I had just turned a year old when my family began our investigation into the world of allergies.
To successfully manage an allergy you have to be on constant alert for potential danger. You need to be aware of your surroundings, have good communication skills, read ingredients on everything…basically you do more research than the FBI! And like the FBI, if you’re not careful the food allergy world can be dangerous.
One year of age used to be the time to introduce high risk allergen foods. Health Canada now recommends early introduction, in hopes of decreasing the chance of an allergy developing. The guideline suggests as early as 4-6 months of age and to continue to offer it regularly.
I am allergic to peanuts. Of course, my mom blamed herself and all the Eat-more chocolate bars she ate during pregnancy! Is there a link between foods eaten during pregnancy and food allergies in children? Or is it maybe the opposite? Could eating more foods like peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding actually reduce the risk of the child developing the allergy? Research seems to support the thinking that its not anything the mother does when she’s pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, the likelihood of having a food allergy increases if allergies run in the family. So far, no allergies have shown up in my kids, but my oldest son does have eczema and asthma (allergies friends).
A peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies. According to Food Allergy Canada, 2 in 100 children will be diagnosed with a peanut allergy and that number is on the rise.
As a school-aged child, I’m pretty sure I was the only one with an allergy in the whole school! Keep in mind, I grew up in rural Manitoba in a town with a population of approximately 500! Things are really different now with manufactures making “peanut free” foods and daycares/schools and many other facilities being nut free.
For me it was different, everyone brought what they wanted to eat and sat where they usually did, and I sat at a separate table. This allowed me to learn the skills to manage my allergy on my own and look out for myself. I didn’t rely on others to keep me safe, I kept myself safe.
I’m not a nut
As a child, I remember coming into the city to see an allergy specialist for skin testing. I was anaphylaxis to peanuts and less severely allergic to beans, peas, and cats. People often forget peanuts are a member of the legume family and are therefore more closely related to beans than other nuts. Kids don’t really get to excited for beans and peas, so I didn’t mind avoiding them. But peanut butter was a hard one! Everyone seemed to love it and it seemed to be in so many yummy things like chocolate bars, sandwiches, those marshmallow squares!! I’d often get the “that must be so hard that you can’t have that”. But to be honest, I didn’t really know what I was missing out on. I don’t remember ever eating it, or what it tastes like, and I hate the smell of it! I outgrew the bean and pea allergies, but much to my cat loving daughter’s disappointment, I still got the cat allergy and of course the peanut allergy! Peanut allergies tend to be lifelong, Food Allergy Canada states only about 20% of children are lucky enough to outgrow.
Navigating the allergy world is scary and can create a lot of anxiety. My first trip on an airplane was one of these stressful times because they used to serve peanuts as a snack during the flight. After several phone calls my mom and the airline worked out a plan that they would vacuum and clean around our seats prior to the departure of our flight. No peanuts were served on that flight and passengers were asked not to eat peanut snacks they had brought.
I can remember my mom calling companies and restaurants to find out what was in their products and what kind of oils they used so we knew what products were safe to buy and where it was safe to eat. It is a little easier these days because we have Google!
It is so important to read ingredient labels every time you buy or eat something. Food Allergy Canada recommends “The triple check” read ingredients once at the store before buying, once at home when putting away, and once before you eat.
Allergies and events!
Birthday parties and field trips were events from my childhood that I remember being stressful for my mom. As a parent, I now understand my moms stress, anxiety, and concern over these! We talked a lot about my allergy, I was comfortable with my Epi-pen, and I was really careful but let’s face it kids are more reckless and don’t always act as wisely as adults. On school field trips, I was always on my best behaviour because my mom was often one of the volunteer chaperons!
Here are 5 tips on making a birthday party more manageable with an allergy:
1. Call the parents ahead and discuss the allergy. As the parents get to know your child this will get easier.
2. Go early to the party to go over signs of a reaction and what to do. Go over medications (antihistamines), Epi-pen. Have instructions with the Epi-pen. Take time to read the ingredients on the food being served.
3. Feed your child before the party.
4. Another option is to bring your own food for your child with an allergy, you could check with the hosting parent to see what they are serving and bring something similar for your child to eat!
5. Always leave contact information and be available in case of an emergency. And of course, if the hosting parents are not comfortable, then offer to stay! Your child will love that…especially as they get older!!
Thinking back, my mom did all these things for me!
Most of the time I would just avoid the birthday cake because it was always a little too risky. Just remember this, people always felt bad for me missing out if I couldn’t eat something, but as the kid with the allergy I can tell you it didn’t really matter. I had treats at home, I was just happy to be at the party and be included.
Don’t make the same mistakes as me…
I am 34 years old and I have luckily only had a few encounters with peanuts, you will find allergens in the strangest places…
- don’t eat a gum ball off the floor in a store because your mom won’t buy you one. You never know who is going to wax their hardwood floor with peanut oil!
- when your making a patient toast at work and they want peanut butter and jelly and you’re to nice to say “no I’m allergic” and you make it for them anyways, don’t forget your not at home making your kids lunch and lick your finger!
- and lastly, don’t take your parents advice and try a “delicious” cocktail called funky monkey, while on vacation in the Caribbean, cause as mentioned above allergens can be in the most unexpected places.
Anaphylaxis happens, even when a family is educated and careful. Minutes matter, so early recognition of signs of a reaction and medication management without delay are key. Carry an Epi-pen or 2, read ingredients carefully, be aware of the potential of cross contamination, and at restaurants make them aware of your allergy when you order.
My favourite place for a treat in Winnipeg is Sweet Impressions Bakery. If you have never been check them out because it is the cutest shop, with the nicest people, and they make the most amazing nut free treats. Sweet impressions is passionate about giving back to the community and have a “Bake the World a Better Place” charity cookie campaign. For April, May, and June the featured organization is “You Can’t Spoil a Baby”. So next time you visit the bakery please consider helping support this amazing Winnipeg organization.
Sweet Impressions has been kind enough to put together a package of goodies as a GIVEAWAY!! Comment below with your favourite treat for a chance to win!
I understand the fear and anxiety surrounding allergies. If your child has a food allergy I can help educate and empower you to take control of the allergy and feel more comfortable managing it. Like my blog? – please share! Want help? Any question? Contact me here