I have been an allergy parent now for over two years and as food allergies are constantly on the increase, I want to raise awareness and try to give other parents an understanding of just how us allergy parents feel on a daily basis and at social gatherings. I started writing and it turned into a letter, so here it is, my letter to the friends and family of an allergy parent.
Dear friends & family,
The moment I realised something wasn’t right with my baby I was petrified. Being a parent was new, scary and exciting for me but becoming an allergy parent was even scarier! Every time we see the GP he has no idea what’s going on and it’s been like this from day one. I have to fight for special formulas, referrals to specialists and different medications to help with various symptoms. I have to go over everything each time we go to the doctors, pediatrician, dietitian and gastroenterologist. Being an allergy parent is truly exhausting without having to remember every detail of every symptom, what was eaten at what time and then to repeat this to various medical professionals over and over again to feel like I’m getting nowhere.
So when you ask me ”what happens if he has milk?’. The last thing I want to do is explain the various symptoms because I am exhausted. I’ve already gone over and over it and tried my hardest to keep a food/symptom diary and failed miserably, because I’m too tired to remember to write everything down. I answer your question because you are showing an interest and I know that you genuinely care but when you follow my answer with ”**insert name** is also lactose intolerant” I just want to cry! It’s that feeling that I am not being listened to again which is most upsetting, But maybe you don’t know that lactose intolerance and cow’s milk protein allergy are not the same?
”Will he grow out of it?”
Every day revolves around food for us. Shopping takes much longer because I have to stop and read every single food label to make sure it’s safe. I then have to become a judge and decide whether or not to risk a food labelled as a ‘may contain milk’. I have to make a packed lunch every time we leave the house just in case we’re not back in time for our next meal. We can’t just simply pop in somewhere and order whatever we fancy off the menu as they might not have any safe foods on the menu for my child. Food is not something I take for granted any more, so everyday I hope and pray my son will grow out of his allergies as some children do, but some don’t. So to answer your question which I have been asked over 100 times already..
I do not know !!!
When you ask me if my child can have a certain food and I say no, then politely remind you that he is allergic and you reply with ‘a little bit won’t hurt’. Please understand that a little bit can and will hurt him ! I have to say no to certain foods, not because I am mean or I want my child to miss out but because I want my child to be safe and well. It upsets me daily to think my child isn’t free to enjoy any foods he may want to. Your comment only reminds me how much a certain food does hurt him and this makes me sad. Some people have anaphylactic reactions to foods which are labelled as a may contain, so you see a little can and will hurt some people.
When you invite us to your child’s party..
I have to presume that most if not all of the party food is unsafe for my child. I don’t want to have to bring our own food, I would love nothing more than to be able to rock up at the party and enjoy the lovely spread of food you put so much effort into, but we just can’t take that risk, so we will have to bring our own food. When you check the packaging of a certain food item and tell me it’s safe for my son to eat, I really appreciate this and I love that you would take the time to check if my son can join in with your lovely party food. Unfortunately I have to politely decline due to cross contamination risks. Yes, I know you think this may be over the top and I could be over reacting here, So let me explain.. When you first lay out the buffet it looks fabulous, every food item is grouped together and has it’s own perfect place on the table and on separate platters. That is until 20 or so hungry children are let loose on this incredible buffet you created. Now there is food everywhere, different sandwich’s are mixed up onto different platters and crumbs of various foods are all over the show.. I think you see where I am going with this but the point is a food that may have been safe has now come into contact with a food that isn’t safe for my child and yes my child’s allergies are that serious !! Believe me if they wasn’t I wouldn’t be up until the early hours the night before any party he has, baking his own special cupcake just so he won’t feel left out when all the other children are enjoying their cake at the party.
When my son is eating at the party and you try and talk to me..
I made my child his own party food and brought it with us so what’s the problem? Well now I have to watch him like a hawk ! Children like to share food and my child is at the age where he will pick up everything in sight and put it straight into his mouth. So while my child now has his plate of safe foods to enjoy, I literally can not take my eyes off him or the children around him. So you see while you may find this a perfect opportunity to catch up and have a chat with me, I am currently sweating with fear and trying to concentrate on my child and the children around him. I don’t want to come across as being rude so I try my best to engage in the conversation you so politely started but please understand my child’s safety will always come first. If I seem to not be listening to you then it’s because I have to watch my child like a hawk around food to ensure he stays safe. Please don’t feel like you can’t talk to me at parties or any social gatherings as you absolutely can. The last thing I want is to feel left out, I already feel different!
Please just try to understand that when there is food everywhere I am anxious and frightened for my child’s safety but we want to join in as much as possible. When you ask me questions I find irritating or make passing comments which upset me, I’ll do my best to be patient with you but please be patient with me too, especially when there is food EVERYWHERE!!!!!!
Lyndsay Edwards – (Allergy Parent)