I’ll never forget the panic I felt as I watched from a distance someone hand my two year old a peanut. We were at a 4th of July BBQ and he had wandered away from his little group of friends and over to the food table.
Only a year earlier we had learned that he was allergic to wheat, eggs, dairy, cashews, and, you guessed it, peanuts. Our family had recently moved to the area and we didn’t know many people at the BBQ. They were blissfully unaware of his food allergies.
My husband and I were sitting at a table eating when our little boy got up and walked over to a table where food was spread out potluck style. I noticed and immediately became uneasy. After all, there were only three items on the whole table that were safe for him to eat: watermelon, hot dogs, and tortilla chips. I stood up but as I was getting out of my chair he reached for a seemingly innocent bowl of M&M trail mix. He wasn’t quite tall enough to scoop any trail mix out of the bowl.
A well-meaning man noticed him and kindly asked, “Would you like some trail mix?” He then proceeded to scoop the mixture of M&Ms, peanuts, and cashews into my son’s tiny hand. By this point my uneasiness had turned to panic. Tripping over chairs, feet, purses, and who knows what else, I tried to run to the rescue. “He’s allergic to nuts!” People stared. I probably would have too. When I reached my son, I breathlessly told the man, “He can’t have that. He’s allergic to nuts.” The man simply shrugged and said, “Oh. Okay.”
If you are a new allergy mom then I feel for you and my heart goes out to you. It can be overwhelming and scary to be an allergy mom. Especially if you are new at it. And truthfully, very few people understand the seriousness of food allergies and what goes into managing them. This can sometimes compound the fear and overwhelm allergy moms face.
Additionally, many parents of a food allergy kid are given an Epi-Pen at the doctor’s office and given very little other information or support. They are often left wondering how to navigate this new challenge. Whether you are a new or seasoned allergy mom, this list of 15 things you need to know as an allergy mom will surely help!
Food allergies are real and need to be taken seriously. A food allergy occurs when a person’s body thinks the proteins in a certain food are harmful and their body sends out an attack in response.This response can be anywhere from mild to severe and life-threatening. An allergy mom must be vigilant to prevent an attack. This also means that as an allergy mom you will be your child’s advocate wherever they go to ensure that others understand the seriousness of a food allergy.
I often see generous moms at the park or play dates sharing snacks with other children. However, allergy moms have to teach their children that they can’t accept food from others. This needs to be a strict policy. An allergy child always needs to ask their parent or guardian before accepting a snack. This is so their parent can verify it is safe. On that note, please never offer a child food without asking their parent or guardian first! You just never know. Children with food allergies don’t always understand what is safe for them to eat and what isn’t. This is especially true for very young children. It’s very possible that you are offering a child something that could be harmful to their body.
This is true of going anywhere as a mom, but especially true if you are an allergy mom. Going to social events is hard and requires lots of planning. I’ve learned that if I take my son to a BBQ that is means I am making three things to bring with me. I make a main dish, side dish, and a dessert so I know he will have some safe options. Birthday parties mean the same. I’ve got my bag packed with food – and a gluten-free vegan cupcake – just in case! If this is your situation, keep it simple! Plan what to take so your child will have something safe to eat but don’t let it overwhelm you. It can be something as simple as watermelon.
An allergy kit is an absolute must for any allergy mom! Grab a zipper pouch and fill it with liquid Benadryl, an Epi-Pen, sanitizing wipes, and of course, safe snacks! I’ve always had at least 3 allergy kits. One for the diaper bag, one for the car, and one at Grandma’s house. If your child attends school or day care they will also need one kept there as well. Never leave the house without it!
Being prepared is key! Have you ever heard the saying that an allergy mom does more research than the FBI? Well it’s true! You will need to do some research to make a plan to make your life easier and safer. Find out what restaurants near you are allergy-safe. Make a list of these restaurants and the safest dishes they serve. Do you spend a lot of time on the road at music practice or sport events?Research the closest emergency room to each of these places. Knowing where to go in an emergency will bring you peace of mind. Learn how to use an Epi-Pen. Read and watch videos until you feel comfortable. Having a plan will make being an allergy mom less overwhelming.
