In this day and age, I’m willing to bet that we all know someone who is nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, Red No. 40 free, etc. As adults, some of these may be due to dietary choices based on how our bodies react when eating them with various digestive, skin or weight issues. But what about for those that are allergic? For them, these terms bear the weight of something so much more serious. And what happens when that person is child? Maybe your best friend’s child?
I’ve heard many comments from friends and strangers regarding having to “deal with” their child’s classroom or school being a ‘nut free zone’. And I can understand the frustration when their child is in a PBJ only phase. I mean as moms we want only the best for our kids and that includes ensuring they are eating to help provide all that boundless energy they seem to have! BUT, I have also witnessed the mom of the child with a life-threatening allergy worry about the possibility her son’s friend will have just eaten a food that’s ‘not safe’ and then touch her son and cause a reaction. Mamas… my heart goes out to you, I can only imagine what it’s like to constantly worry about that.
I have both a close friend and a family member that have children with food allergies. Both I knew, and their kids were born, before my own daughters were born. I remember in the early days when my friend’s son first had an allergic reaction how nervous she was about every.single.food that entered his body. Do you know how many seemingly nut-free foods are produced on the same line or in the same factory as nut products? It’s mind-boggling once you start paying attention! When we would get together for dinners she asked that we check the packaging of ingredients to make sure there was no cross-contamination. As the person WITHOUT a life-threatening allergy, I happily obliged. For those of you thinking, “that sounds hard,” IT’S NOT. As I have heard many times from anyone who has ever done a Whole 30, changing your eating (especially temporarily) is not hard.
“Fighting cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard, Losing a parent is hard.” Making accommodations for a child with a food allergy IS.NOT.HARD.
Sure, it requires a little more effort on your part to confirm things are “safe” but pause and consider how much your friend will appreciate that little bit of effort on your part. Isn’t their peace of mind valuable to you and your friendship?
My mom friend and family have been put into positions many times where they were feeling guilty for asking others to keep in mind their kids’ allergies. That’s a horrible position to be in, basically apologizing for asking you to care about the well-being of their child because your child wants a PBJ sandwich. All things considered, I’d rather my kid have some random snack food than endanger their friend’s life.
And I’ll say what some of you are thinking… “are they SURE they’re allergic?” “Food allergies are a fad/weren’t a thing when we were kids/exaggerated.” While not popular thoughts and you may not want to admit to the mom next to you that you’re thinking this, it’s ok, sometimes we have these thoughts when we don’t totally understand. But here are some facts you should consider.
- The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that prevalence of food allergy in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011.
- Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of peanut or tree nut allergy appears to have more than TRIPLED in U.S. children.
- Every 3 minutes (THREE MINUTES!!!!), a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room.
- About 40% of children with food allergies have experienced a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis.
- About 1 in 3 children with food allergy reports being bullied as a result.
- Most fatal food allergy reactions are triggered by food consumed outside the home.
That’s just a few tidbits of information. Now that you are informed, what can you do differently?
Ask your mama friend what you can do to ease her worry. Something as simple as remembering to check on safe snacks before the next playdate could be huge. AND have you ever seen how excited a kid with a food allergy is to find out that they can eat the SAME food their friend is eating!?!?!?! It’s like hearing they are going to DisneyWorld! 😊
If you overhear another parent speaking negatively of food allergies, gently remind them of how worried the parents of the child probably are. Help them keep in mind how important the safety of our children is.
Teach your children tolerance. WHOA, this is a big one, am I right? We talk a lot about teaching our young ones to not tolerate hate when it comes to race, gender or orientation but what about just differences in general? What example are we setting when we complain about making some dietary accommodations in front of our children? How about the next play date you offer up safe snack ideas and let your child pick which one they want to have with their friend? What a great way to teach inclusion and tolerance!
For all you mamas out there fighting for your child and their safety in schools and extra-curricular activities, you keep it up! We all care about the safety and well-being of our children!