My experience with food allergies started when my youngest child turned a year old. The pediatrician I had for my two older children believed that cow’s milk is for calves, so he suggested I feed them soy formula. He said that I could introduce them to cow’s milk when they were a year old, and I did, with no problems. I had a new pediatrician when my youngest child, a boy, was born, but I decided to stick with what worked for my two older children and only gave him soy formula, too.
After my youngest son turned one, I gave him some cow’s milk and then put him to bed. A little while later, he was crying, so I checked on him. He was very swollen. Everywhere. His eyes were practically swollen shut. I took him to the E.R. where they treated him for an allergy. I couldn’t sleep that night, because I was afraid he would stop breathing.
The next day, I took him to see his pediatrician and discuss what happened. The doctor said that he probably was bitten by a spider or something. That didn’t make much sense to me, but since he wasn’t too worried about it, I wasn’t either.
That evening, I gave my son another bottle of milk. The same thing happened. He swelled up. When I saw the doctor again, he referred my son to an allergist for testing. I didn’t give him any more milk.
About a week later, my son had the allergy tests done. I could not believe the results! The list of things he was allergic to was quite long. Dairy, eggs, corn, peanuts, bananas, dogs, cats, birds, horses, eucalyptus, mold, mites, and on and on. I was told to keep him away from everything he was allergic to. How did this happen? No one else in our family had food allergies.
I quickly learned a lot about food and allergies. I subscribed to the Food Allergy Network and bought a cookbook with allergy-friendly recipes. My shopping trips took a lot longer now, because I had to read every label. I didn’t want to buy products that had any of the allergens or derivatives in them. I changed the way I cooked for the whole family, so that there was no chance of cross contamination. I still made family favorites, but tweaked my son’s food.
I taught my son at a very young age not to eat anything from anyone outside of our family without checking with me first. He always took his own lunch to school. Prior to each school year starting, I met with the teachers to discuss my son’s food allergies. I gave them a bag of goodies to keep that were safe for my son, so that when the class had a party for a holiday or birthday, there was something special there for him.
The average person doesn’t understand how serious food allergies can be. When my son was in kindergarten, his class made peanut butter playdoh. The teacher sat my son off to the side, where he played with real playdoh. When the bell rang, the kids ran outside and played tag. One of the other students tagged my son on the neck, and because she didn’t wash her hands after playing with peanut butter, he had an allergic reaction. His eyes and face swelled up, he got hives, and was having trouble breathing. All this from an allergen only TOUCHING his skin! There was another time that my son had a bad reaction from a child hitting him in the face after eating scrambled eggs with his hands.
When my son was in second or third grade, he dropped something on the ground at lunch. One of the women on yard duty thought he threw it down, so as punishment, she told him that he had to pick everything up off the ground. He told her that he couldn’t touch the food on the ground, because he had food allergies. She asked him what he was allergic to, so he told her. She said, “Do you see any milk down there?” She was ignorant to the fact that milk was an ingredient in some of the foods that were on the ground. Since he wouldn’t pick up the food, he was put on detention. I went to the school to talk to the Assistant Principal to help her understand why my son wasn’t allowed to touch food. I told her that I don’t mind him being punished if he does something wrong, but they were not to punish him with food, because it was dangerous to him. He has allergic reactions just from skin contact.
While growing up, my son handled his food allergies well. He was very careful about what he ate. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before he outgrew his allergy to corn, which gave him a lot more food choices to eat. You’d be surprised how many foods have some form of corn in them. Unfortunately, he never outgrew any of the other food allergies. To this day, he’s never eaten an egg. Since he’s allergic to both the white and yolk, he can’t have it at all. He still has never had anything containing dairy. We learned how to prepare things that are safe for him without those ingredients.
In 2004, I had an allergic reaction to nuts. It was scary. I had allergy tests done and found out I’m allergic to peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, pistachios, and green peas. Prior to the allergic reaction I had, I ate peas and peanut butter often. The worst part about it, is that I have to be very careful when I eat anywhere other than home. I always have Benadryl and an Epipen in my purse. Food allergies are just a way of life for my family.