With the rise of food allergies, food intolerance’s, and food related diseases I think it is safe to say you know a child affected by one of more of these things. Behind every one of these children is a neurotic parent or parents (yes, I will claim that title and wear it proudly) you likely would be too. Having three kids with varying degrees of food related issues I thought I would share this post-“10 Things Allergy, Food Sensitive, Intolerant Parents Want You to Know; How To Keep Their Kids Safe”
We are blessed with many people who have made accommodations for our family over the years just to see that things are ‘safe‘ for my kids. From loved ones who have dedicated ‘special safe‘ cupboards in their kitchen to those who have made special gluten-free bakery runs just so my kids can have a treat at the party too. I am truly grateful and appreciative of all of these efforts. Over the years we have had friend’s, family, and neighbors create ‘special‘ goodie bags, pass out ‘special‘ candy, and change entire holiday traditions just so we can join and have some ‘normalcy‘ to a life that often times doesn’t feel so normal.
I remember some years back when life was-well, simpler. There was my husband and I, and then one baby with no food issues. We came we went and did as we pleased. I remember attending these parties, holiday gatherings, and hearing ‘these parents‘ talk of their children’s food issues, but that was them. I was not living it- and, to be honest I likely thought “seriously, it’s just a little ____. What’s the big deal” I’m all about honesty, and truth be told I likely thought “chill out, your kid is going to be fine“. It’s easy to think these things when we aren’t the ones affected by it, right?
Here’s the thing- it is not that individuals not affected by such circumstances care any less ‘they simply just don’t know‘. Just as I don’t know what it is like to raise a special needs child or have a child with cancer–we lack a sense of full understanding when we are not the ones dealing with it. The only way to ‘see‘ or get a feel for what it is like is by raising awareness, educating, and sharing your story.
So, that said- I can not speak on behalf of all parents with kids who suffer from food related allergies, sensitivities, or intolerance’s. However, I have met my share over the years who share similar feelings or experiences- and, if nothing else you can walk away ‘knowing‘ a little more about how you can help accommodate those families affected by similar situations as I.
The smallest amount of gluten, nuts, eggs, wheat, dye, milk, or other food can cause a serious sometimes life threatening reactions to some children.
For some kids the smallest amount of something on their hands can cause hives or swelling. When those tiny hands move to their eyes or mouth guess where else those reactions can take place- face swelling and trouble breathing from a little spilled milk, really? Yes, this happens. Yes, this is dramatic. Yes, this is real. This is not our story, but this is just one example of the level of seriousness that some individuals are dealing with.
Point blank; this is serious and important stuff.
10 Things Parents Want You To Know; How to Keep Their Allergy, Food Sensitive / Intolerant Kids Safe
1) It only takes a little. Often times we things of a reaction to something being caused by a “a lot” of something, but this is not always the case– yes, something as innocent as grilling your hot dog bun on a grill with the meat can cause a huge cross contamination issue. Yes, individuals with Celiac Disease can be ‘that’ sensitive. The tiniest crumb can cause the worst adverse reactions.
Some other potential hidden problematic sources for the food allergy sensitive crowd;
– Peanut shells on the bottoms of shoes and then tracked on the carpet.
– Sensory tables of play-doh at preschool.
– Were you baking today? Do you have flour on your shirt?
– Did you just butter that regular piece of toast- then, be sure to wash the knife thoroughly (or get a new one) and use a different stick of butter before buttering the gluten-free toast as there are likely crumb remains on the first stick.
– Is your kid walking around with a sippy cup of milk? Spilled milk can cause big problems.
2) Food should have rules. The US is a culture-less food nation- there are snacks in the car, snacks at church, snacks in school, kids walk around with snacks. It’s no wonder 1 in 3 American children are over weight or obese. I highly recommend the book “French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy Healthy Eaters”
If our food had rules then there wouldn’t be crumbs on toys, carpet, on grocery carts, and lodged in car seats. Food should be in the dining room or on a picnic blanket and not eaten all day long. Now, I say this but know darn well that we are just as guilty in our home-on any given day you can find my kids scrounging my cupboards. Just be mindful of such habits when there is an allergy sensitive child around – under “normal” circumstances your harmless toddler walking around with a snack trap of cheese-its can cause big problems for the little boy that can’t be around dairy, wheat, or gluten. Bottom line- it’s not a bad thing to enforce eating only at the table.
