When my daughter started eating solids at five months, I remember how zen I was about food allergies. We had no family history of them, and I had no plans to sit in our pediatrician’s parking lot when I fed her peanuts for the first time, or hover over her high chair while she tried scrambled eggs.
So it does seem a little ironic that out of all my pals with babies who stressed about feeding the top 8 allergens, I’m the one who has a child with a food allergy.
One day over brunch…
Shortly after we introduced solids, G was sitting on my lap at Portage Bay Cafe when she managed to swipe a handful of my chicken sausage scramble (the girl knows what’s good, right?)
She was already pretty fussy because I’d stayed out past her nap time, so it was hard to tell if she was just done with brunch or if she was feeling bad. I noticed her face was looking a little red, so I asked the friend sitting across from me to take a photo so I could get a better look without having to wrestle her.
We agreed she did look kind of red and shortly after, she spit up. Which could be normal for a five month old, right? By this point she was pretty upset, so I decided to pack up and go. Before we got in the car she vomited a second time, and I noticed her eyes were looking swollen.
I wasn’t sure if I should panic or not. Do I drive to the ER? Do I drive home with her in the backseat, where I can’t monitor her?
I decided to call my husband and then our pediatrician’s nurse line, and after asking me a few questions, they ok’d me to drive home. We got her first set of EpiPens the following week, and banned all eggs and peanuts from her diet out of an abundance of caution.
This week, May 12 – 18, is Food Allergy Awareness Week. Here’s five things I really wish other people – especially parents – knew about food allergies.
1. Ask me anything
I’d rather answer a hundred questions about what G can or can’t eat than risk her eating something that could cause a reaction. Don’t be shy about asking what she can have, or how to use her EpiPens if she’s staying with you alone. I usually remember to point them out and show folks how they work, but nobody’s perfect.
2. Educate your family
I’m hoping we’re only a year or so away from G understanding that she can’t accept food without asking about the ingredients. But until then, we depend on other parents to keep their kids informed about food allergies to keep her safe.
Please train your kid to ask before offering food to other children. Fortunately, most packaged snacks only contain baked eggs, which she tolerates. But it’s a little stressful watching an older kid at the playground hand her a cheddar bunny without asking me first. Sure, the bunny is harmless, but next time it could be a scrambled egg burrito, and that could have consequences.
3. EpiPens and allergy care add up
If you haven’t heard me rant about how difficult it is to find an affordable EpiPen Jr., you haven’t really lived yet. Kidding!
In all seriousness, epinephrine injectors have been around for over 50 years. And the cost of a name brand, non-generic pack of two EpiPens is over $600 after insurance. Even some generics can carry a similar price tag, depending on the manufacturer.
Plus, due to the shortage, I usually have to call 5+ pharmacies just to find a pack we can have the privilege of buying. And have I mentioned that they expire every ~8 months, and we need two sets (one for home, one to leave at daycare)?
There are plenty of ways “around” the fucked-up fact that pharmaceutical companies are okay with gouging patients for a drug they may need to survive. You can find coupons, new devices at lower prices (like Auvi-Q), different brands of generics, price compare between pharmacies, or use a patient assistance program if you qualify.
But all of them depend on one parent having the time to investigate these choices. It’s not as simple as walking into a pharmacy with your kid’s prescription and walking out with the drug you need at a fair price. This has to change.
4. Egg-free meals welcome, but not required!
I appreciate it when friends go out of their way to make an entire meal without eggs. It’s incredibly sweet when folks not only remember her allergy, but manage to figure out all the unusual foods that contain eggs (mayo, for instance) and modify their recipes to work without it.
BUT! You absolutely don’t have to. There’s almost always something she can eat, and if we’re going to a meal that usually features eggs (brunch) then I’ll pack something safe for her. Just let me know which foods contain her allergen and I’ll make sure she steers clear.
5. Allergen-free schools and daycares make everyone feel welcome
The majority of day cares we looked at were not egg free, and only a small percentage were peanut or tree nut free.
Even worse, one daycare’s solution for G’s egg allergy was to strap her into a high chair away from all the other children if they were serving eggs. I remember asking if they would have a teacher sit with her while she was being isolated and got a blank stare in return.
It sucks asking other parents and caregivers to change up their menu and routine to accommodate my child. I hate asking. But I also hate hearing folks complain about how one kid at their child’s school has a peanut allergy, so their kid can’t have peanut butter now, and isn’t it so unfair?
What’s more unfair is that my daughter hasn’t gotten to taste the delicious local eggs we buy from a neighbor every other week. What’s unfair is having to scrutinize a breakfast menu and then ask for a side of avocado for her, because not a single meal on the kid’s menu is egg free (this happens often).
Both G’s current daycare and the one she’s starting next month have been stellar when it comes to working with her allergy. But I know how lucky we are to know people who understand how important it is that she get to experience the joys of sharing a meal with her peers, without having to worry about having her allergens on the table.
For more information about food allergies, FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) is the best resource. And feel free to drop a question in the comment section below – I’ll do my best to answer!