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Accommodating Food Allergies + Poll

Sarah M. McConkie - April 05, 2011

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Finding out that your child has a food allergy is scary—especially if you made the discovery after an unexpected rush to the hospital brought on by a mere sip of milk or bite of candy. Is life ever going to be the same again?

It can be overwhelming to have your child faced with a dangerous condition you know little about. You’ll have a lot of questions, and the person who can help you find answers is a qualified allergist. Michele LeMmon, whose 9-yearold daughter, Rachel, has nut allergies, said finding a good doctor was “the most important step.”

The LeMmons’ doctor helped them come up with a one-page plan to give to family and friends. The plan includes a list of foods Rachel will react to, words to watch out for on ingredient labels, unexpected sources of allergens (such as Duraflame logs and mousetraps), and, most importantly, reaction symptoms and how to treat them. The page also contains a list of treats Rachel can have.

They gave this plan to Rachel’s teachers, friends, extended family members, and Primary teachers. “It’s a lot to teach people right up front if they’ve never dealt with food allergies, so having it on one easy page is important,” said LeMmon.

While the first few years may be difficult, things get easier with time. “It’s important for parents to know it gets better,” said LeMmon. “Now Rachel can read and look out for herself, and that was a great hurdle to get over.”

Making It Fun
The truth is that kids with allergies aren’t like everyone else—and your child’s understanding of this is key to his or her health and safety. But as parents, you can do a lot to make your child feel special rather than negatively singled out.

One way the LeMmons have done this is by having a special “safe” treat box in Rachel’s class at school. “When other kids bring birthday treats I usually can’t have it, but I can always have something from my box. And sometimes it’s better than everyone else’s!” says 9-year-old Rachel.

Creative shirts made for kids with allergies are great for whenever you leave your child at a birthday party, church activity, or play date. (Kids may like the shirts so much that they’ll want to wear them more often.) Babies and toddlers should stick with straightforward designs with messages like “I have food allergies. Ask my mommy before you feed me,” but older kids may get a kick out of shirts with messages like, “Allergy Alert! This Shirt May Contain a Nut” or “Gluten is My Kryptonite.” You can see a great selection at squidoo.com/foodallergyclothes.

And though doctors recommend medical jewelry for kids with severe allergies, there’s no reason for these bracelets to be ugly or uncomfortable. Websites like hahoriginals.com offer a wide range of bracelets designed specifically for kids. Girls can enjoy colorful beaded designs and boys can choose nondescript chain bracelets or trendy dog tags.
 
What Friends and Family Can Do
More than anything else, parents of kids with food allergies want to be taken seriously. “If you look at a kid with a food allergy, there’s no sign of a disability. There’s no sign that there’s something wrong,” says Michelle Hennessy, whose daughter is allergic to nuts and soy. “But as a parent, you know there’s a risk, and you start seeing food as a weapon. I hate to use the word deadly, but that’s what it can be for your kid. And some people just don’t get that.”

“Sometimes people think we’re being overly dramatic, or that we’re making it up,” agrees LeMmon. “But we’re not. As a mom you just hope people will believe you when you tell them it’s a serious thing.”

When the parents of a child with allergies ask you for help, go out of your way to be understanding. Do all you can to make your home a safe place for that child to come and play. Keep the allergy information posted in a prominent place and learn what to do in case of a reaction. One important thing many don’t realize is that different brands of the same food may have a different effect on a child because of the equipment the food is processed on. For example, Rachel LeMmon can eat Hunt’s pudding snacks but may react to other pudding brands. If you have questions about a brand or food, don’t hesitate to ask the child or parents for help. They’ll be happy to assist you—and they’ll be grateful that you’re taking the allergy seriously.

Even if you have no need to purchase allergen-free foods yourself, try to support brands and restaurants that seek to help people with food allergies. Look for foods that clearly and specifically label what allergens a food may contain, and buy those products instead of products that haven’t made the effort to label as clearly.

One brand that’s received a lot of good media buzz is Caesar’s Pasta. Their nut-free facility makes regular pasta as well as a wheat- and gluten-free line. Hennessy, who acts as Caesar’s director of sales, says, “Being in the food industry is exciting for me on a personal level, to not only create these products but to talk to parents and consumers and say I know how it feels when you find out [your child has allergies].”

Thanks to recent legislation as well as heightened awareness, both manufacturers and restaurants are getting better at labeling and creating allergy-friendly options. “All in all the industry’s really making great strides,” says Hennessy. “They’re definitely trying.”

You can also join with families of food allergy kids in support groups and fundraising events. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) organizes events all over the nation every year. Check out foodallergy.org for more information. Most states also have their own organizations with local chapters that can help you find events near you.

*What’s the hardest part of having a food allergy? Leave a comment below.


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© LDS Living 2011.
Tags: Food, Health
Comments 5 comments

mddeanes said...