3) Cleaning 101; you’re having a play date with a child with extreme food allergies and sensitivities and you want to make your home as safe as possible-
· Fill a bucket with warm water and a mild dish soap- wipe down large surface area where food particles could remain (counters, table, chairs, and large toys)
· Run the vacuum around to suck up any crumbs on the carpet and rugs
· A quick sweep of the kitchen and other eating spaces
· Put away and do not offer allergy foods away
· Lastly, wash everyone’s hands and if there are remains of breakfast on their tiny shirt (you might want to change that too)
And…. if you go to this extent just to make things “safe” we crazy parents might just have to give you a big hug and bring you a coffee for your A+ efforts.
I know this sounds extreme but remember it is a ‘real’ problem – if your feeling overwhelmed with a day of it and slightly neurotic. I get it- try being the crumb police 24/7 (trust me I do feel crazy sometimes) and I have been known to grab guests non-safe lunches while they are eating just to wipe their crumby filled space at my table during lunch.
4) Party’s , holidays, and special events (weddings/showers/etc.) are great fun- but, please do not be offended if we decline. I love people and having a good time- as do my children. However, there are some circumstances that just bring great anxiety to me these days- everything from the cake, ice cream, pizza, to the goodie bags. Taking an allergy food sensitive kid to a party takes a good deal of preparation mentally and physically- and, we make this effort whenever possible. However, some circumstances are just harder and trickier. From little food residue hands to the general crazy chaos parties and celebrations bring- it is guaranteed a heightened sense of alertness- and, at times a down right panic attack or mini-hear attack for myself.
So, please don’t be offended if we decline. We love being invited and feeling like part of these celebration and events- however, we may prefer to see you with less chaos in a more controlled environment. The party is for your child, you, a spouse, or loved one after all- and, I prefer to keep it that way (not about my kids food issues). We don’t love you any less- all we ask is you respect our decision.
5) Please don’t feed the ‘animals’- yes, I would love to make my kids wear a shirt that say’s this. This is really hard for some people to understand- we have gone from a nation that it was acceptable to give the neighbor kid a cookie to one that can’t even have crumbs on their floor. Call it what you want, it’s a fact. Thank you for your kind offer of snacks and drinks- and, please don’t be offended when we decline. More importantly, please don’t feed my monkeys without my knowing.
6) Playgrounds and parks are often over looked potential hazards. We love eating outside. The crumbs blow away in the wind and the tiny animals eat the remains. However, just as walking around with food indoors is problematic so is eating at the playground. Food should have rules- eat first, clean hands, then play.
7) Classroom’s, church’s, and camp’s are becoming increasingly aware of the potential risks that food can carry for some children. Due to the increased awareness and demand for such accommodations these facilities have in recent years really been at the cutting edge as far as I’m concerned in going above and beyond what they need to do to keep our kids safe. My hat goes off to them for being proactive, flexible, and accommodating whenever possible.
8) When in doubt skip it or show me the label. Label reading, web searches, and 1(800) numbers are my best friend. If an allergy sensitive child will be eating at your home- when in doubt always ask their parent. They will thank you. It is best to let the parent make the “mistake” of giving their child something that they shouldn’t have had verses you carrying the guilt that they had a reaction.
I know that probably sounds like a no brainer but you would be amazed at the number of people and businesses that offer things to my kids without consulting me first. My kids are aware of what they can and cannot eat but just like any normal human being the temptation of a chocolate glutinous cookie sometimes is too hard to resist- a 5 year old doesn’t have the logic to know just how that “1 cookie” will send them into a fiery mess of symptoms.
9) Colds and other illnesses although not problematic for your average adult or child can be quite troublesome for the food sensitive immune compromised population. What many people do not know is the reactions these children often suffer affect their entire body, weakening their immune systems, and therefore making them more susceptible to illness. Be courteous and mindful of such – if your kid has a full blown green and boogery nose or your feeling a bit “off” it maybe best to change the locations (maybe outdoors) or reschedule altogether.
10) Hugs, kisses, and handshakes – what has this world come to? I know, we are constantly in a state of ‘alert‘ these days from watching what we say in the work place to not hugging kids at school. However, I’m afraid it has just become a sad but true reality- hugs are great as long as you don’t have the remains of food and flour dust on your clothing. Kisses are sweet but maybe save them for the tops of heads and high fives are perfect as long as your hands are clean.
So, now that I have probably completely stressed you out and you will never invite us over (I’m kidding…) – I hope that I have help put a ‘real‘ sense of what it is that parents of food allergy, food sensitive, food intolerant kids go through. We do feel crazy and neurotic. We do have to ask a lot of questions. We do make mistakes too. We have to advocate and keep our kids safe regardless of who we might offend in the process.