Sometimes allergy moms feel a little crazy and neurotic. It’s because we are! And that’s totally okay. We have to be a little crazy and neurotic. Our child’s wellness depends on it.
Every single food label needs to be read. If it comes out of a box or package then I read the ingredient list at least 4 or 5 times to make sure I don’t miss something. Some foods have so many ingredients on the label that is easy to miss something the first time. You’ll also need to verify the ingredients in the food they eat at a restaurant, including what type of cooking oil is used!
As an allergy mom you will need to be familiar with all the different names that can show up on a food label. Many foods have at least half a dozen or more names that can appear in an ingredient list. Did you know there are more than 15 different names other than “egg” that can appear on a food label to indicate egg protein is present? Make a list of these names so you can easily refer to it when needed.
I had a darling friend who would bring me printed out copies of allergy-friendly recipes she came across. This was so sweet of her and so helpful to me. Us allergy moms are always on the lookout for delicious new recipes that are safe for our kiddos. If you come across a recipe that you know is safe, save it! You will want as allergy-friendly recipes on hand as you can. You will go through many. Additionally, if you come across a recipe that you know is a safe fit for someone else, pass it along!
You will do a lot of cooking as an allergy mom. Meal planning is an awesome tool that will save you so much time and headache. I menu plan every week what safe foods we are going to eat. Every Saturday I clean out my fridge and make a list of food that needs to be used. Then I use that list to plan the next week’s dinners. I also come up with a list of breakfasts and snacks for the week. You can read more about menu planning here.
Something that will really simplify feeding your food-allergy child is keeping safe snacks on hand. Many food allergy moms need to cook a lot of what their child eats themselves. This can quickly become tiring if you don’t keep safe snacks on hand for when hunger strikes! These are our favorite allergy-friendly snacks to keep on hand – all free from the top food allergens!
Many allergy moms are terrified of leaving their children with others. Of course we would never want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it truly is scary! We worry they will forget to read the ingredient label on a box of food. Will they realize their jelly jar is contaminated with peanut butter? So many different scenarios scroll through our minds. And that’s okay! If you feel uncomfortable leaving your child with someone, then stick around. Explain the situation and the other parent will surely understand.
Some people may not “get” food allergies or understand how hard they can be. However, it’s been my experience that most people try really hard! Other moms get that it stinks when a child isn’t included in something, and they go out of their way to make sure that doesn’t happen! Many moms will ask what safe snacks your child can eat and will then include them at sports games or parties. Some friends will even keep these safe snacks in their pantry for when you come over!
You will be in constant research mode after your child has received a food allergy diagnosis. Luckily enough for you, there is so much great information out there! Many food allergy moms have created Facebook pages, Pinterest and Instagram accounts, and blogs to help their fellow allergy moms out. My own blog for example, Allergy a la Mode, has many recipes that are allergy-friendly and will simplify your meal times. Many other blogs are dedicated to sharing tips and tricks to make life as an allergy mom easier. Look around and find your favorites. Feeling as if you are part of a community will bring you support.
Moms have a tendency to take everything on themselves. I think this is even more true of allergy moms who need to closely monitor what their child eats. This can quickly lead to burn-out if you aren’t careful! Yes, you need to take care of your child and make sure they are safe. But you need to take care of you too! Find ways to let others help you when they can. Even if you need to do most of the cooking yourself, allow others to help you in other areas. This will ensure you don’t become too overwhelmed and will help you to even better care for your child and their food allergy.
As a mom, a new food allergy diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming. There are so many things you are unsure of and many things you are trying to learn. You may wonder how you are going to feed your child and manage their food allergy. If you remember anything at all, remember this: It will get easier! I promise. You will learn how to feed your child. You will learn what to do if they have an allergic reaction. You will learn the various ways their food allergy may get triggered. You will learn it all and after awhile it will be less overwhelming. You didn’t choose the food allergy but you will embrace it nonetheless. You will be awesome at it!