How to Annoy a Food Allergy Parent

10 Ways to Annoy a Food Allergy Parent

  1. Ask me if a certain type of food is safe for my child. For example: “Chocolate chip cookies are OK, right?” Please know that there is absolutely no food that I can definitely say is safe for my children in the absence of a label or more information than just the type of food. Even if my kid doesn’t have an apple allergy, I can’t even tell you that all apples are safe. For example, even cut fruit could be cross-contaminated with my child’s allergen if the person who prepared it didn’t take precautions.
  2. Ask me whether my child will outgrow his allergy.  As much as we would like to know, unfortunately, we don’t. (Plus, most kids won’t outgrow peanut or tree nut allergies, and more and more kids are not outgrowing allergies to other foods. Your asking us this question is rubbing salt in the wound.)
  3. Email me just as you’re starting a food-related activity at school to see whether a certain type of food is safe for my child (also see #1). Although as food allergy parents, we’re tied to our cell phones, especially when our kids aren’t
    Food allergy parents experience a lot of frustration from living food allergies. Please don't add to the stress!

    Food allergy parents experience a lot of frustration from living with food allergies. Please don’t add to the stress!

    with us, we don’t check email every second of the day. And if you took the time to plan a food activity, it’s frustrating – and dangerous – when you forget to also include the food allergy parents in your planning, which means my child will be excluded. Again.

  4. Offer my child food, especially a young child. We’ve taught our kids not to accept food from anyone other than us, their parents, because that reduces their risk of having a reaction. But please don’t tempt them.
  5. After offering my child food, when he hesitates or says he’s not sure whether he can eat something due to his food allergy, assure him that the food you’re offering doesn’t contain his allergen. We food allergy parents have a difficult time reading ingredient labels and trying to figure out whether packaged foods are safe, and we’re pretty much the experts; there’s no way that you could know whether a food is safe for my food-allergic child. For example, warnings about peanuts can be found on labels for foods you’d never think possible, such as baking soda, green beans, and jelly.
  6. Disregard our food allergy rules. For example, even after asking you not to, leave my child’s allergen on the kitchen counter or eat his allergen when he’s around. If I ask you to do something or not do something, it’s because my child genuinely needs you to honor the request in order to stay safe.
  7. Don’t take food allergies seriously or believe that my child could be hospitalized – or worse – by being exposed to his allergen. For example, make comments such as, “Just a little won’t hurt.” Food allergies can be deadly. If you don’t believe me, here’s a list of people that the food allergy community is mourning.
  8. Make comments, such as, “There’s no way I could live without peanut butter.” Peanut butter is not akin to oxygen. And I can assure you that, even though I used to love peanut butter, I’m just fine without it.
  9. Be mad at my child because you can’t eat your favorite food when he’s around. He has to live with this disability every day of his life; he didn’t choose to be this way, nor would he continue to be this way if he could help it. He doesn’t mean to inconvenience you. Expressing how upset you are about having to abstain from a certain food when you’re around my child equates to you valuing a food over my child’s life. Can you please have a little empathy and compassion while you forgo your favorite food for what amounts to a blip of time in the grand scheme of things?
  10. Insist on cooking for my child, even though I’ve said we’ll bring our own food. Preventing cross-contact and ensuring ingredients are safe is an onerous task. It’s not that I think you’re untrustworthy; I’ve made mistakes in the past because reading labels is complicated. Plus, I know you would experience emotional trauma if you caused my child to have a severe reaction, so I’m not only protecting my child, I’m also protecting you.

We know you don’t live with food allergies every day, so you don’t realize how frustrating the above questions and actions are. If you and your children are free from food allergies and you’re reading this post and changing your behavior, thank you! Words can’t express how appreciative we are of you.

How to Make a Food Allergy Parent Overwhelmed with Gratitude

  1. Allow me to bring my child’s food to your event and don’t make a big deal about it.
  2. Save all the packages for food that you’re serving because there may be something my child can eat.
  3. After you open packages and before you put food out on a buffet table, allow me to serve my children first, before safe foods become contaminated with unsafe food.
  4. Talk to me about your menu ahead of time. Even though you know my child won’t be eating most of the food, you want to ensure you’re not serving my child’s allergen to all the other guests.
  5. Every once in a while, surprise us with an unopened, packaged treat that’s labeled nut-free (or labeled as free of whatever my child’s allergens are).
  6. Ask me what you can do to help keep my child safe, and then do it.

