If you’re anything like me, this picture instantly strikes fear in your heart and gets your adrenaline rushing. An estimated 3.1 million children in the US have food allergies, and my daughter happens to be one of them. She is highly allergic to peanuts and is likely to have an anaphylactic reaction if she ingests anything with peanut protein.
I still remember getting the diagnosis over four years ago from our pediatric allergist and feeling so devastated. My daughter wasn’t even two years-old at that point and the thought of such a tiny, innocent creature being so vulnerable to such a pervasive ingredient was more than I could handle. I recall going to Whole Foods the next day to re-stock our entire pantry and almost breaking down in the frozen food section because I felt so lost and overwhelmed by all the life or death choices I would now need to make on a daily basis (do you I buy her food that has been manufactured in a plant that uses peanuts but uses good manufacturing practices to protect against contamination or do I forgo it?)
My daughter is six now, and I’m pleased to say that she hasn’t ever had to use her Epipen Jr. and that we lead a very normal life. When you are told that your child has a severe allergy, you very quickly figure out your “new” way of living. You bring Benadryl and an Epipen everywhere you go. You still go out to dinner, but you avoid certain cuisines like the plague and overindulge in other cuisines. In our case, we NEVER bring our daughter to an Asian restaurant but feel relatively comfortable in Italian places. You also quickly discover which food brands are generally safe, which candies are always/sometimes/never peanut-free, and how to make a mean Betty Crocker cupcake for all those birthday parties your child is invited to where the birthday cake may or may not contain peanuts. Play dates at friends’ houses are a tad trickier to navigate in terms of snacks, but we generally send our own with our daughter and make sure the supervising adult is painfully aware of her allergy and how to use an Epipen.
I can’t say that having a child with a severe food allergy is no big deal. However, it’s like many of the things that life hands to you: not what you would have wished for, but in the long run, completely manageable.
Sites to check out: