Until you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of a food allergy mom, don’t judge.
Until you have stared at the face of your three year old, waiting and praying that his swollen eyes will subside, that you’ll see more than little slits where his big brown puppy dog eyes should be, you just won’t get it.
Until you have waited in anticipation, staring at your husband, wondering if either of you have the guts to administer epinephrine to save your child’s life, then you just. don’t. know.
My preschooler’s face was red with hives and swollen. His eyes were huge and puffy. They were draining and his nose was running. He coughed. Is this the beginning of respiratory distress? Is this a sign that his throat is closing? Is it time to use his Auvi-Q, his brand new epinephrine injector?
No. Not that time. We watched him and waited. It never got worse. But it could’ve been. We were that close.
And that’s why we stay diligent. We follow “the rules” of nut allergies, the advice given by our pediatric allergist.
I’ve read a lot lately about moms who are “fed up” with food allergy moms for dictating what items can be brought to school parties, and you know what?
I think they need to grow up.
I remember the first time I was told that I couldn’t pack my daughter’s favorite lunch for her. Her beloved PB&J would have to stay home because another child had a nut allergy. I remember wondering what in the world I would feed her. But mild frustration gave way to sympathy for others, and I ended up settling on a lunchable. She only ate the cookies out of the lunchable and the rest was wasted. But the other child was safe.
And then I gave birth to a child who was prescribed an Epipen, Jr. before he was old enough to have outgrown his pacifier. He was still breastfeeding, yet I couldn’t go anywhere without taking an Epipen in the diaper bag. You’d better believe I quickly figured out something else for my older child to eat for lunch. No more PB&Js for her.
It’ll change your life. When your child has a life-threatening food allergy, you look at everything differently.
But if your child doesn’t have a food allergy, then maybe it’s time we stop demanding our right to bring cupcakes to school all the time, especially in an era of childhood obesity. As it turns out, maybe there’s no right to bear PB&Js in the constitution.
A little bit of empathy and compassion go a long way. A really long way. We’re better people when we show compassion for those around us. It’s called character. Kindness. Love. When we put aside our desire for a granola bar in favor of a safer food choice for kids with allergies, we’re being Christlike. As Christians, our anthem should be “others first.”
Because that mom–the same one you think is an overbearing helicopter mom–absolutely hates to ask for special food for her child. She hates saying “can I read the label first?” every time a sweet person wants to share a snack with her kiddos. She doesn’t want to stay up late the night before a birthday party baking cupcakes so that she can bring a safe one for her child. And she definitely doesn’t want the weird looks she gets when she turns down that awesome birthday cake in favor of a safe homemade cupcake.
But we have no choice.
Food allergy moms have no choice. We didn’t ask for a life of neurotic label reading. We didn’t even want our kids to have a positive food allergy test. I know that part of me really wanted the allergy tests to prove me wrong. I would rather be wrong about my child’s symptoms than have to jump through multiple hoops to keep my child safe from foods that could harm him. Kill him. Let’s be honest here. A peanut or a cashew could kill my kid and that’s really not an exaggeration. I’m sorry if you think it is.
But unfortunately, I was right. His symptoms were classic food allergy symptoms–hives and vomiting as soon as he came in contact with the allergen. And he was only 12 months old.
At 3, he hasn’t had any other significant reactions until recently. He was licked by a dog, which made him squeal with joy. My boy is crazy for puppy dogs!
But then he developed hives and significant swelling everywhere in his face, especially around his eyes. It was the biggest allergic reaction he has ever had. I have never been so close to administering epinephrine before. But over the course of two hours, the reaction subsided and we let him sleep with us that night so that we could monitor him. It took another full day before the swelling in his eyes went back to normal.
My son, sound asleep from Benadryl, and no longer in danger. As you can see, he no longer had hives all over his face and his eyes were significantly better.
The next day, we found out that the dog that licked him regularly eats peanut butter dog treats.
Until you have sat up with your child past midnight, wondering if this would be the time you administered the shot to him, if this would be the time you rushed him to the ER, if this would be “the big one”, then you just don’t know.
So have a little compassion.