Anything you would add to either list?

It’s Finally Done!

Cover_kindleAfter two years of writing, rewriting, research, extended breaks from writing, and professional editing, the second edition of When Peanuts are Poison is finally complete and available. Many of you asked for a printed version of the book, and now it’s available in both e-book format and print!

The other wonderful addition to this edition: Tiffany Glass Ferreira’s Food Allergy Fun cartoons are sprinkled throughout the book. I think the layout of this version is enhanced, not to mention typos and grammar are corrected (those that aren’t fixed are entirely my fault, not my editor’s).

Reviews of the first edition indicate that, even if you’re not new to peanut allergy management, you’ll still learn a lot from the book.

The Appropriateness of a Holiday 2014 Release Date

I’ve been procrastinating completing this book for months, but with the holidays approaching, I found the motivation to finish it due to the haunting memory of my son’s first reaction and because my guess is that many kids are newly-diagnosed with food allergies at this time of year, so I wanted the book to be available. We discovered my son’s peanut allergy in 2008 on Christmas Day, which makes this time of year significant in more than the usual ways. Unfortunately, new families will be thrust into our food allergy world this holiday season as parents first discover their children’s food allergies: it’s the time of year for new-to-them foods during holiday celebrations. It makes me sad to think about the power food allergies have to zap the joy out of parties and family gatherings and replace it with terror when a severe reaction occurs.

Get a Free Copy of When Peanuts are Poison

If you’d like a chance to get a free print or Kindle copy of the book, all you have to do is leave a comment on my giveaway post on Facebook. Two winners will be announced Monday, December 1st. One winner PER DAY will be announced through November 30th. Even if you’re a pro at managing your child’s peanut allergy, you could pass along the book to a family member or to your child’s teacher or caregiver.

Here’s a way to get 30% off* your printed copy through December 31, 2014:

New Website

I’m still keeping my blog here, but I’ve re-launched my website in anticipation of the book release. There, you can find additional resources, as well as many helpful downloads to help you navigate label reading, educate young kids about peanut allergies, and ensure food-allergic kids stay safe at daycare or school.

Book Description

If a child you care about is allergic to peanuts, this book is for you. Written by a mom of two children with life-threatening peanut allergies, the book guides you step by step through creating a safe home environment, assembling your child’s emergency medication kits, and ensuring your child’s school or daycare is equipped to manage your child’s allergy. You’ll learn the crucial information you must teach your peanut-allergic child, as well as how to cope with your own feelings about your child’s allergy; get friends and family to cooperate with you to minimize your child’s risk of being exposed to peanuts; and safely navigate life events, such as birthday parties, holidays, airline travel, and eating out. Also included are a glossary, checklists, tips to save you time and to help prevent you from making mistakes, a list of other helpful resources, and more. Featuring illustrations by Tiffany Glass Ferreira from Food Allergy Fun.

*Please check the price on before placing your order on CreateSpace. If you have Amazon Prime, you might get a better overall price on Amazon since you won’t have to pay additional shipping fees. Unfortunately, I can only discount the CreateSpace price, not Amazon’s. And if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free!

Red Robin Redeems

Today I received a phone call from our local Red Robin’s kitchen manager. (See my post When our Old Stand-By Disappoints for a recap of a recent negative experience there.) I suppose corporate saw “allergy issue” in my email and automatically handed my complaint to the kitchen manager when, in fact, it was a front-of-the-house, not kitchen, staff issue.

The kitchen manager is terrific. She wanted to let me know how seriously she and her staff take food allergies, and she said that Red Robin wants to be known for how well they handle patrons’ allergies. She discussed some of the extra precautions the kitchen takes when they’re alerted to a diner’s food allergy:

  • Clean prep area and obtain clean pans and utensils
  • Change gloves
  • And soon they’re going to implement a new procedure which will require a manager to oversee the preparation of the meal when someone comes in with a food allergy

I explained that my concern stemmed from the fact the kitchen was never even alerted to my kids’ allergies, and that re-training of the front-of-the-house staff was necessary. She told me that she would take care of ensuring that training occurs, and I believe she’ll follow through.

