An a-ha moment about my daughter

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I have written about celiac disease and gluten intolerance on this blog before, but I have not talked about food allergies. I didn’t know how serious food allergies could be until my daughter’s lips swelled after contact with someone who had been eating cashews. She was two and a half at the time and I didn’t know anyone with food allergies. Looking back, I feel lucky that the worst didn’t happen since we were in Mexico without proper medication. It was after that incident that I began to take food allergies seriously. It was an ‘a-ha’ moment: food allergies are real. And scary.

She’s six years old now and this year we’ve had a few episodes that have confirmed that she has food allergies. Last summer I watched her have an anaphylactic reaction to eggs during a food challenge in the allergist’s office. It was like a science experiment as I watched the symptoms happen before my eyes – hives popping out, skin flushing red, coughing, and anxiety attack. That same summer she reacted to eggs in a sauce at a restaurant during a family vacation. Then only two weeks into the school year she unknowingly touched peanut butter on the shirt of another student, and ended up having a reaction, most likely after putting her fingers in her mouth (a habit that a food allergy kid needs to break!) This was another wake-up call that her food allergies are real.

So, what’s a parent of a food-allergic child to do? Not mope! Instead, I just do, as a parent would in the same situation. I try to keep her safe, I try to educate others, and I make a lot of special treats! Do I wish I could saunter into a restaurant with my family and order off the menu without asking a million questions? I do. Do I wish I could drop her off at a birthday party, wave goodbye and not even think about what food they are serving? Of course I do. I’d love to take her to a friend’s house and not do a demo of the Epi-pen to the other mom while standing in the doorway. But that’s not my reality and it never will be.

So in the meantime, I scrutinize labels and I cook – a lot. Nothing fancy, mind you, just fresh and healthy ingredients. Though my daughter’s diet is limited, it is at least pure. Oh, there are the treats of course, but even those are made with organic and all-natural ingredients.

Sometimes I worry that she feels deprived. But then I see her do a perfect cartwheel in gymnastics, try her hand at writing a poem, or giggle with her sister, and I realize that a-ha! Nourishment is not just about the food. Love, patience and encouragement are always allergen-free!

Thanks to Attune Foods for making cereals that my daughter can enjoy – they truly are staples in our house.

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