Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Don't Feed the Animals...I Mean Kids!

Okay, let's do a quick poll...who out there has a kiddo with a food allergy? It's not fun is it? If you don't have a child with a food allergy, count your blessings! Sadly enough, the journey to a diagnosis of a food allergy can be a lonely and long one. I'm going to quickly share my story with you: My oldest is almost 3. As of this past September, it will be one year since my son was diagnosed with a food allergy.

January of 2006, my son just turned one year old. I did everything that the "experts" told me to do when he was an infant to ward off food allergies; I breastfed him as long as I could, fed him cereal at 4 months and no earlier, held off on peanuts, etc. We were at a friend's house celebrating the holidays. My friend is a fabulous cook and made all of this delicious food! My son asked me for a cookie (a meringue), which I gave to him. In about 3 minutes, my son started to cough, had a difficult time breathing and had broke out in hives. I acted quickly and gave him some benadryl. My friends and I were a little freaked out; but my son was playing and acting like nothing ever happened.

Well, I pretty much determined from that little interaction that my son was most likely allergic to eggs. I tried my hardest to stay away from foods that had eggs as a main ingredient, but still allowed him to have food that had small amounts of eggs in it. I thought, it can't be that bad. He's been eating eggs in food here in there for almost a year now. Around this time, my son started having a very difficult time sleeping at night. He slept through the night at 3 weeks old and now he was up every hour and ended up with me and my husband every night, just so we could sleep. Also at this time, he developed the most horrible diarrhea....sometimes 10-12 times a day. I knew something wasn't right. I took him to my pediatrician who told me that sometimes children just poop a lot. I knew enough to know that what my son was doing, was not normal.

So mommys everywhere-I learned my first lesson: Trust your gut instinct. I took my son and we had him tested for food allergies. Clear as day...allergic to eggs. I have to tell you, the news was slightly devastating. If you don't have a child with a food allergy, it's a little hard to understand. I had a hard time explaining it to some of my other friends. I thought that they would think I was being silly or frivolous. But I wasn't.

Having a child with a severe food allergy is life altering. For the rest of my son's life (unless he outgrows his allergy; fingers crossed!) he will have to have an epi-pen near him at all times. If he eats something (like cake or cookies) he will get extremely sick to his stomach but if he eats something like an omelet or another meringue, I have to stick him with the epi-pen and call 911.

What else? I had to coach my 1 year old that eggs are bad for him, something that was super hard for him to understand. I had to learn about all of the food that contained eggs, that I never knew about. No more marshmallow, rice krispie treats, most cookies and cakes, no more pancakes, waffles and french toast. And then I got to beat myself up over all of the food that I had been feeding him for months that had eggs in it!

I've learned that if we are going out to eat, to try and look up the menu on the internet before hand. I've learned that you can't trust what the waiter tells you all the time. Food allergies just are not taken seriously at times, which is very sad. One time, out of pure laziness, I had a waiter and a manager tell me that there wasn't eggs in a particular food item at Chili's. Well, guess who got bombarded by phone calls around 11 pm when my son was extremely sick to his stomach and had been all day...guess who else got $50 worth of Chili's gift certificates.

Parties...oh my goodness! Another thing to worry about. I truly want to dress my kid in a shirt that says, "Don't feed me anything!!! I'm allergic to eggs!" What's my biggest worry at parties? Mayonnaise; full of eggs and in everything!

Flu shots! Can't get those either...full of real, live eggs.

It's been a journey and some days are harder than others. By far, food allergies are not the worst thing in the world and I know that, but it is still a life adjustment to everyone. Especially as the child gets older and they begin to demand the things that you know will make them sick. I worry about when my little boy goes to school and I can no longer protect him from cookies and cakes.

So, I guess my little blog tonight is about compassion; compassion for the children with food allergies and their parents...we are special group of people!


Classy Mommy said...

thanks for sharing. i'm just beginning the journey. like you i trusted my mommy instinct - but i knew he was allergie to eggs from my breastfeeding. he broke out in eczema all over his body after easter weekend when i ate eggs. horrible so we suspected it. then when months later i had french toast again it was also a disaster. even from the foods i ate that hardly had any eggs , his eczema totally disappeared as soon as i stopped breastfeeding. so this kid Has NEVER even ate an egg - and when we went for the skin test he was very allergic.so no flu shot for us either! not sure what to do with MMR. i guess your son had those shots since you didn't realize till later? any other advice? we are avoiding anything with egg in it for the time being (even cake, etc) with the hope that in a few years he'll out grow it????

Claire said...

A close friend has severe food allergies (all poultry, all fish and some other things). She typed up an official looking card and laminated it, and has the waiter/waitress carry it back to the kitchen to ask about specifics (since chicken stock is in just about everything!). Now her 3 year old is showing that he has his own diverse set of allergies (hers, plus some). This won't help with things you haven't learned about, but might help with eggs or things you're sure of...