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Allergies

Six Months Into Living with Food Allergies: An Update

It’s been about six months since the food allergy bomb was dropped on our house and so many little things have happened since then. I keep thinking that I’ll sit down and write them out for the benefit of other (future) allergy moms, but they tend to get lost in the general chaos of life. So here is a quick round-up of thoughts:

 

* * * * *

 

There is nothing more terrifying than the callous remarks of other non-allergy parents. It trumps salad bars, daycare snacks, and birthday parties on my list of things I lose sleep over. We’ve been lucky enough to never have anyone even hint at being insensitive about Eva, but the comments that people leave on the Internet are enough to scare the living hell out of me.

 

For example, when I was doing research about food allergies and how they’re handled in Utah schools, I came across an article about a local elementary school that has gone completely nut-free. I was shocked at how angry most of the comments were and it made me realize that there are plenty of people who don’t want to be accommodating of the small percentage of kids who have allergies. Some of the comments included these gems:

  • “If they are that sensitive to the slightest trace of peanut dust, then how did they survive this long? What if Mr. Wind blows some onto them at recess? Put them into a bubble where they will feel sooooooo special…”
  • “It is ridiculous not to allow the majority of people to eat what they want to eat at a PUBLIC school where their tax dollars are being spent to educate their child. If you have a problem — it’s YOUR problem.”
  • “You don’t like nuts? Fine, don’t eat them. I don’t like spinach, but I don’t begrudge you eating all you want. Nuts make you break out? Fine! Stay away from them. But why do liberal nutcakes consider it so socially advanced to punish me for your problem with nuts?”

 

These, and other comments like them, really show how common it is for people to assume that the nut-allergy problem is one that affects kids with crazy overprotective parents who are from high-income families and who feel the need to control everyone else’s children. It’s frustrating and, as we get closer to the days when Eva will go to school full-time, it really makes me nervous. It’s one thing to have to put up with whining from parents, but it’s going to be another if parents are teaching their kids that classmates with food allergies are a pain and you don’t really have to be as careful as they say you do. Also, these comments could come from teachers. They might be coming from people who make decisions for the schools in our neighborhood. I don’t know…but I lose sleep over it.

 

* * * * *

 

We’ll be able to test Eva for allergies again in about a year. It’s hard not to already be discouraged about it, based on the severity of her reactions so far. Kyle pointed out that we have better odds of her growing out of them than we do of winning the lottery, but we still buy lottery tickets sometimes. When he said that, I realized that between the two, I would rather she grow out of her allergies than win a million dollars, even if we won so much money that we could build her a nut-free palace. I feel like being able to just not worry about her would be worth more to us.

 

* * * * *

 

We’ve been eating out more. The list of potential nut allergens at local restaurants is really intimidating, but we’ve worked on being brave and now Eva can eat at a handful of the places in our neighborhood. One of the best was Subway, although our last trip involved a run-in with a woman who has temporarily halted our desire to eat there. We like Subway because most of their food is healthy and free of nut warnings and Eva really loves sandwiches, but there is a problem with contamination from their cookies. When Kyle went to order Eva a kid’s meal, he noticed that the woman behind the counter was putting the cookies out and he asked her to change her gloves before making the sandwich. She resisted, gave him a hard time, and ended up making Eva’s sandwich with no cheese, two slices of meat, and only two of the six toppings we’d requested, all while being nasty. Eva didn’t want to eat it and we were sad enough about it that we haven’t been back since.

 

* * * * *

 

We keep running into things in our house that we didn’t know were bad for Eva. The worst have been lotions and soaps. It turns out that a large number are made with sunflower oil (a major allergen for her) and Cetaphil, which used to be our go-to for her sensitive skin, turns out to use both almond oil and macadamia nut oil. The worst offenders have been the expensive, all-natural baby care products that we got when she was born. It turns out that “all-natural” is really just another way of saying that these are made almost entirely from nuts and sunflowers.  It’s Vaseline for us and let’s all pray that that stuff stays as chemical and fake as possible.

 

* * * * *

 

I still miss our cats, which surprises me since they were a bit of a pain in the butt most of the time. It’s hard to know that they’re living somewhere else now. We recently had our first really warm day and I went around the house opening all the windows, only to be sad because that used to be the most exciting thing that happened to them all year. I’m really crossing my fingers that Eva’s allergies for pets fade a little bit, because it would be great for her to have some more furry friends, even if we can’t get Charlie and Scout back.

