How I Became a Food Allergy Mom
By Elizabeth Flora Ross (Bio below)
“I think she’s allergic to strawberries,” my husband said one night. I was dubious. My daughter’s eyes would water, her nose would run and she would sneeze when she ate them. But I did not recognize those as food allergy symptoms – I dismissed it as seasonal allergies. One evening as we enjoyed a family movie night, our daughter began to complain she was itchy and hot. With only the light from the television, I couldn’t really see her. Then she said she needed to use the potty. When I turned on the light in the bathroom, I was shocked by what I saw. Her face and lips had transformed into a huge, red, swollen rash.
She had consumed a large bowl of strawberries after dinner. I screamed for my husband and grabbed Benadryl from the medicine cabinet. After giving her a dose we watched carefully, phone in hand, debating whether we needed to call 911 or drive her to the ER. I asked if her throat felt tight; if she was having any trouble breathing. She said she was OK, and it was not long before the rash began to subside. Still, I kept her up well past her bedtime to observe her. The following day we were at her doctor’s office, where she had a full allergy test panel. She does have seasonal allergies; I was right about that. My husband was correct about the strawberries. Fortunately, that was the only food item she tested positive for. We left with a pamphlet of information and an EpiPen Jr® two-pack. A few weeks later I took my daughter to get a chocolate milkshake after a blood draw. In a matter of minutes, her face began to break out into a rash. And I suddenly realized – they make strawberry milkshakes on the same machine they use for chocolate. The thought had not occurred to me until then. That was the moment I believe I officially became a food allergy mom. My entire perspective had to shift. I once again administered a dose of Benadryl. This time I anxiously kept vigil with my phone and EpiPen in hand. Thankfully, I didn’t need either. But it was then I came to realize how much our life truly had changed. Last school year, before developing a strawberry allergy, I remember my daughter asking me not to make her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to take for lunch anymore. I was surprised, since she loves them, and asked why. She explained her friend was allergic to peanuts, and she couldn’t sit with him at lunch if she had one. I was so touched, and really proud of her. Today, she is one of the kids at the food allergy table. And I hope her friends can demonstrate the same level of empathy and caring that she did. I knew food allergies were very real. I understood they were serious. I thought I could empathize with the parents who faced those realities every day. But I did not fully comprehend things until it impacted our life. I now painstakingly read the listed ingredients on all food and drink labels, ask hosts at parties or teachers at school what is being served, and make sure anyone I leave my child with has her EpiPen and knows how to use it. You can read more about food allergies in kids in Food Allergies in Children: How to Fend Them Off at What To Expect. The opportunity to look at life from a different perspective doesn’t always present itself. But it can be a valuable gift, if you allow it to be. Because you never know when it could be you walking in those shoes.
The moment you become a #foodallergy mom. I just read this mom’ s scary story. @eczemacompany
Bio: Elizabeth Flora Ross is a freelance writer for WhatToExpect.com, living in Florida with her husband and daughter. You can find her on her personal blog, The Writer Revived She is also the creator of The Mom Pledge, an anti-cyberbullying campaign aimed at moms.