Lois: “January 1st, 2017: We were enjoying a nice meal out on New Year’s Day after Sunday morning church. Malachi was nearly 1 year old, and he was happily chowing down on various tidbits from our meals. We gave him a raw tomato and he took a few bites of that; but, it wasn’t long until he stopped eating and began fussing. We could not console him, so we finished up our meal and headed back to church where we had planned to hang out for the afternoon.
On the ride to church, Malachi’s fussing got worse and worse. It was pitiful. Upon arriving at church I tried to nurse him because this always calmed him down. He would not nurse at all, though, so I went to change his diaper, thinking that might do the trick. It was then that I discovered the cause for his miserable fussing: he was having an allergic reaction to something he ate. I quickly surmised that he was not nursing because his throat was swelling shut, and he was covered in huge welts from head to toe. Praise God that the best children’s hospital in our area is 5 minutes from our church! We rushed him there, and when the nurses saw him, they admitted us immediately to the emergency department.
That was a pretty scary day for me as a mom…especially when I realized that Malachi was having trouble breathing. I had always heard about kids who have severe food allergies but never imagined I would have one of my own. Learning the ins and outs of caring for his dietary needs has given me a whole new respect for the parents who battle food allergies. It is a daily, sometimes hourly struggle that you can only understand if you are dealing with it yourself. Thus, I wanted to share some things that might deepen your understanding towards families who have to deal with food allergies. When you are temped to think “they’re making a really big deal about this”, remember these things about those parents:
- They are vigilant about what goes in their child’s mouth because they’ve watched that child struggle to breathe or pass out due to a simple, overlooked ingredient.
- Leaving their child in the care of others for any length of time brings with it a sense of panic, knowing what could happen if their child eats something they are allergic to.
- They do not give you specific instructions because they think you are stupid; they do that because they want the severity of what could happen to be on your mind as much as it is on theirs.
- They know that it’s easy to hand a kid a piece of candy or a bite of your food before you realize what you’re doing. But, that one bite could cost their child another severe reaction.
- Going out to eat is always extra mental work: “Does this restaurant have food my child can eat? Do I have enough snacks packed if it does not?”
- They are grateful when you are mindful of their child’s allergies in times of food and fellowship. They don’t expect you to accommodate those allergies (especially when the allergies are as numerous as Malachi’s are), yet they are touched when you go the extra mile to remember what their child can and cannot eat.
- They do everything they can to not be a bother to people. They feel bad when special arrangements have to be made due to their child’s food allergies.
Perhaps this insight will help you be more sympathetic towards families with food allergies! Going through it firsthand has certainly opened my eyes to all the work and mental stress a “food allergy parent” endures day in and day out. I can only pray that Malachi will outgrow his allergies. If he doesn’t, though, I will continue to cheerfully care for his needs, for that is simply part of my role as his mom!”
India comments: “This article that my sister wrote is meaningful to me because one of my daughters has food allergies as well. I think anyone who has a food allergy or has a child with a food allergy can agree that it is hard. It is hard to say no to your kids when they want the good stuff. It is hard because most people don’t get it.
If you personally deal with food allergies or dietary restrictions due to health problems, you probably have struggles of your own. On the other hand, if you are blessed to be able to eat whatever you want, here are a few ways that you can be understanding with those who cannot:
- Something that was frustrating for me when I had to avoid certain foods was when people kind of laughed about it, almost patronizingly, as if they thought that I was paranoid. Those people didn’t mean any harm, but at that time I was internally hemorrhaging, and I had to be very careful what I ate. Please be careful what you to say to people, because you never know what they are struggling with.
- Don’t make a big deal about how “gross” you think gluten-free (or fill in the blank) food is. I had people tell me “I would die if I had to eat that way!” And all I could think was “I would die if I didn’t eat this way.” People with food allergies are trying to learn a new way of eating and do not need that kind of negativity. If you think their food is gross, keep your thoughts to yourself or just don’t taste it!
- If someone you love has a food allergy, learn to make things that they can eat. My mom is such a good example of this. She is always trying to make new recipes that are allergy-friendly for her grandkids. My daughter, Sakshi, is old enough to understand and appreciate that “LaLa” made her something special so that she could have a treat like everyone else.
In this day and age, food allergies are a common-place thing. Health problems affect both the young and the old in ways that they rarely used to. It’s good to try to see things from one another’s perspectives, because like I said before, you never know what someone is dealing with.”