I’ll never forget the day I became an allergy mom.
My daughter Ryan was only 5 months old. I kissed her on the cheek and within 5 minutes, she was covered in hives from head to toe. We rushed her to the doctor, having no idea what could have caused this scary rash. We were shocked to discover it was from me eating peanut butter earlier in the day and then kissing her cheek. It was in that appointment that we received Ryan’s life-changing diagnosis: a peanut allergy.
Ryan had numerous additional allergic reactions in the months following her diagnosis, despite avoiding peanuts like the plague. We learned through skin testing and blood work that she was also allergic to tree nuts, dairy, wheat and eggs!
When we had our second child in February 2014, we prayed like crazy that baby #2 would not follow in Ryan’s food allergy footsteps. Within 2 months we recognized that indeed our son, Chase, also suffered from allergies. Fortunately, Chase is only allergic to dairy.
It’s been a little over 2 years since Ryan’s diagnosis, and I’ve gone from knowing very little about kids with food allergies to understanding that being informed is something my children’s lives depend upon. It has been a huge learning curve to educate myself and help our family adapt to our “new normal.”
As an allergy mom, my life is different in many ways from moms of kids who don’t have allergies. While product labeling has improved, it remains a challenge. I have learned you need to read every label – even beyond food items – to include things like skincare and top soil! Who would have thought play dough, which contains wheat, would be something that could harm Ryan?
I’ve also learned that I need to be prepared to handle an allergic reaction 24/7. Wherever we go, I make sure we travel with our epinephrine injectors and BENADRYL(R) on hand. We avoid going out to eat in restaurants, due to the risk of cross contamination and contact reactions. We hold our breath as our children interact with others on the playground or in stores, hoping they don’t come in contact with their allergens.
I have to rely heavily on our community to help our children be safe. Everyone who comes into contact with Chase and Ryan need to know about their allergies. The biggest challenge has been the lack of general awareness of how very real and very scary they can be. There are still a lot of misconceptions about food allergies, but they are a life-threatening condition that can cause someone to stop breathing immediately. There is no such thing as being ”too diligent.”
Sometimes, this results in situations that can be viewed as inconvenient or unfair to others- like peanut restrictions in classrooms or at family events. I am so touched by those that make special efforts to have my children feel included- whether it is co-workers sharing food items that are safe or other parents going out of their way to select safe snacks for parties.
Life is very different for allergy moms. But moms of kids without allergies do share one very important thing in common with me. We all love our children deeply, and want nothing more than to keep them safe. I know I speak for other allergy moms when I say we are so very appreciative of all those that help in keeping allergy kids alive.
Kate is a mother of two – a 3-year old girl, Ryan and a 1-year boy, Chase. Kate is a Sr. Manager at CLS and began her career with J&J 12 years ago. Kate holds a Bachelor’s degree and a MBA from Rutgers University. Kate’s hobby is spending time with her family & friends.