It breaks my heart sitting here about to write this.
Today is the first school pizza lunch of this school year. Last night, I had to order pizza to our home, so that my daughter would not feel left out today.
She is 4 years old and has food allergies: dairy, egg, peanut and possible avocado (we'll be testing soon).
So for her to have pizza like all the other kids today at lunchtime, I ordered a cheeseless one yesterday and packed it in her lunchbox this morning. We've had to make these kinds of adjustments for her whole life. Anytime we go anywhere, or even when there are people over at our home, we all have to be on alert that she isn't given anything to eat from anyone. It's not easy, and it's heartbreaking.
Now that she has begun school, we face new challenges: recess and lunchtimes... and we're not there to make sure she doesn't share food.
Thankfully, her teacher has been handling it the best that we can ask. She wipes a section of her desk every day and Tiffany gets to sit with her to eat so that she can monitor her.
Tiffy is also very aware of her allergies, and her first response to someone offering her food is always a firm "No! I can't... I have allergies." It saddens me that any 4-year old has to say that :(
The purpose of this article, however, is to bring allergy awareness to new and expectant parents. My son is almost 8 years old and has never been allergic to anything. We were naive when he was born, and didn't even think that allergies were a possibility... neither me nor my husband have any, and the thought just never occurred to us. And so, when my daughter was born, it was the same thing... we never even gave it a thought. It wasn't until she began eating solid foods, and we noticed rashes and hives around her mouth when she ate certain things. Eventually, we put 2 and 2 together, and life has been different since then.
Since our eyes are now opened to this possibility, it gives me chills every time I remember an instance when my son was about a year old. We had taken him on his first trip to Trinidad, and we were on a beach one day. Up to this point, he was still nursing, and he had never drank anything else. His grandfather innocently opened a boxed drink for him and said he's old enough to enjoy it. It wasn't juice, though... it was a box of "Peanut Punch". (Peanut Punch is a popular beverage in Trinidad and it is made with peanut butter, milk, sugar and spices.) He drank and enjoyed it and we didn't give it a second thought.
My nightmare years later: What if it had been Tiffany?! What would have happened if we gave her a drink, for the first time, made of both MILK and PEANUTS in the middle of nowhere, on a beach in Trinidad, and had no idea that she was allergic to both?! Would we have known what was happening to her? Would we have been able to make it to a doctor/hospital in time? Would we have even known the importance to rush? At that time, we didn't even know what an EpiPen was.
I thank God it wasn't her every time I think about this.
So new and expectant moms and dads... please learn from our naivety, and always test new foods with your baby in a safe and controlled environment, with plans of action every time. Awareness is key... better safe than sorry!
And if it does turn out that your child has food allergies, start teaching them right away about voicing it and refusing food.
Do all you can, take all the steps, pray every day, and hopefully, they will outgrow it in time.