He had awful eczema, spit up waaaaay more than I thought was normal and was inconsolable quite often. My husband and I knew something wasn’t quite right, but we weren’t getting any answers from doctors or research we were doing. We finally moved to a different area where we found a new pediatrician that helped us find answers. He addressed his eczema and suggested we get Brandon allergy tested.
A few weeks went by and his blood test results came back.
My sweet baby was allergic to peanuts, dairy, wheat and a plethora of other foods.
I was overwhelmed!
Things improved after avoiding the poisons that were attacking Brandon’s body, but life was not easy by any means.
There is such a big learning curve with food allergies. My husband and I tried to do everything in our power to keep Brandon safe, but we were often caught off-guard when small reactions would happen or knowing when medical intervention was necessary.
One weekend, we had decided to go an visit some family a few hours away from home. Brandon was newly diagnosed, so we hadn’t fully gotten rid of everything involving peanuts. My husband had a peanut butter granola bar stashed in his school backpack and Brandon somehow got a hold of it. To this day, we aren’t sure if Brandon ingested it, or had a severe reaction from just touching it. But Brandon broke out in hives all over his entire body! It was so scary! At the time, we had no idea that the granola bar had even been a factor in the reaction. We found the wrapper hours after returning home from the emergency room and made an educated guess that it must have contributed to the day’s happenings.
The scariest part was being unsure of what to do in that situation. Do I give him Benedryl? Do I call an ambulance? Is it really that bad? Brandon was so young at the time too, so he couldn’t really communicate with us as to what was happening or how he was feeling. It felt like a guessing game.
We ended up going to an urgent care where they turned us away and sent us to a hospital. I will never forget the long awful ride over there with my husband frantically trying to weave through traffic as our little boy gagged and threw up endlessly next to me in the back seat of our car. Terrifying doesn’t even begin to explain that experience.
When a child has an allergic reaction, they don’t just give a shot of epinephrine and send them on their way. We had to sit and be evaluated for many hours after to be monitored and to be sure a biphasic reaction doesn’t occur. A biphasic reaction is a reoccurrence of a reaction after anaphylaxis has been treated. Large doses of antihistamines and steroids that you have to continually take for the next week or so are administered. It truly is a long process of healing!
Allergic reactions are so hard on those little bodies. My son is usually lethargic for about a week after a major reaction.
EVERYTHING CHANGED! I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it truly did. We had to change what we ate in every aspect of our lives. Have you ever heard of cross-contamination? Yeah, I hadn’t either. Not only did I have to avoid the actual foods that Brandon was allergic to, but I also had to stay away from foods that could have possibly come in contact with them. We couldn’t go out to eat at restaurants, too risky. Graham crackers? The label says “manufactured in a facility with peanuts.” Cereal? Most of them have wheat. The list can go on and on.
Grocery Shopping was a whole new world. I literally spent hours at the store checking and reading labels.
Going out in public was also really stressful. There is food everywhere. Going to the park was emotionally exhausting for me. Kids running around with food in their hands and rubbing it all over the play equipment. What if Brandon found a cracker and stuck it in his mouth? I was on constant alert.
Brandon’s allergies are not only triggered by ingestion, but also by contact. He could go into anaphylaxis from someone touching his hand and then rubbing his eye. I know, crazy, but true.
So on top of normal mom worrying, I was worried even more about all of the “what ifs.” My anxiety was at peak levels at all times!
So if you ever come across a mom with a child that has food allergies, give them a break! Try to be understanding and not to be cynical. It truly is challenging and isn’t an excuse. Food allergies are very real!