Monday, October 4, 2010

Food Allergies: Mama W's story

Why do so many kids have food allergies nowadays? 30 years ago I didn't not have one friend that had a food allergy. I ate PB & J almost every day for lunch in my school cafeteria or class room...which is unheard of now as far as I know.

I knock on wood, cross my fingers and say a prayer every day that my daughter does not get food allergies. I am a total foodie, and more importantly a lover of all dairy, nuts and basically anything that kids get allergies too. My daughter cannot have allergies. Now that we are feeding her so many different things I worry that she will have an allergic reaction to everything she puts in her mouth. 

Everyone knows at least a couple people that have a child with some sort of food allergies, and I have heard countless stories about how their lives have changed. I asked my friend Mama W to share her story about her son and his allergies. 
 

Mama W:
Famous last words as a teacher: I hope my child doesn't have allergies. I always felt bad for my students who had allergies- singled out with a different snack or their parents would send in "special food". It was heart breaking and parents would hound you that the classroom was nut free. I had one student who was nut free because his father had a nut allergy.

When my son was about 5 months old he had horrible eczema. Those fire engine, chapped cheeks that were painful to look at. The pediatrician put us on the fancy formula- the one above the soy. The stuff was not cheap! We were lucky that my father in law was an allergist, so he tested our son. He tested for peanuts, milk, wheat, eggs, soy and dogs. Low and behold, our son reacted to eggs, peanuts, and dogs. The reactions to peanuts & dogs were mild. We have a dog and I feared we would have to give her away.

Clearly, our son had not had eggs or peanuts and there were no traces in his formula. We kept our dog apart from our son and overtime his cheeks cleared up. As time went on, and our son began to eat "real food" the challenge began. The pediatrician and allergist (not my father in law) recommended that we stay away from any foods processed in a facility that processes eggs & nuts. Grocery shopping became hard work and time consuming. I was finding a lot of products were made in a facility with eggs & nuts. Another hurdle was preparing two meals. As time went on, I found food alternatives and foods our son would eat.

Going out to eat was another hurdle. I just didn't trust waiters so I would ask a million questions. Did they really read the label? Did the chef cook on the same griddle as he cooked eggs? Most restaurants are very good about checking on foods, but I do have a fear of cross-contamination. I pack a meal whenever we go out to eat or a special cupcake & ice cream for birthday parties. I wipe down the high chair & table with a Wet One in case another child has peanut butter or eggs. Now that our son is 2 he wants to eat what everyone else is having. This summer was heart breaking when he couldn't have ice cream cones.

The flu shot is another problem. Last year he didn't react to the regular flu shot and was able to receive it, but the H1N1 shot was another story. I take him to the allergist clinic for the flu shots. They give a test, wait 30 minutes for a reaction, give the first dose, wait 30 minutes, the second dose and wait 30 minutes. It is a LONG process to keep a two year old happy & calm in a doctor's office for that amount of time. The third dose is given a few weeks later. This year the flu shot and H1N1 are in the same shot, so he needs to go through the process again.

Our son is going to be re-tested in October. I am hoping his reaction levels have gone down and eventually he will outgrow the allergies. he loves our dog and breaks out in a rash when he hugs her or when she licks him. It is heartbreaking and has been life changing.

On one hand, I know that he eats very healthy because he can't have cookies, cupcakes, ice cream and enjoy a treat out. My son actually LOVES fruits and veggies! On the other hand, he can't eat just any treats. At this point, it is second nature that I pack him food and look at menus or call the restaurant before going out. His pre-school has been amazing and I am thankful that schools are nut free and do not let kids share food. I know we are lucky that his allergies are not severe and it could be much worse.

Some of our favorite treats & tips:

  • Rice Krispy treats - He likes to lick the spoon and help make them. I bought the premade ones & left them at school for special treats for birthdays, etc
  • Breyer's All Natural is egg free
  • I use applesauce & an egg replacer to bake muffins, etc
  • Ground flax seed & water is also a great sub. for an egg
  • Vans is an egg free product
  • Mac & Chreese (that is spelled correctly) I give Alex the Kraft whole grain Mac & Cheese
  • Earth's Best Chicken nuggets
  • You can crumble tofu and add spices, veggies for a "scrambled egg" meal. Alex is not a fan
  • Soynut butter has been a saving grace!
A great resource for anyone with food allergies is www.foodallergy.org

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