Food is an obvious central social theme in our society and culture. The impact of this starts young for children as they are bombarded with the message early on that there is a food attached to almost every type of celebration. Eating is something that unites us, but for the food allergic child or individual such socialization is quite the opposite of unifying.
Know that there is more than one right approach to managing a food allergy. When my son was diagnosed with food allergies at age 3, we took the approach of helping him learn to navigate the feelings that come along with the social nature of food. In his case, we felt the best approach (for him) was to equip him to know how to keep himself safe in an age appropriate way and to learn to accept that the world may not always accommodate him. However, this is not necessarily the correct approach for every child with a food allergy. As with many things, there is a spectrum upon which food allergies may lie. So right off the bat, I want to get it out there that one right way to approach a food allergy does not exist. It depends upon the type of reactions, the trigger (airborne or ingested or both), and the maturity/ comfort level of the individual. Please don’t be that person that says,” But I know a person that has a food allergy and they can ( fill in the blank).”
For example, we cannot expect young children to necessarily make appropriate decisions for themselves at all times. We can definitely start equipping them to do so and scaffold for them. Statistically, it needs also to be said that increased incidences of food allergy related injury or death increases in the adolescent years. A combination of the child venturing out more independently, feeling invincible, and perhaps a general feeling that the child is capable of more responsibility gives us an idea of the contributing factors. It should also paint of picture of why we cannot let our guard down.
Do not underestimate the seriousness of a potential reaction. Just because someone you know “just” gets a sick tummy or “just” gets hives, know that reactions depend upon the person. Pop culture would have us believe that epi pen is a magic cure all, when in fact it just buys time to get to the hospital. Most often a second epi pen is needed within 15 minutes (therefore, they are prescribed in double packs. What? did you think it was a bulk buy?) Serious traumatic brain injuries can occur for even those who do survive a serious allergic reaction due to oxygen deprivation. Truly, it is a very serious matter that can change somebody’s life forever.
Be considerate with questions. While most are happy to oblige , I have to say that the two questions I hear most often get rather old. The first question is” Why do I think so many people/ kids have allergies these days?” Hmm… no one really knows for sure, least of all me… but if you come at me with “…but kids didn’t use to have allergies like this,” I will tell you that modern medicine is a blessing and we have only to see the amazing things that come from the young lives that are saved through the use of an epi pen and hospitalization. The reality is that many food allergic children most likely died in infancy back in the day (at least that is one theory). I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have a higher percentage of food allergic children reach adulthood, then have fewer kids with food allergies.
Next question I hear is “What do you think cause food allergies?” Jury is still out on this and just like the above question, a million different theories and no definitive answer . A lot of times, I feel people just want a little reassurance as to why it happened because they want assurance that it won’t happen to them or their loved ones. They want to know what could have been done differently or have theories as to what could have been done differently. This goes back to the decades long debate of choices parents make while raising a tiny human and everyone wants to find the “reason” that it happened. The reality is that genetics are most likely to blame for the most part. Yes, research has showed correlation to other factors, but that is not causation. Case in point, my regular birth child is the one that had food allergies, whereas my C-section child had absolutely none. Some studies point to the opposite often being the case, but again we are a mixture of our own genetic stew.
Join me tomorrow as I share a bit more about allergic living from a teacher’s and mom’s perspective.
When you teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be.