I learned from this experience that I did something wrong too and I’ll correct how I communicate with servers and managers going forward: I should have told our server about all the allergens we are avoiding, not just my kids’ known allergy (peanut). In my quest to offer succinct, simple information, I usually tell servers about the kids’ peanut allergy, but we follow the usual protocol of having them avoid tree nuts due to the high probability of cross-contact with peanut, and because they’ve never eaten tree nuts, we don’t know whether they’re truly allergic to any of them. I always check both the peanut and tree nut sections of the allergy menu though, so I should have communicated both allergens as being problematic. If I’d said, “My kids are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts,” the server, who kept insisting that the kitchen was peanut-free, probably would have changed his attitude and used the “allergy alert” button when entering our order since there are tree nuts (walnuts) in the kitchen.

We will certainly give Red Robin another chance, because as I posted before, the great majority of the time we’ve had a positive experience with regard to food allergy management. And my kids have eaten their safely dozens of times in the past.

Training Summer Camp Providers

While researching suitable summer camps for my kids, I contacted our local Brickz for Kidz owners and asked whether they could accommodate the kids’ food allergies and felt comfortable administering the Auvi-Qs if necessary. I was drawn to their camp because my daughter had done an in-school “field trip,” and their website said that all campers had to bring a nut-free snack.

One of the owners responded that, while most of the staff consists of preschool and elementary school teachers who are already trained in anaphylaxis and administering the auto-injectors, she was looking for an affordable class for the owners and for those summer staffers who weren’t already trained. I told her about the free online training that EpiPenTraining was offering, but didn’t realize at the time that their training was free for only three months.

This week, she emailed me asking if I could teach the class. I’m ecstatic that I get to thoroughly train the people who will be responsible for keeping both of my kids safe for a week this summer! But now I have just three weeks to put together concise yet comprehensive training that can be used as a “train the trainer” module so that they feel comfortable recognizing and treating anaphylaxis and also educating other teachers.

Here’s a quick brain dump for a class outline that I’d love feedback on:

  1. Pre-Training Quiz (so I can find out what they do/don’t know and they can realize where their knowledge limits are)
  2. What is food allergy? (basic info about how food allergy is on the rise, immune system differences for a person with food allergies, Top 8 allergens, bee/ant/insect bite allergies, how any food can be allergenic, how food allergies can develop at any time throughout life and to foods safely eaten in the past, that 20-25% of epinephrine administrations in schools involve individuals whose allergy was unknown at the time of reaction, delayed reactions)
  3. Anaphylaxis overview: signs of anaphylaxis, what occurs in the body during anaphylaxis, how a child may describe an allergic reaction
  4. Anaphylaxis first aid: auto-injector administrating, call 911, lie patient down, administer epi again if symptoms don’t resolve, etc.; demonstration of EpiPen & Auvi-Q
  5. Resources: Food Allergy Action Plan, FARE, Auvi-Q website, EpiPen website
  6. Post-Training Quiz: go over quiz questions again to ensure all points discussed and understood, additional Q&A

I will leave them with a handout of the presented information and I’ll give them an Auvi-Q trainer and an EpiPen trainer.

If anybody has any feedback on the outline or has other things to add, I would REALLY appreciate it!

When our Old Stand-By Disappoints

Red Robin logo

We usually have great food allergy management at Red Robin, and it’s one of our go-to restaurants.

Update: Please see my post here with Red Robin’s response.

Last night we went out to eat at our usual place: Red Robin. As much as I’d like to try the more eclectic, local restaurants that focus on healthy, locally-sourced ingredients, I just haven’t made an effort to pick one and work with the general manager to determine whether my kids could eat there safely. So our old stand-bys are our old stand-bys because we’ve eaten there safely in the past, they’re chains – which means there is a certain amount of consistency among stores – and because menu changes are infrequent. Red Robin and Chipotle are our go-to places, and the kids’ favorite is Red Robin, so we’ve eaten there probably 50 times in the last year or so. Ninety percent of the time, we’ve had a great experience. Last night wasn’t one of them.