 

* * * * *

 

It’s too hard to predict when Eva will suddenly get hungry, so we’ve had to get creative with the snacks we can keep with us at all time. They include bags of pretzels (certain brands), pouches of applesauce, saltine crackers, bananas, juice boxes, and string cheese. In addition to keeping her happy when she’s munchy, we pull these out to compensate for the fact that she can no longer have snacks at friends’ houses, samples at the grocery store, or purchased treats at things like community and sporting events. We’ve also started potty training, which means I need to take two extra outfits whenever we leave the house. This, combined with her allergy pack and the large stash of safe snacks I keep with me means that I’m carrying about 20 lbs of diaper bag at any given time, along with the toddler. Thank god baby #2 is still in my stomach because I don’t know how I’m going to carry it around as well.

 

* * * * *

 

At her two-year wellness exam, we found out that Eva is underweight. In fact, she’s so underweight that she’s on the border of being diagnosed with “failure to thrive”. It’s horrifying and embarrassing because it seems like we just aren’t feeding her enough and we must be pretty bad parents. Realistically, we just have the hardest time getting her to eat anything but fresh fruit and we think that might be because she’s bored with her limited diet. We’ve been on a mission to find more things, but so far she hasn’t really fattened up. I really wish I could just give her peanut butter sandwiches in the mornings, chocolate cake on the weekends, and join the ranks of moms who complain about having to come up with creative nut-free school lunches because someone else’s kid is ruining it for all of us. Then I’d kiss my fat little toddler goodbye and she could spend the day at school free to touch any surface, use any soap, and trade snacks with any friend.

 

Seriously. Like winning the lottery.

 

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18 Comments

  • Reply Gaylin

    As an adult with allergies, I get tired of having to be ‘that one’ at a restaurant and getting treated like a pariah because people have to think about what to feed me. Dealing with this with a toddler, shudder, hard work.

    I was at a restaurant having a hamburger and fries (hold the bun) and a complete stranger came up and said “What, you get it cheaper without the bun?”. I was polite in response but really, interrupting someone’s meal to make a snide comment. Bad words in my head, one starting with F the other one, off.

    I would contact Subway’s HQ and file a complaint. I have phoned restaurants to talk to managers before, it never seems to do much good but I do, in making the effort.

    I have no problem with the under weight thing . . .

    March 18, 2013 at 3:24 pm
    • Reply J. Humenay

      I have to 3rd the “write a complaint to Subway”.

      March 18, 2013 at 7:29 pm
    • Reply Carly

      I can’t believe a total stranger commented on your meal. Classy…

      March 18, 2013 at 8:00 pm
  • Reply Hope

    We were having a convo about allergies and we got into the subject of severe ones and I heard the same types of complaints that you posted and they made me really sad. How can people be so insensitive? I mean, how “hard” is it not to have a particular snack during school hours and just enjoy it at home? They make it sound like it’s SO inconvenient or like you’re telling them to eliminate the food from their diet altogether.

    That sucks about Subway. I agree with Gaylin and talk to the higher-ups. They’re supposed to change their gloves after every order anyway so I don’t see why changing them out to make your meal merited the attitude.

    I’m not a Dr. but I would think Eva looks normal. It’s actually surprising to hear she’s under weight.

    Anyway, I’m glad that you guys have figured out what works and what doesn’t since you got the news of the allergies. Hopefully the list of allergens will decrease as she grows.

    March 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm
    • Reply Carly

      I know, I was surprised to hear that she’s underweight. Apparently compared to other kids her age, she’s 10% for weight, 50% for height, and 85% for head circumference. She’s basically shaped like a spoon.

      March 18, 2013 at 8:01 pm
      • Reply Hope

        lol or a future supermodel? 🙂

        March 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm
  • Reply Sara

    I don’t know about the allergy information or anything, but you could try fattening her up with Pediasure. The little boy I babysit is about Eva’s age with the same underweight problem (although his isn’t caused by allergies) and it seems to work.

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I wish you all the luck with the allergies and the new baby and everything! Your family is adorable =)

    March 18, 2013 at 5:58 pm
    • Reply Carly

      I haven’t tried Pediasure, but that’s a good idea. I thought that she’d be gaining weight by now and since she’s not, I’m willing to try anything. I don’t want them to be feeding her through one of those horrible nose tubes!

