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