Printed Allergy Binder was Nixed

If you’re a frequent patron of Red Robin and someone in your family has food allergies, you’re probably familiar with the Allergy Menu, which is a three-ring binder with a section for each of the Top 8 food allergens. People with, say, a peanut and soy allergy can flip to those two sections to determine which meals are free from soy and peanut, or how to order to ensure those ingredients are left out. We knew that as of late-April Red Robin was discontinuing the printed allergy binder and instead was directing patrons to the app or website for allergy information. No big deal, right? Wrong.

I already had the phone app, and when I was alerted to the new procedure a few weeks ago, I opened the app but, for the life of me, couldn’t find where allergen information was. (I still can’t.) It’s easy enough to find on the website, but it’s a bit of a pain to navigate the website from my phone. So last night before we left the house, I used my computer to visit the website and check the menu. This means that my kids have to determine what they want to order before we leave – not a huge deal since they generally stick with just a couple of favorites. But last night, as I navigated the site, I was dismayed to find one of their favorites – the grilled cheese sandwich – absent from the menu when I selected peanuts and tree nuts as ingredients to avoid. As a test, we deselected all allergens except fish to see whether the item would appear. It didn’t. So we concluded that they’d made a mistake and left off the grilled cheese entirely. To me, this is extremely frustrating. Misspell a word or have text overlap an image on your website, and I’ll forgive you. But if your patrons’ lives are relying on the accuracy of the allergen information on your website, triple check it before making the site live because mistakes are unforgivable.

Manager Issues

When we arrived at the restaurant, I told the hostess about the allergen error on the website and she said she’d send a manager right over (kudos for suggesting that and for following through). When I explained to the manager about the website, I told him, “I’m assuming the sandwich is still fine since we were just here less than two weeks ago and it was safe.” His response was, “I don’t know why it wouldn’t be. It’s just two pieces of bread and some cheese.” Oh, boy. I’m sure this manager had been trained in cross-contact avoidance in his own kitchen, but he clearly didn’t think through his comments before speaking or he doesn’t fully understand that the possibility exists for cross-contact further up the line in the food processing operation. I let it go, and I did allow my son to order his grilled cheese (which he ate safely).

Server Issues

Our waiter arrived and we ordered drinks. While he was getting them, I was kicking myself because the first thing I always mention to the server is: my kids have severe peanut allergies. (Actually, if the manager had been worth his salt, he would have found the server in charge of that station and would have already alerted him to the food allergies.) As soon as the server arrived with our drinks, I told him about the kids’ allergies. He said, “Oh, no worries. We don’t have anything with peanuts in our kitchen.” Again, OH, BOY! Please don’t ever tell a food allergy parent “no worries” or “there’s no need to worry” when you’re cooking or serving food to a child with food allergies. It’s demeaning and unhelpful. We will always worry, and you should too. That child’s life is in your hands and if your attitude is “no worries,” then you clearly don’t understand the responsibility that you’ve been given.

The second (actually is this the third or fourth?) red flag was that the server didn’t write down our order. I understand that memorizing orders is a nifty little trick that some servers like to employ to show their professionalism and dedication; however, alerting the kitchen to a patron’s food allergy is paramount. If you forget to tell the grill cook that I want my burger well done and it comes out medium, rectifying the issue is easily accomplished by throwing the burger back on the grill. If the kitchen doesn’t know about my kid’s food allergy and serves my kid his allergen, you can’t correct that.

For what it’s worth, my kids ate their meals, reaction-free.

Strike Three – You’re Out!

When the check arrived, I was utterly horrified that nowhere on our ticket (or chit, as the kitchen would call it) was the usual “allergy alert” verbiage that I’m so used to seeing. The ticket contains the same information that the kitchen sees, so I knew that if I wasn’t seeing “allergy alert – peanut allergy” on my ticket, the kitchen hadn’t seen it on theirs. I sat there for a second wondering how to proceed. I knew I wanted to talk to the server, but I didn’t necessarily want to rat him out to the manager because 1) the manager didn’t really seem overly concerned with managing our food allergies, and 2) I wanted the server to correct his mistake for future patrons, not get in trouble or get automatically annoyed with the next guest with food allergies because we “told” on him.