      March 18, 2013 at 8:02 pm
      • Reply Gaylin

        If you try Pediasure, a little bit at a time. Those concentrated drinks for kids and adults can be a bit overwhelming to a sensitive tummy!

        March 18, 2013 at 8:37 pm
      • Reply Sara

        He gets a sippy cup of Pediasure during nap time and when he goes to sleep at night I believe. Anything is worth a shot when compared to feeding tubes =P Good luck!

        March 19, 2013 at 8:13 am
  • Reply Eve

    Forgive me if this is a stupid, obvious question, but is soynut butter out of the picture for her because of other allergies? I used to give one of the kids I nannied for soynut butter and jelly sandwiches. Still the same calories, and he liked that he got a “PB&J” like his friends. This brand is made in a peanut and tree-nut free facility (according to the label): http://www.amazon.com/I-M-Healthy-Original-15-Ounce-Plastic/dp/B000GZSDPS.

    March 18, 2013 at 6:53 pm
    • Reply Carly

      We’ve thought about it, because it’s safe for her to eat it, but we’ve held off because we are trying to teach her not to eat anything that looks like peanut butter. I don’t want her to get used to eating soynut butter and then go after some other kid’s PB&J. When she’s older, if she still has these allergies, we’ll be exploring a lot of soynut products, I’m sure.

      March 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm
  • Reply Cyndi

    So j is allergic to a some dyes that you find in foods like jelly sausages even plastic . We could never use the restaurant bibs. She has a medication allergy but nothing compared to your princess. J loves her PB&J and we were relieved that after 3 years of a peanut free preschool she could finally take them for lunch. But if our school suddenly went but free it wouldn’t be a big deal. Sure a bit annoying at first not having a go to easy item. But it’s for the safety of the kids. My work doesn’t allow peanut butter not for allergy reasons but choking so not that big of a deal though I would lobby for having microwaves available to students cuz I’d love for j to have a hot lunch but cafeteria food is out of the question. Ok got side tracked… One of Js best friend is severely allergic to peanuts and we know this (no thanks to the mothe btw but that’s a whole other story) so j knows to eat lunch at a different table, use wipes to clean up after herself and wash her hands and face well before playing with her. It’s not a big deal in the words of my 6 year old ‘I don’t want her to get sicky’ kids can be mean but I am constantly reminded of how kind and observant they are. All you can do is educated you child and the ppl around her. I hope you find more food she enjoys to eat and about her weight J is also underweight and has always been. But she’s active she has a minimum of 6 hours of free play outdoors and about 3-4 hours of sport training. I know she eats well and snacks all day long . As a mom you know your child. My cousin will only eat cheese pizza and hamburgers THAT’S IT Average weight but obviously not healthy. Good luck and sending supportive vibes to your family

    March 18, 2013 at 7:02 pm
    • Reply Carly

      Thanks and good for you for raising such a considerate kid!

      March 18, 2013 at 8:04 pm
  • Reply J. Humenay

    You know, until I knew people with serious allergies, I’ll admit, I thought it was silly for the majority to have to accomodate the minority. But the older I get and the more people I meet with these types of allergies, I realize how scary it is to even be in the same room with someone who is, say, eating peanuts.

    I really hope she grows out of it, and I’m sure you guys will keep hunting and find more ways to fatten her up.

    Question: since it sounds like fried foods are okay, could you add in some fried foods at home (fry up some of the veggies she can eat)?

    March 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm
    • Reply Carly

      I haven’t thought about it, I admit. It’s funny, but years of trying to eat healthy and avoiding things like fried foods have made it really hard to actively include fattening foods in our meal plans. I should probably do a whole other post on that…letting go of my own food issues so I can raise a healthy kid.

      March 18, 2013 at 8:07 pm
  • Reply Natalie

    She’s adorable – hang in there and I’m praying you’ll get some good news at her next allergy screening! Please don’t read the comments on articles about public schools – seriously I know it’s like a train wreck – hard to look away but honestly I think many are written by trolls who don’t even have kids but just like to stir up political drama! I used to be a teacher and trust me the LAST thing I would ever want to happen is a medical emergency involving any student. If need be I know you’ll find caring teachers who will gladly take care of Eva and keep her safe at school. Best of luck!

    March 18, 2013 at 11:45 pm
  • Reply Diane Rogers

    It’s hard to have children with allergies and some inconsiderate people make it harder for us. Allergy Easy

    October 9, 2014 at 10:59 am
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