Tips for Managing Your Child’s Food Allergy During the Holidays
The holidays are here and the feasting will begin! The excitement can be dampened when you are managing your child’s food allergy at celebrations but it doesn’t have to be! Before my tips, let me share a little of our story…
“Take a deep breath and just let it settle in. Cry about it. Be angry about it. All these feelings are normal.”
The e-mail came to me from an old high school friend right after we posted on Facebook that the doctor just confirmed Buckner had an anaphylactic egg allergy. I appreciated her reaching out to me but I didn’t understand why I should cry over the diagnosis. It’s just eggs. No big deal right? But my sweet friend knew the journey we were about to take. Not only are eggs in almost everything, as an allergy parent, you have to be the best advocate for your child. We are all advocates for our children but a food allergy takes on a different type of daily advocacy. My friend knew when the reality hit, there would be tears and anger and most importantly fear. Yes, out of the bag illnesses your child can have, a food allergy is one to choose because you can manage it but we still have to fear for our child’s life on a daily basis. One bite of the wrong food could create a life threatening reaction. And when your child is a toddler that takes on a whole new challenge.
Allergy Mama = Mama Bear
I know I am perceived as the overbearing and paranoid mother when it comes to Buckner’s food and what surrounds him. So many people, even well meaning, equate allergy with a rash. We are constantly having to educate people that we are talking about a life and death situation. Some get it, some think we are crazy. But I am reminded to be crazy when I hear of a story (way too often) of a child being fed the wrong food. Almost three years after we learned of his egg allergy, we have never had an accidental ingestion. I credit that to my overbearing ways. My goal is to always be able to hand over our three sets of EpiPens every year unused.
I owe a lot of my confidence in being a mama bear to my friend who reached out only moments after finding out about the allergy. We had not talked much since high school but she became my life line in the weeks following. She gave me recipes and cooking tips. Egg allergies have a major learning curve because eggs are often listed as other chemical sounding names in the ingredients (albumen anyone?).
Along with the learning, you have to deal with the emotions. The fear of him getting sick is number one but children with allergies are vulnerable to suffer from depression or being bullied because of having to eat different foods. My friend gave me the support to feel how I was feeling by just letting me vent while also sharing her stories of a mama to two with severe allergies.
I am determined that Buckner gets to experience childhood foods and activities just like his friends. We have come pretty close. At age three, he loves to cook now. We make everything from scratch…never knew I would bake this much! And he is pretty accepting of his allergy. Now we have had our tearful moments as he has had to learn what he can and can’t have but we are doing great. I hope if you are an allergy mama or daddy, you have that friend that can help you through the process. I definitely have had the opportunity to pay it forward since my friend helped me through it. I hope writing about the allergy and our ways of coping will help you too.
Tips for the Managing Your Child’s Food Allergy During the Holidays
Buckner’s was 10 months old when we found out about his egg allergy. Since that day, we have talked about his allergy in positive and age appropriate ways. He has never known a day not being allergic and now he can communicate that eggs are YUCK. Yes,yuck. I said age appropriate after all. However, before a special party or event we talk about the food. I remind him everyone has their issue at different times in their lives. I say, “For example, Mommy can’t eat gluten.” I tell him his thing is eggs. Other people have other issues but we all have things we have to deal with at different times in our lives. I talk to him about the substitutes we are going to bring and ….
Let Him Choose
So if there is going to be cake, we make a special cupcake for him. I let him choose the flavor and the icing. I also have sprinkles that he can use to decorate his cupcake. He even loves to help me bake the cake now. A blessing that has come from this allergy is I now have a little chef!
Talk to the Host
Prior to the party, make sure your host knows about the allergy. Assure them you will bring substitutes and ask for the menu in advance. I am very hesitant to let others prepare food for him because of the fear of cross contamination so just bring your own treats when in doubt.
Avoid Eating the Allergy Foods
This is a personal choice but my husband and I do not eat the off limit foods at parties. For two reasons, one our child is so allergic that he has a reaction from touch. We do not need it on our hands if we need to touch him. If we do have a dip or something not appealing to Buckner, we take turns eating it and wash our hands before touching him. And secondly, a toddler or young child has a hard time understanding they can’t have the beautiful dessert. We aren’t going to make it worse by mommy and daddy eating the desert in front of him.
Make the Snacks Accessible
Don’t make a big deal of it but just provide the substitutes quickly. Have them handy so that your child has his or her special treat with the other children.
Watch for Dropped Foods
Remind your child, if he or she is old enough, to not eat anything off the floor or from someone else. But reminding isn’t always enough so keep a close eye out for any unsupervised plates or dropped food.
Sometimes You Just Have to Say No
While I want him to do everything, there are some activities we don’t do. This time of the year, events like milk and cookies with Santa are events I will not even tell my son about because the entire event revolves around a food he can’t have. We will do something else but taking him to an activity that highlights his allergy doesn’t sound like fun or good for him. At this age, we can do that so it makes it simple.
Be respectful to your little one’s feelings. If he feels sad or upset, then let him. Respect that feeling. Remember this allergy is a big deal for him too. But always watch your language. Be positive and focus on what he can have. Create special traditions and treats that are safe. Make sure family members know to watch their language too because the little one’s are listening and learning how to react to the situation by your example.