Tag Archives: food allergies

The Hilarious Joke Food Allergies Are

I quit Facebook a couple months ago. Shut down the account, the whole thing. I didn’t announce it; I just sort of backed out- exhausted by the veil it provided for people to say offensive things they’d never dream of saying in real life. It was glorious. I couldn’t believe how much time I recouped. My house was so clean!

But I ran into a couple of hitches. One being that most of the people within my immediate social circle use it to share exciting life events and I was missing “stuff” I didn’t want to. Another issue came when I went to log into things I’d previously signed up for using that super handy ‘Sign In With Facebook’ button and I couldn’t log in. [That Mark Z is a real trickster…] So I put my page back up. I told myself I’d check it once a day. It was fine.

And then today I see this little gem run across my feed:

I ate peanuts on a plane today and nobody died.

Hilarious. Right? It’s not the first thing I’ve come across to joke at an allergy-sufferers expense. It wasn’t really surprising and only a little upsetting. Mostly it’s just insensitive, I think. There have been memes suggesting food allergies are merely a form of natural selection. Hilarious. There have been giggles about really obvious food allergy labeling [like peanut butter saying in bold it contains peanuts]. Hilar. Waitstaff rants about catering to allergy divas. Hardy har. Everyone probably has some thing they’re sensitive to that others are more flippant about. At first I spoke up. I wanted to educate them. “Some people have airborne food allergies. That really could have killed them.” “Do you know how helpful detailed food labels are when you have to read the food label on every item you buy, every time you buy it (even if you’ve bought it thousands of times before!) to make sure it’s free from six different allergens.” “Sorry? We don’t eat out much because it’s really not convenient for us, either.”

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I guess that’s why I quit Facebook. Why get mad or upset about something said by someone you really aren’t even friends with? I don’t feel like there are people in my everyday life who are flippant about my kids’ food allergies. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s friends keeping sunbutter on hand in case we come over. Changing their lunch menu to look like ours so my kids aren’t left out. My mom stocking her pantry full of my kids’ favorite [and expensive] allergen-free food before we visit. My sister-in-law having an allergen-free brownie sundae bar just for my kids at her son’s birthday! We are wrapped in love by friends who are willing to be educated and inclusive about food allergies.

So that’s what I remind myself of when someone wants to make a hilarious joke about food allergies. Maybe they’ll have someone in their lives they deeply care about one day who can show them what food allergies really look like. Maybe they’ll read this and decide 12 likes on their status isn’t really worth a joke about something so serious.

For now I’ll leave them with this:

I have a daughter. She’ll tell you she’s five. That she’ll be six in five months. And that she’s our “#1 kid” [our firstborn. hehe.]. In that order. Immediately upon making your acquaintance. We found out when she was very young that she had food allergies. We found out because she had weeping sores all over her legs that no amount of steroids would heal. She’s allergic to eggs, peanuts, milk, and wheat. And not just a little allergic. Eggs and peanuts can send her into anaphylactic shock. Yes, that’s something you learn the hard way. She need only eat trace amounts of eggs to begin vomiting with facial swelling and compromised breathing. Her body will cover itself in hives that arc all the way to the lymph nodes under her arms. It’s scary.

She has a brother. He’s only 19 months old. He’s a baby. He also has food allergies. And we keep finding more. At first it was the same issue. Eczema that we couldn’t heal. We had him tested and found out he was allergic to peanuts. Six months later, he ate some adorable cheddar bunnies and his face began to swell and raised hives spread all over his body. We had him tested again and found he’d developed an allergy to milk. No, I don’t know how food allergies develop either. No, neither my husband nor myself have food allergies. Six months later we were enjoying a dinner with our family on vacation when he had a tiny bit of hummus and his face began to swell. He started swaying when he tried to walk. It took Benedryl, two Epi-pens, a trip to the emergency room, and an adult-sized dose of oral steroids to stop the allergic reaction. A third round of allergy testing revealed he’s now allergic to eggs, peanuts, sesame seeds, almonds, and milk. At least that we know of. He’s just a baby.

So maybe I am a little angry tonight. Mostly I’m just sad for my kids. But to all those jokesters who think it’s hilarious to make light of food allergies, here’s my baby:

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So hilarious.

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On Being An Allergy Mama

Two years ago I was sitting in a small, dark room with my daughter on my lap, facing me. I held her tightly with one arm while the other held her hair off her back. Helpless. She was screaming. Violently. She was used to the routine of new doctors’ offices but was surprised and upset by the skin prick test she’d just had performed on her little back. And so we sat for 15 minutes. Her screaming and me crying.

