Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Parenting Positively in the Face of Food Allergies September 29, 2017

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Last year, I had the pleasure of speaking with Lyndsay Edwards of Allergy Blog Awards UK.  In her podcast, she asked a lot of thought-provoking questions on the topic of parenting a child with food allergies.

 

Because of the challenges and risks associated with food allergic reactions, it is critical to raise food allergic children to be confident, resourceful, and self-advocating.  And all of that begins with a good attitude towards food.

 

Here is the transcript of Lyndsay’s well-crafted podcast [or listen here: Allergy Blog Awards UK – Allergy Shmallergy Living Positively with Food Allergies].

 


 

So, I know your son was diagnosed with a dairy allergy at 6 months old and other allergies by the time he was just 15 months old, can you just take us back to that time and what it was like for you getting the diagnosis?

 

Despite his eczema, acid reflux and asthma (conditions that I now understand to be related to food allergies), I was in denial.  Even though I followed her instructions to the letter, I scoffed at our pediatrician’s recommendation to avoid feeding my son a whole host of allergens as we introduced first foods.  “He’s probably not allergic to any of these!” I remember saying.

 

When she called us to discuss the results of my son’s blood test, revealing that he was allergic to eight different foods in addition to environmental allergens, I was completely overwhelmed.  I couldn’t stop wondering:

 

What does this mean Not only the test results, but also in a bigger sense:  what does this mean for his life?  Will he have a normal life?  And more importantly, what can I feed him for dinner tonight?!!

 

I found myself grieving for the hopes and dreams I had imagined for my child (like baking cookies and spontaneous trips to get ice cream), but then my husband snapped me out of it.  He reminded me that we would find work arounds.  And, if they didn’t exist, we’d create them!  Very quickly, THAT became my focus.

 

 

How do you cater for your son at home?  Do you all eat the same?

 

Because my son was allergic to so many foods, I had to learn how to cook (and fast!).  Unbelievably, he’s my most adventurous eater.  He loves everything seafood (no matter how crazy the dish), sushi…  and he’s consistently adding requests to his list.

 

These requests inspire me to learn how to cook all kinds of intimidating international cuisine.  No one who knows me would have EVER guessed that I regularly cook Chinese food or Persian or make all kinds of sushi.  In high school, I once burnt soup!  SOUP!

 

When he was a toddler (and an only child), I was making separate meals for my son.  But being a short order cook isn’t my strong suit and I didn’t want my son to feel like I was treating him differently because of his allergies.  In his own home, he should feel safe and included.  As I got better at reading recipes, swapping out his allergens for substitutes, I started serving only one meal (what a relief!).  I also began finding meals with optional parts (like tacos that you could stuff with cheese or not and make-your-own pizza night).  I now have quite a collection of tried and true recipes that are free of peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy and in many cases egg (an allergy my son has since outgrown).

 

 

When did you start your blog and what inspired you to do so?

 

It was very important to us to raise a confident child who felt capable in the world.  Food allergies are very stressful.  I wanted to share simple solutions with other parents and put out useful information so that families can remain calm and make informed decisions.

 

 

One of the things that really stood out for me on your blog is how you focus on teaching your son about his food allergies in such a positive way so that he doesn’t feel left out or sad, can you just explain how you do that and what has worked for you and your son?

 

We have repeated the message that everybody deals with something – sometimes that “something” is invisible to the eye, like food allergies.

 

We try to downplay the importance and emphasis on food.  For example, we try to reward achievements with activities rather than treats.

 

And, we remind all of my kids that the best party of any party is always the company, hardly ever the cake.

 

Involve your kids in problem solving.  We can’t control the fact that my son has food allergies, but I can give some control OVER them by getting his input on overcoming obstacles.

 

Prepare, prepare, prepare to provide special treats in anticipation of special events.  Bring a gluten-free cupcake to the party; pack a sesame-free hamburger bun for the barbeque; carry a little dairy-free butter out to dinner.  Create positive experiences around food and demonstrate how easy it is to overcome challenges.

 

Let him vent!  We’ve taught my son the names for his feelings and encouraged him to talk about them.  First, children need to know the language to use to express their emotions.  Then they can engage in an open dialogue to release stress and give parents an insight into how they are experiencing the world.

 

 

Ok, before I get to my last question, can you tell everyone where they can find you on social media, your website, etc?

 

Yes, of course!

[You all know where Allergy Shmallergy is! shmallergy.wordpress.com]

Twitter: @shmallergy

Facebook:  Allergy Shmallergy

Instagram: shmallergy

 

 

And my final question is if you could give allergy parents one tip, what would it be and why?

 

Help prepare your child to negotiate the real world: practice asking questions, allow them to speak to a waiter, in short: EMPOWER them!  Give them the tools to tackle the world!

 

And, provide a safe place for them to come home to. A safe home environment (free of allergens) as well as a safe space psychologically where they can relay their triumphs and articulate their frustrations without judgment or anxiety and find support.

 

That’s two tips (sorry!), but I hope they’re both helpful!

 

Take the Reins in the New Year: Food Allergy Goals and Resolutions January 4, 2017

Filed under: Holiday,Uncategorized — malawer @ 8:00 pm
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It’s a new year!  A time to look ahead and move ever forward with our lives.  And with the beginning of each new year comes hope and possibility.