12:27 PM
on Apr 05, 2011

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Through prayer I was led to a solution to our family's food allergies---a technique called N.A.E.T., which eliminates the allergy and the body's response to the allergen. Now, we avoid only foods that are worthless to eat, and we can eat all the good foods that we used to have to avoid.

kidsmom16 said...

02:27 PM
on Apr 05, 2011

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Many allergies can be triggered by other things. I had hives, "colds", and migrains from birth. My father (a smoker) died when I was 14 and after airing out the house and washing the walls, I was cured. Now my own grown family (14 in all) are fighting Lyme Disease which has made them sensitive to gluten, any milk product, and eggs. Gluten causes siezures so it is a serious thing. It is a family bonding experience to share new recipies and the one unaffected son enjoys the challenge of beating the rest of us with really great food we can all eat. It's a pain when you have to plan around just one person but more of a fun game when it involes four families. It's all in the attitude.

liesele said...

05:28 PM
on Apr 05, 2011

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My child has anaphylactic milk and egg allergy. When I prayed, I received the answer while reading the Word of Wisdom: Focus on the things that she can eat and not the things she can not, this also applies when to the Word of Wisdom. I had a much more positive approch towards her food allergy and it made all the difference.

nsa said...

07:40 PM
on Apr 05, 2011

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My son has been dealing with anaphylactic allergies since he was born, he is now 12 years old. First with hives to lotions. Then throwing up 3-5 times daily. Through much prayer and fasting and multiple blessings we have come to know that sometimes Heavenly Father has other reasons for testing us with our trials. We have learned alot, but, we may never know why this child had to be tested to such an extreme. We are so very grateful for the many who have made this journey with us. We have great support from friends, family, ward members, school leaders, etc. Sure, I have searched out many different alternative helps, and we have checked with many traditional forms of help, we have searched the scriptures for answers, prayed for miracles, etc. And guess what? We have had miracles, tons, just not the ones we THOUGHT we had prayed for. Every ingredient that comes into his life, whether food, hygiene, cleaning products, pet supplies, etc. has to be cleared before coming in contact with him. Yes, we still have all these items in our home, and subsequently we go through alot of hand soap to keep clean and safe for him. He is critically allergic to all forms of milk, egg, nuts(incl. peanut, almond, pecan, walnut, coconut, etc.), seeds(incl. flax, sesame, sunflower, etc.) and to many forms of soy. In addition to this he has had ear issues (hearing, holes in eardrums-surgery, tubes when littler, etc.) He has had a hiatal hernia, and used to have severe esophogitis, a tonsilectomy, and hospitalized for pnuemonia 2-3 times. He also has asthma. BUT, he is also known for his infectious smile and positive attitude. He looks forward to the day, even if it's in the millennium, of having the biggest pizza party with ice cream and cake, etc. etc. etc. To all those out there dealing with such similiar issues, hang in there!! It will get easier, you'll get smarter, more understanding, patient, creative, life does go on, and guess what? Life is good!!!! Talk with those your child will be dealing with, work with them, explain to them, help them understand...remember they are scared, too, and don't want to cause any problems. And although I may not know you, I am praying for you, too!!!!

butterfly82 said...

09:00 AM
on Apr 06, 2011

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I feel like I am experiencing life for the first time in my life now that I have identified and removed wheat/gluten from my diet. The revelation came when I talked one day with a friend lamenting about how my youngest son was having difficulties at school. It was being suggested that he had mild autism, aspergers, ADD or ADHD. I recalled my own difficult childhood of social and communication problems, paranoias, sensitivities to sound, always suffering from long colds and sicknesses or strange allergies, horrible constipation, sleeping problems. My youngest son showed so many eerie similarities to my childhood. My friend told me how his wife and children all had the gluten allergy or celiac disease, one child with extreme sensitivity. He told me that studies had been done linking it to disorders that it was suggested my son had. It was very hard making the change to a gluten-free diet, especially with a husband and older son that do not seem affected by gluten. The hardest battle for me was learning to look at the Word of Wisdom as a code of good health for all and not a condemnation to me and my son because we were choosing to eliminate wheat from our diet. It has been a year and a half since beginning the diet change and my son grows stronger, healthier, and more communicative and socially confident with each passing day. I begin to cry when I think about the opportunity he now has to live a more normal and happy life that I am just now experiencing. We both feel healthy, experiencing what an immune system is and rarely getting sick anymore. We live in a ward full of doctors and others in health professions and they have witnessed the changes we have gone through. I have shared with ward members the specific blessings we are now able to enjoy as well as specific physical, emotional, social and learning problems my son and I used to experience that plague us less and less with each passing day. I am so glad food allergies as well as celiac disease are gaining more attention so we all can become more educated and accepting of all God's children.
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