So when he came to gather my payment, I was going to point out that I noticed he’d neglected to enter the kids’ food allergies into the ordering system and, thus, the kitchen wasn’t even alerted to the fact that my kids meals should be treated specially. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but before I could get far, he interjected, with somewhat of a patronizing smile, with something like, “Oh, I’m trained in food allergies. When someone comes in with a food allergy, I enter information into the computer and then the kitchen knows about the allergy and they do things like change gloves, clean the prep area, and use clean pans to prepare the food.”  I told him that, yes, I know; however, on our ticket there was no allergy information. Again, he said, “Oh, but there are no peanuts in our kitchen.” I calmly told him I understood that…and at this point I explained that all those extra precautions he just explained to me that the kitchen takes for food allergy patrons were not taken for my food allergic kids. And, yes, you may not see peanuts in the kitchen, but there are items on the menu that are NOT safe for people with peanut or tree nut allergies. I felt like he’d dug his own grave with the diatribe he gave me about how well he’s trained and all the precautions the kitchen takes and that he’d realize what a huge blunder he’d made, but he still didn’t get it and he didn’t even apologize. I left it alone but told him to please, next time, enter the food allergy information into the system.

And now I need to alert corporate to two things: the issue with the website and the staff at our local restaurant who, unapologetically, made big mistakes. I don’t know where this leaves us. I do think that my kids can still safely eat at Red Robin, but I think if we have another experience like that again, especially with the same staff members, I won’t be able to allow the kids to eat there anymore.

But this experience did teach me to never let my guard down, even at places we’ve visited time and again. Please continue to be diligent when you eat out too!

Let me know what you think. How would you have dealt with the situation?

Update: Please see my post here with Red Robin’s response.

Explaining What It’s Like to be a Food-Allergy Mom

"Don't worry. I'm a very safe driver and accidents don't happen often."

“Don’t worry. I’m a very safe driver and accidents don’t happen often.”

I recently had an issue related to food allergies with my kids’ school, our first big problem. The crux of the issue was that the parent association, which I’ve been actively involved in for a couple of months, had a mom in charge of implementing a new lunch program at our small private school where all the kids eat in their classrooms. I won’t bore you with all the details, but even though the mom in charge had reported at one of the meetings that she wasn’t going to include items with peanuts due to peanut allergies – and I thanked her for that decision, explaining to her that I had two peanut-allergic kids – she apparently changed her mind and decided to include PB&J on the lunch menu. I found out when I, along with the rest of the school, received the email announcement about the “great” new lunch program. Suffice it to say, I was shocked, but I realized that she obviously doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a parent of a child with life-threatening food allergies.

That experience made me think about how I could easily and vividly explain what it’s like to have children with severe food allergies to other parents. Below is the best I could do. I would love it if anybody has a better analogy so that parents of kids with no food allergies could better understand what we go through every day.

Imagine that your child has been assigned his own private chauffeur. The driver will pick him up each morning, drive him around for 30 minutes and then deposit him at school. At the end of the day, the chauffeur will pick him up from school, drive around for 20 minutes or so, and then return him home. The catch is that using the chauffeur is mandatory if you want your child to attend school and your child can’t wear a seatbelt while he’s being driven by the chauffeur. But there’s no need to worry because the chauffeur is a very safe and experienced driver, and bad traffic accidents are rare. Also, you can teach your child to stay seated during the entire drive so he has a better chance of staying safe.

Would you feel OK with this, or do you think you would have at least mild anxiety and feel you have little control over the safety of your child while he was being driven to and from school? I think most parents would be worried the entire time their child was in the car and would sigh with relief when their child returned home each day.