The nurse came back in to check Lucy’s back. To me it seemed the whole thing was red. Large red welts with spidery veins extending from some of them. Her skin was not happy and neither was she.

The nurse told us the initial results and asked if we’d ever used an Epi-pen. “It’s extremely important that you understand this before you leave. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. You need to be comfortable and confident with its use. Should the need arise, this is how you’ll save your daughter’s life.”

The doctor came in next. She spoke with such a monotone voice that [even after the scary Epi-pen talk] I left the office feeling like food allergies would be a minor nuisance. When I told friends their first response was, “But she’ll probably grow out of it, right?” And I kind of started to believe that myself.

And then the doctor called. Less monotone and more concerned. Lucy’s bloodwork showed her allergies to be life-threatening. We would need to completely eliminate her exposure to eggs, wheat, dairy, and peanuts.

Here’s what I didn’t know about food allergies before I became a food allergy mama [or at my least my very basic, surface understanding of what I know to be true]: There are a few different reasons as to why kids develop food allergies. Sometimes it’s genetic.  Some believe it can be linked to additives and modifications made to our food. When Lucy’s allergens enter her body, it thinks they’re a foreign bad guy that needs to be wiped out [like it would react to something trying to make you sick]. So each time she’s exposed to the foods that make her sick she builds up more antibodies to fight off the “bad guys” and her body amps up its defense against them.

So in an ideal world we would know exactly what foods make her sick and we would completely avoid them. This is harder than it sounds…allergy mama guilt is a real thing and we have lots to avoid. And I’m not totally confident we know all of her allergens yet. And, rather unfortunately, sometimes she has reactions to things that aren’t supposed to make her sick. So I try to find the balance between letting her “be a kid” and strapping her in a bubble. I haven’t mastered that just yet.

Here’s what I sort of wish all of my friends knew about food allergies:

-I would love it if I never again had to answer the “Will they grow out of it?” question. It’s right up there with “In the old days we just kept exposing them to it until they got over it.”

-Don’t feel bad if we’re coming to your house and you don’t have food for my kid. We’re used to it. And we’re okay with it. We can’t leave the house without snacks. But I do love getting a heads up about what kind of food will be there [if it’s a party]. And it’s never a bad idea to ask which foods shouldn’t be served around them or which foods they have a contact allergy to. For example, we’re an egg-free house so maybe don’t bring your Egg McMuffin over. We’re a peanuts for adults house because we can remember to wash our hands and maintain safe contact.

-If we touch something the kids are allergic to we have to wash our hands before we touch them again. Soap is the only way to make something safe for them. A drop of egg or peanut send Lucy’s skin down a fiery, hive-ridden path. Even if it’s not direct contact it can make them sick. Even if you washed it with water. Even if two days ago you ate a PB&J [Did anyone else just think about Pam Beasley & Jim?!] and wiped it up with your dish towel. If you touch my kid with that dish towel she’ll get fired up [it’s true, I know this from experience, hence the adult pb rule].

-It’s a big [huge] deal for us but I’m trying to downplay it for you because I don’t want to feel like a weirdo [about this anyway]. And I don’t want you to think I’m not appreciative that my children are otherwise in good health. Nor do I want you to think I’m downplaying what’s going on with your kids because it’s different from this. But I’m often having allergy thoughts. It’s the kind of thing that goes from great to awful in a second. And it’s inescapable [you know, unless they grow out of it ;)]. Landon ate a green bean that came from a plate that had at one time had ranch dressing on it and we spent a car-ride home pulling over so I could try to clean the throw up off of him and his car seat. Multiple times. It’s frustrating. And upsetting. And sometimes I just want to relax and not feel like I’m on high-alert. But I can’t. And that’s okay. Because these kids were fearfully and wonderfully made. And I’m blessed with the opportunity of their earthly charge.

On being an allergy mom.

I didn’t realize before I started this journey how quickly I could feel comradeship with other allergy mamas. I didn’t realize how deep the impact would be on our family. I didn’t realize how emotional I would get when other people go out of their way to be mindful of our allergies. It’s hard not to talk about it!

p.s. If you want to hear abut how we got our allergy diagnosis you can check that out here.

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Like A Virgin

…Guest-posting for the very first time.

I wrote out the story of how we found out about Lucy’s allergies and it’s over on my [I’ve never met you in real life but we’re totally tight] friend Jessica’s blog Allergic to Air today.

Man, did I get all emotional thinking back to early Lucy days when she had crazy eczema rashes all over. As soon as everyone heard it was food allergies they insisted I talk to Jessica. So, yay for friends to ride on the allergy journey with!

And, for bonus points, Jessica’s blog is nominated for the Circle of Mom’s Top 25 Food Allergy Blogs so you can head over and vote for her.

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