In the United States, as many as 15 million Americans are walking around with food allergies. If this isn’t an actual epidemic, I don’t know what is. Even with all of those people, it can feel pretty lonely and isolating for parents of kids who have food allergies. Here is what I wish I could tell every single person I meet:
It isn’t funny.
Lately, I have noticed a lot of jokes about food allergies on television, social media and in the movies. For example, in the Peter Rabbit movie, Peter launches blackberries at his food allergic arch nemesis on purpose. The character, Tom McGregor quickly goes into anaphylaxis and stabs himself with his Epipen. This situation isn’t funny, especially when the little boy you take to the movie is sitting with his little BYO bag of movie theater snacks because eating the “normal” ones would cause him to have the exact same reaction. I am not too sensitive. It matters.
Yes—a “little bit” can hurt.
Any amount of an allergen can cause a reaction. If I let him try “a little bit” he will likely react. Period. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is. I know that might change someday. However, that day is not today, and I am not insane. Trust me; no one hopes all of those things more than me. I know about all of the treatments and tests that are out there. Believe me, when those things are an option for us, I will explore them. Right now, avoidance is our only choice. Until you have helplessly watched your baby’s throat start to close, you have no idea the sheer panic a “little bit” can cause.
I am scared.
Like terrified all of the time. Since his diagnosis, I have managed to avoid any other reactions, but this has been a lot of work. Maybe the most work and most significant responsibility I have ever had. It is almost like the world is filled with these tiny, little land mines that I have to find and eliminate everywhere we go. I have faced criticism from strangers and fought for him to be treated with kindness. I constantly worry that I won’t be able to prevent him from having a reaction outside of my home. I have found a strength that I didn’t know I had in being his mother, and I guess that is a good thing because I need it.
For every single person that has opted to be annoyed by us (and there have been LOTS), there are double the amount of people who have shown so much compassion. Let me tell you; it makes me cry EVERY SINGLE TIME. Just a small amount of caring truly goes a long way, but isn’t it like that for all parents? I guess we all have our thing. We all have reasons to worry. Maybe showing others that you care is what it is all about.