This year, May 13th-19th is Food Allergy Awareness Week. If you or a loved one doesn't have a food allergy, you probably didn't know that.
My oldest daughter knows first hand what it's like having a food allergy. She tests the highest possible for peanuts, but also has food allergies to foods such as dairy, soy, and mold. Mold?! Ok, so mold isn't technically a food, but it's in a lot of the foods we eat- certain cheeses and oranges, for instance, tend to have a higher mold content. The difference between eating milk and a nut is that one might cause tummy problems and are often un-noticed, while the other has her looking like this- and worse!
Mistic's story. It was Easter, 2005. She was about 2 years old. We had suspected a nut allergy because she was develop a little rash around her mouth anytime she consumed the smallest amount of peanut butter. Because of this, we told people to avoid anything with nuts. Candy, specifically. Someone at the church we were at unintentionally (and unaware to us) gave her some Easter candy that contained peanut butter and that night confirmed what we had suspected. She was home from church for a very before the symptoms began. She vomited- several times. She developed hives over her body. She began to swell. I was pregnant with Aspen and Faith was only a year old so I stayed home with them while Nick rushed Mistic to the ER. Thankfully, we lived just a few blocks from it. There they administered all the necessary medicine and no doubt saved her life!
Fast forward a few months and we received a referral to the allergist. She was poked and prodded and sure enough, tested as high as anyone can on the peanuts as well as receiving lower marks for other things (grass, trees, you name it!). We got the prescription for the EpiPen and I began to carry Benadryl with me faithfully.
Over the course of time, we would have a few scares. We took a few trips to the ER. We administered Benadryl. Never have we needed to use the EpiPen, mainly because we would be so close to the ER.
She's gotten older and she knows how severe this nut allergy is.
We were stupid though. Mistic should have, from the get go, avoided foods that were processed in the same facility or "could contain". For instant, Mistic would eat M&Ms since she was big enough to hold them. As a young mother I couldn't see taking away a food that she had eaten- many, many times with no reactions- just because she could have one. I KNOW! STUPID!
I saw how stupid I had been almost 7 years later. Valentine's Day this year Mistic had a reaction to eating plain M&Ms. That immediately pushed me into gear and we have since became a lot more careful about any cross-contamination and yep, she no longer eats M&Ms. Looking back I wish I had just done that from the start.
Did you know....?
-Peanut butter can be in foods such as chili and peanut flour might be used in cookies- even ones that have no indication that it may be peanut-y?
-There are different ways that can cause a reaction. The obvious, direct contact. The common sense, cross-contamination. The lesser known, airborne inhalation. Scary, huh? Yep, just smelling it can cause a reaction!
-Simply washing your hands after eating a nut isn't enough to remove the peanut oil from your hands. The same thing applies to your mouth- simply drinking something to "wash it down" isn't enough. You could still cause someone else to have a reaction.
Things to be aware of
-Cross-contamination is a huge deal! I wasn't always so safe, but have since realized that you can never be too safe when dealing with life threatening allergies. Great care must be taken that foods aren't splashed on utensils or that crumbs aren't mixed. In our house, we simply do not have anything that could cause a reaction. However, I have to keep a close eye on friends and family when we are out because proper awareness has not been learned!
-Read. Read. Read. Labels. Things change. Just because an item is safe today doesn't mean it'll be safe in three months. Just because it shouldn't have anything that causes a reaction doesn't mean you shouldn't read it. For instance, a bag of shredded cheese at our grocery store contains the could contain warning that includes peanuts. For cheese! The block cheese, however, does not. Interesting, right?
Ways You Can Help
-Get a medical alert ID bracelet. Be very specific. Mistic has a pretty pink bracelet that has a medical alert slider that has the typical medical alert sign in pink, but on the other side of the slider has her name and about her food allergy. She wears it anytime she goes somewhere new- like a summer camp, new church, or friend's house. There are many places that sell all kinds of awareness items, from T-shirts, to pins, to stickers. You name it! Special lunchboxes are an excellent tool as well.
-Spread awareness! Don't just suffer alone. As a parent, go above and beyond to let other people know about food allergies and how they affect every day life. Blog about it. Purchase the T-shirts and stickers. Don't settle for just a little bit of knowledge. Research it and know it.
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network
Peanut Free Zone
The Peanut/Nut Allergy Handout
Are you familiar with food allergies? What words of advice do you have for others who also suffer?
I've linked up with:
Make Life Meaningful Monday
The Better Mom Mondays
The Modest Mom
Mentorin Mamas Monday
Mama Moments Monday
What Joy Is Mine Monday's Musings
Domestically Divine Tuesdays
Women Living Well
Wise Woman Linkup
Encourage One Another
Hearts for Home
Proverbs 31 Linkup