15 million people in the United States suffer from food allergies, and of those, only 3.3 million have nut allergies. I am the mother of multiple food allergic children and we manage many food allergens. However, the hardest of them all is dairy.
Why? Because nobody understands a dairy allergy. If I say to people, my children are allergic to dairy, they assume it’s lactose intolerance. I have been told to just give them a Lactaid pill. The severity of my children’s allergy is not understood even by members in the food allergy community. Only when I make the analogy between peanuts and anaphylaxis do they get the severity of the situation. Being the mother of children with dairy allergies which are anaphylactic is a daily struggle that many just don’t understand. I hope to give you a peek inside the world of a dairy allergy mom in this piece.
Dairy is all around us. We will never have the luxury of removing dairy from our environments. Every party has pizza. There’s always ice cream wherever you go on the boardwalk. You can never eat cake at a birthday party because they always have milk in the cake. When you go to a restaurant, it’s nearly impossible to find something to eat because everything is cooked with butter or next to butter. Fries are made in shared fryers. In addition, milk is in almost all pill forms of medication. We must check every pill. Many dry powder asthma inhalers have milk in them as well. Many dairy allergy kids can only take liquid med.
Schools don’t get it either. They like to send out safe snack lists, but most times they do, they leave off dairy allergic children–Goldfish, Pirate’s Booty, numerous snack crackers, and mini muffins all contain milk. Dairy allergic children are often forgotten when the snack lists are made. Sitting a dairy allergy child at an allergen free table isn’t much help either. While they’re at the allergen free table, kids are still drinking milk, having pizza, having a cheese sandwich, and eating their cheesey powdery snack. What it really is, is just a nut free table, not an allergen free table.
As a dairy allergy mom, you also have to worry about chalk being used in your child’s classroom because dustless chalk can contain casein, which studies have shown can cause reactions. We can’t ban milk either because it’s required by USDA law. We can’t go to coffee shops, as the steaming milk can cause reactions. But wait–you hear all the time that milk doesn’t aerosolize. It’s not true! Same rules apply to dairy allergies that apply to peanut. I really wish people got that.
So I ask all of you reading this, please stop thinking that peanut is the only anaphylactic food allergy. It’s not. We have the same fears and concerns, perhaps even more so because we have no choice but to live surrounded by it and it’s in so many products.