By Kimberly Pellicore, The Food Allergy Mom
Kimberly has celiac disease and is a proud mom to two children, one of whom has severe, multiple life-threatening food allergies and asthma. After years of being largely dissatisfied with the lack of credible online and local support systems, she established thefoodallergymom.org to offer parents and caregivers of children with celiac disease, food allergies, and asthma a POSITIVE support network. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
THAT day— the day before I took my child to the allergist and they sent us home with an epinephrine autoinjector and a food allergy diagnosis— I was a regular mom kissing boo-boos and inciting laughter.
The next day, life looked and felt different…for me and my son.
Food allergies? No one in my family had food allergies, or my husband’s that I was aware of. How was this possible? Could the test have been wrong? What on earth was I going to feed my child from this point forward? Would this diagnosis affect his growth? How would these new dietary restrictions impact his nutrition?
Do these thoughts sound familiar? For me, it signaled the starting line. Like it or not, I was running a marathon and it was time to start thinking strategy.
Here are 10 proactive strategies to employ in your food allergy journey:
1. Breathe: You and your child are the exact same people you were before this diagnosis. Your love for each other has not changed. Give your child a warm cuddle to make sure he/she knows it.
2. Set Boundaries: Food allergies absolutely cannot define you, your child, or your family, unless you allow them to.
3. Make A Food Allergy Action Plan: Be sure the plan is approved and signed off on by your child’s allergist. Keep the hard copy for yourself and make additional copies for other caregivers of your child. Not sure where to start? Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has an excellent example here.
4. Learn To Read and Understand Ingredient Labels: Learn how to scan and read ingredient labels so you can buy and stock up on safe foods. Not sure how to correctly read a label? For a clearer explanation, visit FARE’s website.
5. Educate Yourself: When looking for information, it is crucial to find accredited, credible, and positive resources. A few of my favorites are Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), Kids With Food Allergies (KFA), Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), and Allergic Living Magazine.
6. Get Familiar With Your Child’s Prescriptions: Now that you’ve filled your child’s prescriptions, learn how to properly use them and make sure others who care for your child know how to use them as well. Some companies even offer instructional apps for your mobile devices.
7. Get To Know Your Allies: If you find a product that plays a major role in your food allergy journey, take time to visit the company’s website and social media outlets as they often offer additional tips and recipes. For example, you can buy Neocate formula at the store, but only if you visited their website would you find that they offer a food allergy cookbook.
8. Be A Role Model: Your child, no matter his or her age, is watching your reactions closely. This means it is okay to show some frustration, as long as the child also sees you resolve it. It means remaining calm (or at least faking calm) in a food allergy crisis situation so the child does not experience additional panic. It means living life with a smile, even on the hard days.
9. Find A Confidant: Every parent and caregiver needs and deserves a caring support system. Enlist a friend to lend his or her ear when you need to regroup and talk things out.
10. Repeat: The food allergy learning curve is forever changing and a caregiver’s education is never complete. This is not a burden, but a gift, as scientific breakthroughs often change our food allergy journeys for the better.
I’ve been utilizing the above steps for more than 10 years and I continue to walk the food allergy journey daily with my son. So, how has life changed? It hasn’t…not really…thankfully. I’m still just a mom who loves her sweet son- a boy who loves Legos, lives life to the fullest, has a great smile, and, oh yeah, lives with food allergies.