I’ll never forget the day we discovered just how serious my sons food allergies are.
It was Christmas break and we were preparing to leave my in-laws house for home. My son was playing outside in the snow after having a cookie. Soon after my son told my husband his stomach hurt, so they came inside. A few short minutes later, my son began vomiting uncontrollably. Within seconds, his body was covered with hives and he began to swell up like a balloon.
My heart was racing as we rushed him to the bathroom and tried to help him any way we could. I knew in a heartbeat what was happening. Anaphylaxis.
At this point in time, we didn’t have an EpiPen because we hadn’t yet taken our son to an allergist for testing, so I immediately grabbed the phone and called our pediatrician. He advised me to give my son Benadryl and watch him closely. I wanted to call 9-1-1 but the doctor said as long as my son was breathing alright, we didn’t need to. Even though every fiber of my being was screaming to call 9-1-1, we didn’t (In hindsight, we should have called. ALWAYS call 9-1-1 for anaphylaxis).
As my husband held our son close and tried to comfort him, I watched him like a hawk. I stared at his little 3-year-old chest and watched it go up and down with every breath he took. I stood next to him and listened closely to his breathing to see if it was clear or if he was wheezing. I continuously checked his hives and swelling to see if they were improving or worsening. I prayed. HARD. I prayed for God to bring healing to my little man’s body. It was all I could do. Pray and wait.
Thankfully, after about 4 hours, my sons symptoms had begun to subside and he was ok. But it could have been much worse. It could have just as easily gone the other way. The next day I made an appointment with an allergist to have my son tested and get an EpiPen. Thus began my journey as the mother of a child with life threatening food allergies.
May 8-14 is National Food Allergy Awareness week sponsored by FARE. As the parent of a young child living with food allergies, I cannot stress enough the importance of making others aware of the dangers of food allergies. Far too often people mistake food allergies for food preferences. I constantly have to emphasize to others that my sons food allergies are not a choice.
We are not choosing to keep him away from certain foods because we don’t think they’re healthy or he doesn’t like them. He cannot eat them because eating them could potentially lead to death.
Sadly, food allergies are not always taken seriously and are mocked and made light of. The goal of Food Allergy Awareness week is to bring to light the seriousness of food allergy reactions and how to respond to them.
Ways to Support Those With Life Threatening Food Allergies
So what can you do when someone tells you they or their child(ren) have food allergies? Here are some simple ways you can support those around you living with life threatening food allergies.
“React with Respect” (as FARE says)
Don’t take it lightly and just assume they will only get a few hives as a reaction and will be ok. Take the time to ask questions and even do your own research on the facts of food allergies and anaphylaxis.
Help spread the word about food allergies
FARE has a page on their website full of downloadable images and posters to help spread awareness about food allergies.
Know how to respond in case of an emergency
Ask your friends what symptoms to look out for and ask them to show you how to use an Epinephrine auto injector so if the need arises, you are able to step in and help.
Know which foods your friend and/or friends child(ren) are allergic to and try not to confuse one allergy with another
For example, confusing a peanut allergy with a tree nut allergy.
Be considerate of them when planning get togethers that involve food
Try and provide an allergen free environment.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
I would rather someone ask me questions about my sons food allergies than make an assumption. Know the facts.