Dealing with anxiety comes with the territory when parenting a food-allergic child

Dealing with anxiety comes with the territory when parenting a food-allergic child

A food allergy mom feels this anxiety every morning when her young child gets on the school bus and the entire time he’s at school, especially if she knows special events are occurring (e.g., birthday or holiday celebrations) or if students are often rewarded with food, and this is the relief she feels when her child returns home. Telling us that it’s our responsibility to teach our food-allergic children how to cope and navigate the world safely is condescending, as we already do that every day. And, just like in the chauffeur example, food-allergic children have to rely on other people to help them stay safe (i.e., they rely on the “chauffeur” and “other drivers”); they can’t control all the variables themselves. We don’t mean to be an inconvenience to others; we aren’t trying to quash your freedom by asking you not to consume our allergens near us. We are just trying to do what we think is necessary to allow our children to come home safely every day.

To Those Lucky and Empathy-Lacking Moms*

Conflicting ideasLately, there seems to be a lot of venom out there on the interwebs between the food-allergy moms and the food-allergy-free moms. This is par for the course, with uproar on both sides ebbing and flowing, usually flowing when an article or blog post is written about how childhoods are ruined when food is banned from birthday celebrations at school. In general, I try to steer clear of these wars debates for two main reasons. One, I feel like my family has a fairly good grip on both our food allergy management plan and our emotional state related to the kids’ allergies so there’s no reason for me to get inflamed about something that doesn’t directly affect us. And, two, I loathe reading insensitive comments from trolls who suggest things like, because my kids have life-threatening food allergies, their genes should just be allowed to be extinguished. You know, Darwinism in action. For the most part, moms (and, less often, dads) who write these unsupportive articles with regard to how their child’s life is being unnecessarily inconvenienced – or ruined – by another child’s food allergies are not bad people. They most likely are merely lucky enough to have a neurotypical and healthy child and are suffering from their own disability: a diminished capacity for understanding and empathy**. You see, your inability to empathize with my child’s life-threatening medical condition means that you’re teaching your child how to be rude and uncompassionate and a bully. And moreover, stop crying that your kid can’t feed cake to every other kid at school…since when is school your kid’s birthday party venue? And stop whining that, if you are given permission for the school to host your child’s birthday party, that you have to make a little extra effort to ensure all his birthday party guests – who have no choice but to be there – can participate in the event, which, you’re arguing, consists solely of scarfing cake. Teach him how to be a good host and accommodate his guests, not only so they’ll have a good time at his party, but also so it’s not interrupted by EMS taking a party goer out on a gurney while receiving multiple injections of epinephrine – or how about just so nobody dies at his party? Am I saying that my food-allergic child is more important or precious than your child? Of course not. But it seems to me that you’re saying your child’s cake is more important and precious than my child’s life. That’s not only rude, it’s psychotic. Given how prolific obesity and diabetes are, why are you even debating the merits of sending in sugar-laden treats for not only your child, but everyone else’s too? Save the birthday cake for the after-dinner celebration at your own home. Oh, you’re celebrating at home with another cake? Hmm, is it any wonder that nearly 18% of kids are obese? If you can’t think of a different way to celebrate another trip around the sun other than eating a piece of cake, here are some ideas:

  • Give a dollar store trinket to each kid because we all know kids like those junky gifts even more than they like junky cake (pencils, erasers, stickers, pinball, paddle board, stuffed animals, bouncy balls, tattoos, bubbles, books, crafts, action figures).
  • Come into his classroom and do a craft with the students – tell the teacher that it’ll be less mess than cake and won’t really take any more time.
  • Negotiate a 15-minute longer recess and have the class sing happy birthday on the playground. This one is my favorite and probably the most appreciated by the kids and the teacher. The teacher should totally be on board since the kids will be occupied for an extra 15 minutes on the playground versus spending five minutes stuffing their faces with cake and then an hour bouncing off the walls from the sugar rush. Plus, she won’t have to clean up junky cake crumbs from her classroom.
  • For younger kids, read a book to the class and then donate the book to the classroom.
  • More ideas

*Wow, this post took a complete 180 from where I intended it to go. I was initially going to tell the food allergy moms to calm it down a bit. The article yesterday kept making disclaimers that life-threatening food allergies were game changers and didn’t apply. I initially didn’t have a problem with the author’s perspective. We keep shelf-stable treats in my kids’ classrooms for birthday celebrations, which are just about weekly. It works for us. But as I wrote out my thoughts here, I decided that it really is silly for someone to argue so vehemently for celebrating birthdays with food at school when there are so many more important reasons to celebrate without. **Instead of focusing on the inconvenience you feel for this one moment in time, picture instead what it’s like to live in the shoes of the mom of a child with life-threatening food allergies every single day. Below are some of the things you’d have to deal with (and to be honest, this barely scratches the surface). And by the way, I offer this information to provide perspective, not to receive pity.