 

We’re moving forward into this new year with food allergies, so let’s do it with intention.  Let’s set some goals to color our journey and enrich our lives!

 

Here are some of my personal food allergy resolutions this year:

 

– Continue to foster a strong sense of self in my son. Empower him to speak up and stand strong.

– Arm him with enough information to help him make good, sound decisions – even as he approaches those risky pre-teen and teenage years.

– Teach my son cooking skills and creative work-arounds.  Balance his love of adventurous eating with a sense of both ingredients and process used to create various cuisines.  Asian fare with a sesame seed allergy?  Yes!  Dairy-free baking?  Of course!

– Continue to advocate for food allergy families everywhere – to make life easier and less stressful for everyone, ourselves included.

– Move forward in helping at-risk families with food allergies.  Learn more about ways to improve the lives of low income families, food insecure families, as well as those affected by natural disaster or other extenuating circumstances.

-Focus on food allergy education in schools and the greater community as well as positive parenting for food allergic families.

 

What are your food allergy goals for this year?  Let us know what you have on your radar for the year ahead.

  • Traveling with food allergies
  • Recipes and party ideas
  • Advocacy efforts
  • Latest research and treatment options
  • Empowering your child
  • Food allergies at school

 

What do you want to learn more about?

 

An Emerging Epidemic – Discovery Channel to Air Piece on Food Allergies September 3, 2013

Every parents’ worst nightmare just happened in California.  A young teenager, confident, responsible and well-educated about her food allergies took a bite of a typically safe snack that happened to be made this time with peanut butter.  She took every precaution; she didn’t even swallow it.  Her parents were there.  Her dad, a doctor, administered a usually life-saving dose of epinepherine — three times.  And, despite the arrival of the ambulance, she suffered cardiac arrest and died.  My heart breaks for the Giorgi family.  And, this story haunts not only me, but everyone touched by food allergies.

 

The widespread effects of food allergies among children has been gaining national attention these days.  Contributing to that conversation is the Discovery Channel who, in partnership with FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), produced a documentary about food allergies to air on the Discovery Channel on September 7th.

 

Narrated by Steve Carell, this educational program features interviews with the top allergists advancing the understanding of food allergies and those revolutionizing its treatment.  It reviews legislative efforts to protect Americans living with food allergies.  The documentary also interviews families who live with food allergies and those who are working to raise awareness about it.  My family was privileged to be among them.

 

The discussion surrounding food allergies is steadily growing, as evidenced not only by the Discovery Channel documentary but also by the New York Times Magazine article (“The Allergy Buster“, March 7, 2013) about the amazing work of allergists across the country and by Dr. Kari Nadeau in particular.  As most of us are well aware, the rate of food allergies is on the rise (over 50 percent in the last 20 years alone) as is the rate of hospitalization for food allergic reactions.  And, although rare and a fact all parents would like to ignore, the risks of fatality from this devastating diagnosis are real.

 

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In my interview during the documentary, it was important for me to share our collective perspective as parents:

  • Food allergies are not the same as food preference – food allergies can be deadly – a fact that shakes us to our core;
  • Parenting a child with food allergies requires exhaustive vigilance to keep kids both physically safe and psychologically healthy;
  • We are committed to educating those people who don’t understand food allergies and eternally grateful to those who do.
 

My son, who is 8 1/2 lent a food allergic child’s point of view:

  • Living with food allergies isn’t easy and can even be downright difficult;
  • Having food allergies puts him in awkward social situations frequently that he must sometimes navigate without adults: at school, he eats at a separate peanut-free table for children but must still remain careful of their tree nuts and dairy items.  He brings his own cup cakes to birthday parties, having to refuse even the BEST looking birthday cake.  He cannot share in foods offered by well-meaning parents of his friends, which can exclude him from surprise treats at school, celebrations and holidays.
  • It can bring about a constant sense of concern.  In his own words to his grandparents, my son recently said, “The problem with being a kid with food allergies is that I can’t be careful [about food] only 70% of the time.  I need to be careful 100% of the time. “

I know you may have heard the same from your children and I know we all wish it wasn’t our child’s responsibility to feel this way.

 

This underscores my personal philosophy that in order to raise confident kids, we – the parents, teachers, siblings, grandparents, camp counselors, chefs – need to approach food and food allergies in a new and healthy way.  I am as committed as ever to helping simplify the lives of families managing food allergies in the hopes of reducing some of the stress surrounding food.   And, I will continue to lend my voice to further the understanding of food allergies.

 

Kudos to the Discovery Channel for recognizing the significance of this issue and the way in which the effects of food allergies are touching the lives of so many and kudos to FARE, Mylan Specialty L.P. and the Discovery Channel for bringing this to our collective attention.  

 

The documentary will begin its run on the Discovery Channel on Saturday, September 7th, 2013 at 8am and again on September 21st at 8am.  The program will also be available to download and for use by schools nationwide through Discovery Education.

Watch An Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America  below.

An Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America from Discovery Channel CME on Vimeo.

An Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America from Discovery Channel CME on Vimeo.

 

 

 
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