What we Want You to Know

The holidays are a wonderful time that we get to spend with our families and friends, but they are also a trying time for parents with kids that suffer food allergies. Most people that haven't had to deal with food allergies of their own or in their own children don't give it a second thought.

As a parent of little boy that is highly allergic to eggs and all nuts and seeds, I feel stress each and every time I go to a party or invite people to my home. I feel stress just sending him to daycare each day.

A few weeks ago daycare sent home a newsletter that stated they were going to make gingerbread houses and they wanted volunteers. The next day I asked if they found an egg free gingerbread recipe and frosting recipe (gingerbread house are notoriously frosted with royal icing - did you know it's made with egg whites?). The daycare teacher responded that she hadn't even thought about it. In my head I was screaming at her because I leave my child in her care 4 days a week and trust that she will think about it every day. My actual response, however, was much more appropriate. I offered to find her recipes that did not contain eggs and volunteered to make the frosting. I also volunteered to make 3 batches of frosting myself.

I say all of this not to make you paranoid, but to give you an idea of where we are coming from. This little boy holds my heart in his hands, just like your kids do. I worry about him for all the reasons you worry about your kids, but I have the added worry that he could die from ingesting a chip that has been contaminated by nut oils on someone's hands.

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10 Things Families with Food Allergies Want You to Know!
By Gina Clowes

Severe food allergies require a dramatic change in lifestyle, but unless these allergies have affected your immediate family, you have no idea of what goes on behind the scenes to keep these children safe. This holiday season, we’d love to spend time you, so we need your help. With no rule book or etiquette guide, we don’t always know how to ask for that help. If you really want to know what will make our season bright, here are 10 things that we allergy moms would like you to know.

1. Be careful with your kisses! If you’ve just eaten anything that our child is allergic to, we’d prefer that you kiss her on the top of her head or give her a hug or an “air kiss”. This is what we do! Sound extreme? We know, and that’s why we feel so funny about asking you. But trust us when we tell you that the only thing worse than seeing your child suffer an allergic reaction is knowing that you have caused that reaction.

2. We’d love you to wash your hands. We don’t want to ask. But we don’t know what you’ve eaten or touched and we really don’t want to risk it. We know it sounds crazy but our child has reacted to “just touching” things he is allergic to.

3. Use care with your baby's foods and bottles. We love your children and know that they need to eat a variety of foods. However, those foods and the milk or soy formula that they drink can cause allergic reactions in our child. Please don’t allow your toddler to walk around with a bag of cookies, goldfish or cereal while we’re together. One dropped piece could cause a problem for a child with severe food allergies.

4. Please, watch your pets’ and their food. Many pet foods and treats contain allergens including milk, fish and peanut, and an innocent lick can cause a reaction in allergic children.

5. Please don’t feed our child. Raising a child with food allergies is a whole new way of life. Allergy Moms and Dads can’t possibly expect others to keep in mind all of the nuances of where and how allergens hide. If you’d like to help, hold the baby so mom can get a bite to eat, build a block tower, read a book, or follow our toddler around for awhile to give his mom a break. There are many ways to show love that do not involve food!

6. Call us! If you are hosting a child who has food allergies, talk to the parents in advance. If you are setting out foods that may be safe, save all of the wrappers. Better yet, let the allergy mom or dad help you put the safe chips out. (Remember that if you touch the cookies with nuts or the shrimp, and then touch the chips, they are now cross-contaminated.)

7. Try not to fuss over what our child is eating. If he or she needs to have a different menu of safe foods, please don’t call attention to it. Don’t make food allergies a big topic of conversation. For example, “Well what can he eat?”

8. We’d be grateful if you’d confine the food to one or two areas. For example, don’t allow food into the family room, or the basement if that is where the children will be playing. That way, all the children will be safe and your house will be cleaner too!

9. We’d love it if you’d ask your children to wash their hands. We know that your kids are able to eat whatever they like, but children are notoriously messy eaters. You’d be doing us a great favor if you’d encourage them to wash their hands when they’re done eating. We know it’s not our place to ask this of your children but it we worry that our kids are not safe if they share toys or touch each other with food residue.

10. Ask for suggestions because we want to make this work for everyone. If you want to bring something to a home with a food allergic child, talk to the parents in advance for specific suggestions. Your homemade casserole or brownies may not be suitable but a bottle of wine, some fresh ground coffee, a fun board game, whole fruit, or some beautiful disposable hand towels for the powder room might be appreciated.

1 People Raise Their Wine Glasses to Me:

Rebecca said...

This is SO important and you are an AWESOME Mom for being so on top of it. Schools (all types) need to be more aware and thoughtful of this. Food allergies are on the rise in this country and more kids are effected than people realize.

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