Part 4: Helpful Hints
Before food allergies were introduced into our little family, I can honestly say I didn’t really get it. I’d hear of people who were on a restricted diet for one reason or another, and sometimes, admittedly, I would be kind of snotty about it. Let me assure you, that mentality has TOTALLY changed over the past 3 years!
I strongly feel that the more educated people are on how to properly deal with food allergies and those suffering from them, the more compassionate they can be and the less scary it all becomes. Whether or not your child is directly affected by food allergies or not, chances are you are going to come into contact with a child at some point (if you haven’t already) with food allergies. Unfortunately, it seems to be more and more common these days. (There are many theories as to why that is, but I’ll leave that discussion/debate to someone else.)
Here are some things to remember:
Just because a child has food allergies doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them. The last thing a child suffering from food allergies needs is to be treated like they are sick or disabled just because they can’t eat a specific food.
Try not to point out the offending food in a way that draws much attention to the child. I’ve noticed as my son gets older that the more people make a big deal out of his allergies, the more he seems to be bothered when he can’t have something that everyone else is having. Being aware in a subtle way and treating unsafe foods matter-of-factly has helped keep him from realizing what he’s missing and feeling sad about it.
If you know of a food allergy in your child’s class and can avoid sending that specific food to “share” with the class, that is very helpful. I cannot tell you how much it warms this mama’s heart when other parents go out of their way to alter recipes and shop for “safe” snacks that my son can enjoy with all of the other kids. I understand it’s not always easy (or even possible) to do that, but it sure goes a LONG way when an allergic child can eat the same thing as everyone else. And when that’s not possible, having an alternative “safe” snack that is close to what everyone else is enjoying is the next best thing.
When you have questions about whether or not a food might be safe for a child, ALWAYS ask. Don’t just assume that a food is safe just because you don’t THINK it has the allergic ingredient in it. A LOT of pre-packaged foods sneak wheat (and other allergens) in that you wouldn’t even think of. (ie: some specific types of fruit roll-ups contain wheat ingredients in them. Who knew??)
Don’t be offended if an allergic child or parent double-checks you. Sometimes ingredients can be missed (or disguised as something else) and only a parent with a trained eye can catch it. And sometimes items are cross-contaminated (ex: using the same spoon to stir the gluten-free pasta that you just used to stir the regular pasta) without even thinking about it. I always have about double the amount of dishes in my house, because I have to cook everything “safe” in it’s own pot or pan, with it’s own utensils.
And finally, PLEASE do not try to downplay the severity of food allergies. There is nothing more frustrating than when people say, “Oh, I bet it won’t even cause a reaction” or “There’s only a TINY bit of (insert offending food) in that!” or “Oh, you’re one of those trendy “gluten free” people, aren’t you?” I cannot state this enough: Life-threatening food allergies can be life-threatening in even trace amounts. You honestly cannot be too careful when it comes to protecting people (especially small children) from “unsafe” food.
Thank you for reading along as I share our family’s story about dealing with food allergies. I hope some of the information I’ve presented has been helpful in increasing awareness and providing some insight into this sometimes scary & overwhelming, but also manageable, life situation that people with food allergies have to adjust to. I’d love to hear from any of you with similar stories, recommendations for other restaurants or food brands I didn’t list, or questions about anything I’ve mentioned above. Above all, thank you for taking the time to consider how we can all help families dealing with food allergies feel more comfortable and less scared about simply enjoying a “normal” life just like everyone else!
Hi! My name is Crislyn and I live in Edmond with my little family of 4, which includes my sweet husband, Sam, and our two little people: Wyatt (age 3) and Emery (10 months). I worked at Oklahoma Christian University until our daughter was born in April of 2013, and have been enjoying my time as a stay at home mom since then. Our son was diagnosed with food allergies at 8 months, so that is something that not only infiltrates every part of our lives, but that I’m very passionate about as well. We love spending time together, playing with friends, worshipping at our local church, and exploring everything “family friendly” that the OKC metro area has to offer. Thanks so much for letting me share a little bit of our life with you!