I was never one to give food allergies much thought, as no one in my family was faced with them. Recently, my son Will was diagnosed with several food allergies – and I wanted to talk about it, not only because we live through this every single day at home, but because there are a lot of parents out there who are struggling with how to cope, how to explain their feelings, fears and reasons, but also because there are other parents who aren’t. Hopefully this can help put some perspective on it.
In early 2016 when Will was starting solid foods, we noticed a couple of incidents (“Was that spit up or vomit?”) that were questionable and considered them to be related to an intolerance to certain foods, but as he started trying more foods and on occasion would start showing various symptoms, I was becoming increasingly cautious towards every meal time. The first time he had a full blown reaction, I didn’t even realise how serious it could have been.
This was around the same time I started on treatment for my postpartum anxiety. Meal times were incredibly stressful for me (as well as many other things as a parent), and after finally building up confidence again with reassurance from my doctor, I tried giving Will some peanut butter. And 30 seconds later, we called an ambulance.
We decided it might be best to get a referral for a pediatric allergist. This was an important step for us, and confirmed what we suspected was true. Since then, we have already had several visits with our PA, including one very full afternoon where we conducted a food challenge. A food challenge is done in a supervised environment, and a child who has shown a mild reaction to a certain food is exposed in doses over an extended period of time, completely monitored by professionals, including symptoms and vitals (blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels). In these situations, they are fully prepared in case of an emergency.
When Will was first diagnosed with his food allergies, at first I felt sad and terrified. How was this little guy going to learn to navigate this world around him, when something so simple could kill him? Where going out for dinner at a restaurant could potentially end his life? It took me a few days of deep guilt and grief to really get a grasp on all of it, including a small break down into tears one day while at the grocery store. Since then, we’ve been through many ups and downs on facing the reality of our situation. I have taken it upon myself to ensure that I am his advocate and need to help him navigate through this. Looking back, I realise how dramatic it all felt, but since then we’ve really grown to accept it and are learning every day how to live with it.
Have you experienced food allergies at home with your little ones?