The extremes of food allergy management. By Harriet Picker

Having food allergies sucks, the simple act of eating is enough to cause a panic attack. Having food allergies means to always be prepared for both what you’re going to eat and always having your medication. What having food allergies doesn’t mean is that you need to live your life in a bubble. Sadly, this is happening more and more. Many food allergy boards and parent support groups have parents advocating for food bans. Parents have posted complaints about playgrounds, movie theaters and even waiting online at amusement parks. Some are even telling others not to take out library books, all causing them anger, panic and stress. Just recently I read about a movie showing that would be top 8 free and recommended bringing sheets to cover the seats so no risk of touching an allergen.  Sadly, the stress and anger they feel is not based in medical science.

I am a food allergy MOM! I am someone who grew up with life threatening asthma; I am a certified asthma educator and food allergy coach. Do I think this way? NO!  I am a realist about it all. I think at first I had to be, my kids have multiple food allergies, it wasn’t as simple as saying no peanut/tree nuts around my kids. My kids and I live in the world surrounded by our allergens. For every birthday party, we have to either bring our own food or skip the eating part which to us is fine.  For every pizza party, I have to supply a safe version, a little bit of a pain but oh well, if someone is eating one of my kid’s allergens and they feel uncomfortable, do we make a big deal over it? No! They speak up or ask to move away or ask them to wash hands. The advocate! To us we know what we need to avoid and we do so, but we don’t live our life in a bubble.

Why do a lot of food allergy parents feel that the world needs to adapt to the needs of their child? What about your responsibility as a parent?  Who is teaching these children how to live? The world is a not going to be free of peanut/tree nut, milk, eggs, soy, fish, sesame, shellfish, fruits, veggies. How and when will these kids learn VITAL coping skills? Why do parents think it’s okay to place demand of food control on others instead of gently letting others know about their child’s allergy and then take own responsibility  in supplying own safe food. School gives us the tools to survive in the world.When you have special needs you need an additional set of tools. How will we teach our food allergic children to develop these tools if we try to have them live in this false food free world? We are creating bubble children. We are also trying to make everything fair.  Our kids need to learn that not everything in life is fair.  Many people are dealt cards that it’s just not fair.  We cannot expect everything to be fair and that sucks! but it’s a fact of life! Instead of woe is me, look at how it will make you and your kid stronger.

   Do we need to be cautious with food allergies, YES! but with realistic concerns and precautions.  Eating out at a certain restaurant may not be possible; washing hands often is a must. Being a savvy label reader is a requirement,  knowing your triggers are key,as is being your own advocate.  My hope is that someone who reads starts to approach food allergies in a more positive light and starts asking their provider what realistic precautions they need to take vs ones based in fear.