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Monday, May 23, 2011

Guest Bloggers: Dealing with Food Allergies

I am blessed to have two children who do not have any food allergies.  I never even thought about allergies until I met my friend, Jen.  Her son and mine quickly became best buddies and so we had to quickly learn about food allergies.  I can't imagine how stressful it is to have to watch what your child eats, especially when they are not with you.  Jen has really done a great job doing her research and making sure her kids never feel excluded.  I know lots of you will benefit from hearing her story and I hope any other parents of children with food allergies will leave her comments and questions as I know she is happy to help!

Food Allergies by: Jen Payne

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I was so excited. I could not believe that I was finally going to have a baby. I wanted to make sure I did all the right things while I was pregnant, this was my first baby and I had to follow all the rules in the book “What to expect when you are expecting”. This included eating healthy and exercising and just taking care of my body. I figured if I was doing all these things then there was no way I would have any issues with my baby boy. The “eating healthy” not so much, but I did try to exercise and loved doing prenatal yoga.

When I finally delivered Gavin he ended up being the perfect baby. He was so cute and happy and I knew I did everything right during my pregnancy. Around 6 weeks I noticed a rash on Gavin’s face and I just figured baby’s skin is just sensitive and didn’t read much into it. It progressively got worse and it spread over his whole body. I had no clue what it was as I was only breastfeeding and not even starting solids. Around 3 months I took him to his Dr. and they diagnosed him with eczema. I hated it because the poor little guy was so itchy and uncomfortable. The Dr. mentioned to me sometimes babies with eczema have food allergies..well I just threw that out. I didn’t eat peanut butter while I was pregnant and I strictly breastfed. Let me mention my biggest worry was having a baby with a peanut allergy.

We decided to wait until 6 months to start solids and we had his eczema under control with lotions. Around 7 months I fed him this organic baby food (yes I had to use all organic, this was my first baby let me remind you!). Shortly after he started to get some hives, as a first time mother and a worrier I told my husband. He just calmly looked at me and said he is fine do not stress. I did because that is what mother’s do. After his face started swelling and he was looking very lethargic I decided to take him to the ER cursing my husband the whole way since he said it was nothing and I was over reacting.
It turned out Gavin had an allergic reaction and started to go into anaphylactic shock. A week later when I got the news that he was allergic to dairy, soy, peanuts, strawberries, eggs, barley and green beans I just collapsed on the couch and cried. What do I feed my child, why did this happen to me?

It was such an emotional time, this was my first baby and not only did he have a peanut allergy but 6 more to go with it. After my pity party I had to pull myself together and do research. I got involved in PAK (Parents of Allergic Kids) and just started reading every single nutrition label at the grocery store. I think I now know every ingredient in every product in the entire grocery store.

After a few months it became a little easier believe it or not. But then I had to deal with other people being around Gavin and having food he was allergic to. Thankfully I have some wonderful friends, even a few who were in the same boat as me. Whenever we had playgroups they always made sure there were snacks Gavin could eat. We couldn’t just go out to eat without having to pack his meal or go to someone’s house for dinner.
Most of the time I would just bring his food worrying that any “safe” foods could be cross contaminated and Gavin could have a severe reaction. Over time is has gotten easier and I have instilled it since Gavin was a baby that he cannot eat certain things.
He knows what foods he is allergic to and will never eat something without asking first (he is such a trooper!).

When I had my second child Chase I was definitely prepared and had him tested right away. I was astonished that the results came back and he had NO food allergies; I didn’t know what to do with myself.  At his first birthday party I got a cake (yes one that wasn’t vegan) and was so excited…well that didn’t last long as after his first bite I saw all the signs. The hives, the swelling and I just knew. Yes Chase developed food allergies and unfortunately they are the opposite of Gavin so this was yet another curve in the road. But we again got past it and knew we had no choice but to deal with what God gave us.

We take our boys to Duke University to see the best Dr in the Nation and they continue to give us hope. They have outgrown some food allergy reactions but it will probably take a few years before they outgrow them all. The Doctor gave us statistics that 80 percent of children can outgrow dairy and egg allergies while 20 percent for peanuts.

I had yet another baby (Sadie – finally a girl!!) and was told she will have an 80 percent chance of having food allergies. Well I just got her tested and so far so good.
I do plan on getting her tested again when she turns (1) so I don’t have the same situation I did with (my second) Chase. If she does have them I will be okay with it.  This is all I know and to be honest I am not sure what to do with myself when it comes to feeding Sadie. I mean eat whatever she wants?? That is a whole new world to me.

I have to say I am truly blessed to have some great friends who respect my children’s food allergies but it hasn’t always been easy. Going to Birthday parties my children always have to bring their vegan cupcakes. When we go out we always have to bring their food. There are some restaurants they can eat, and children having more and more food allergies Chefs are aware and can usually accommodate which is great. I do always worry and it does break my heart that they can’t eat what the other kids do.

The other day a mother brought in cupcakes to school and didn’t let me know prior. The teacher called me to double check if Chase could eat it and he couldn’t. I did have to run to Earthfare and bring him something. I do wish some parents would just pay extra attention because it isn’t always easy to have a child with food allergies. This has definitely been a challenge that we have to overcome on a daily basis.

For now we continue to do what we are doing and pray that one day they will outgrow their allergies.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there -

    Our son Tristan has food sensitivities that trigger severe eczema. So although they are not true allergies (with the exception of walnuts), I can relate. It's VERY hard finding easy, healthy recipes to make for a family dealing with food restrictions. We are in the same boat as you and have to avoid about 15 very common foods....cooking without soy, dairy, and tomato are the hardest ones. Thanks for your article.



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