10 Ways to Annoy a Food Allergy Parent
- 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.
- Ask me whether my child will outgrow his allergy. Yeah, because along with being a master at reading ingredient labels, food allergy parents can also predict the future. (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.)
- 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
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 annoying – and dangerous – when you forget to also include the food allergy parents in your planning, which means my child will be excluded. Again.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
How to Make a Food Allergy Parent Overwhelmed with Gratitude
- Allow me to bring my child’s food to your event and don’t make a big deal about it.
- Save all the packages for food that you’re serving because there may be something my child can eat.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Ask me what you can do to help keep my child safe, and then do it.
Anything you would add to either list?