  • Every time your child eats anything, you wonder whether this will be the time that you have to inject him, as he screams, with epinephrine, ride to the ER in an ambulance, and pray to a god you may not even believe in that he will be OK.
  • You know that the above is a possibility because when your child had that first reaction, you were dumbfounded by how quickly his lips and tongue swelled up, his eyes became red, and his skin looked blotchy. Then you watched him become lethargic and vomit, while he broke out in hives all over his body. At the ER, he just looked stunned, prone on the enormous hospital bed, you holding his chubby little hand as he wore an oxygen mask and a nurse took his blood pressure.
  • Going out to eat is such a production and so risky that you usually just don’t do it. Grabbing a quick dinner from the grocery store is never quick. All the nicely prepared foods in those long display cases are off limits since they’re made in a kitchen that uses your child’s allergens, as is the salad bar and hot food bar. So you’ll need to prepare dinner, just like every other meal. Shopping for ingredients that come in a package is time consuming since each label has to be read every time you buy it. But don’t worry, you’ll get used to making all of your meals from scratch.
  • When the school’s number comes up on your cell phone’s caller ID, especially around lunch time, your heart skips a beat as you snatch up the phone while praying again to that god you may not believe in that it’s not the nurse saying she thinks your child may be having an allergic reaction.
  • You can’t help but read the articles about the kids who died from a food allergy when they come up on your Facebook newsfeed, and you cry not only for the family who lost their child, but also because the possibility is real that one day an article like that might be written about your child.
  • A weekend spent with the grandparents feels like it requires more planning than the free time with your husband is worth. You pack all your child’s food for the weekend and present your food allergy reminder course to your in-laws before they leave with epinephrine auto-injectors in hand.
  • Play dates and sleep overs are always at your house. Sending your child to a friend’s house, unless he shares your child’s allergies (and none of them do), is too risky.
  • Even though you live in a safe neighborhood, your child can’t roam and explore like you did as a kid because you never know when a severe reaction may occur. He has to always be close to an adult who knows how to use the epinephrine auto-injector and can call 911 (and that person is almost always you).
  • Going to another child’s birthday party sometimes requires more planning on your part than on the birthday child mom’s part. You need to find out whether your child’s allergen will be served, and if it is, you have to decide whether your child can even go. If he has bad reactions just by being around his allergen, you’ll flat out decline and then have to explain to your crying child why it’s too risky to attend. Your child can never eat the cake, so you spend the morning baking his own safe treat before each party. No biggie, your child is used to this and so are you. You get to the party and all the other parents wave good-bye and go have 90 minutes to themselves. But you have to stay: you can’t burden the birthday child’s parents with a crash course on recognizing an allergic reaction and EpiPen training. After “Happy Birthday” is sung and the mad dash to cut and serve the cake begins, your child looks at you expectantly and you nod, dodging around the other kids and the adults who are frantically slicing cake and flinging icing and crumbs like confetti as you try to procure a crumb-free plate, napkin, and fork so that at least your kid’s dinnerware will match the other kids’. Then you carefully place his treat down in front of him and answer his friends’ questions about why he gets something different. Upon returning home, you have him wash his hands well and change his clothes so that he doesn’t get itchy, red eyes within the hour, which is what used to happen before you learned this post-party trick.
  • And given all of the above, you have to deal with people who still honestly think that food allergies aren’t real or who think that if your child eats just a little bit of his allergen he’ll be fine. Because, you know, it’s food and food is innocuous. OK, maybe he’ll get a few hives, but you’re really blowing this whole death thing out of proportion.