I am the mom of two boys, both have anaphylaxis to dairy. I too am allergic to dairy although less severe. I often find myself feeling that having a dairy allergy is much harder to live with than having a peanut/tree nut allergy. This is not intended to start a debate about which food allergy is worst, they are all difficult to live with and present many challenges. In this post I am just presenting some of the unique aspects of living with a dairy allergy that people maybe don’t think about.
1) Milk and dairy are in many more items than most people realize. It can be in anything and everything. Of course pizza, cake, cookies, breads, sauces to begin with. Then we get to the next category of items, which is everything cooked with butter. When eating out, it is shocking to learn how many items are cooked in butter. Examples we often see include “plain pasta”, “steamed vegetables”, and “plain rice”. All cooked with butter we find out when asked. Luckily we have solved many of these issues by mostly eating at kosher meat restaurants. In these restaurants, no milk or dairy is allowed, so that makes life easier. These kosher restaurants have also done amazing things with non-dairy desserts. Many pizza places are now offering Vegan options and with the invention of Daiya cheese, it tastes and looks so much better! That being said, cross contamination is still huge issue. I tell them dairy allergy and I tell them to wipe counter and either don’t cut pie at all or some have a knife just for the Vegan pie. However, most often, it’s me making my own pizza pies at home.
2) I HAVE A DAIRY ALLERGY! NO, IT’S NOT LACTOSE INTOLERANCE! I really hate having to state that! 99% of people who hear my boys have a dairy allergy respond with,” oh they have lactose intolerance, take Lactaid and all will be good.” I then have to respond with “NO… we are allergic to the protein in milk, and the reaction can be the same as it is for someone with a peanut allergy”. (I have to use that reference because that is the only allergy people seem to equate with anaphylaxis) I then have to further explain lactose intolerance is just the body not tolerating lactose, the milk sugar, and has nothing to do with dairy allergies. Two very different things. Most people don’t say much after that the “Oh… I never knew dairy could be deadly or as allergic as peanuts.”
3) BANS! Peanut bans. Sorry to say it, but peanut bans anger me. Yes, I am a fellow food allergy mom. I get it. My youngest was allergic to soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, beef, all legumes and sesame. He has outgrown a few of them. Among those he has outgrown are peanuts, almonds, and wheat. Yes, I have seen the scary reactions that require the use of an Epi pen, and hospitalization due to cross contact. That said, I still do not support food bans. Why should one allergen be considered to be more risky then another? My kids are just as allergic to dairy and anyone else is to nuts. Somehow, a mother of a child with a nut allergy can demand a ban of all things that contain, or may contain nuts, yet I can’t walk in to a school and say no MILK with lunch! No pizza! No Mac and cheese, no Cheese sandwiches. We can’t take the position of banning a food allergen one type of allergy. The top doctors in the field of food allergies do not even agree that peanut bans are good policy. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sz-berg/food-allergies-an-intervi_b_1945753.html
4) Every social event seems to involve pizza and/or cake. Each birthday party is about me supplying my kids with their own food. Each week seems to bring another example of my kids being left out of some kind of school prize. E.g., “Pizza party for the class that has the best attendance!”. It’s always a pizza or ice cream party and never, ever is it considered that perhaps one of the kids cannot participate.
Living with a dairy allergy requires adapting, just like any other food allergy. What makes it especially difficult is the lack of attention and seriousness the dairy allergy gets and how much people don’t understand it. It’s a serious medical condition. It’s life threatening and dairy is everywhere, probably more prevalent then you realize. I hope that if you didn’t understand it before you read this, maybe it’s something to think about. If you have questions feel free to ask me.