I had an interesting conversation with my wife the other day on the topic of Food Allergies. It is interesting because every parent that engages in the daily battle of managing food allergies for their child is an amazing Hero in my opinion. These are the parents that wake up every day and help their kids manage the not-so-wonderful world of food allergies. And let me also make it clear that this article is not meant to discount or discourage those families with suffer from Celiac Disease, EOE, Gluten-Free or other food-type disorders. We are talking about life-threatening food allergies. For us parents battling the Food Allergy war, we can clearly understand the daily battles that ensue with your children and the difficult choices that have to be made daily as your kids choose was to eat several times throughout the day. It is an emotional battle that occurs every day.
But one of the biggest gripes I have with Food Allergies is the issue with the name itself….Food Allergy and here is the basic problem. The name itself does not properly communicate the incredible risk of life that is involved with every meal. How many times as a parent have you heard the words “I also get an upset stomach after drinking milk” after you have explained to the stranger at the food counter that your child has a food allergy. As a parent, I would love to have the issues of Diarrhea, Indigestion, Nausea or Vomiting. I would absolutely welcome any of these side effects over the fear of immediately stop-breathing symptom. Having different symptoms would be like a SPRING DAY filled with butterflies, deer, bacon and harps playing music in the background (okay, maybe the harps would be replaced with a Ukulele)….but you get the idea. It would be amazing.
But no. When your child has a life-threatening food allergy (and in the cases of most of the people that get to visit our support groups we are talking multiple life-threatening food allergies), this is not the case. It can lead to DEATH without intervention. It can happen QUICKLY. It can happen without major visual symptoms. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself at one of your favorite restaurants looking through the menu. As you scan through the items of that menu, most of the items have a little icon next to them with the words “Eating this will lead to DEATH”. What would that be like? Would you still want to eat there? Would you trust the food that arrives on your plate? Now imagine that it is not you but your child. Walk through the above questions again and that is what these parents go through multiple times per day: at the grocery store, at coffee shop, at home, at Grandmas, at School. etc. etc. etc.
Welcome to the very-difficult-world of what it is like for a parent of a kid with food allergies. This is the daily routine that they face during every meal, through every day, with their children. What if you have two children with food allergies (like many of us do)….then the very-difficult-world is multiplied exponentially. It is the simple process of eliminating foods from their kid’s diets that will lead to death. It is a tremendous burden and a thankless job. It is a job that is done every day by thousands of parents (mainly moms and caregivers) each and every day. But as we go through this minefield, we must constantly remind those around us at what is at stake for our children. This is serious business with serious consequences.
It was interesting because I was listening to some of the recent horrific news about some of the recent attacks in France. Absolutely terrible and our prayers go out to those families impacted. As I listened, there was a story of one of the FBI officials talking about it and how they prepare for presidential speeches and events. Simply said, the FBI needs to get things right 100% of the time. There can be no mistakes. This resonated with me that the same thing happens 50 times a day by every parent with a kid with food allergy. They can never be wrong….ever. Not even once.
So this leads me back to my original conversation with my wife on the topic of Food Allergies. We need to come up with something better for this disease. If it was called “INSTANT DEATH DISEASE FROM FOOD” or “MY KID WILL STOP BREATHING IF I EAT THAT DISEASE” or anything that instantly communicates the extreme importance of it then I would be complete favor of that. Think about how much easier the conversations at school would be with those parents that insist that it is their right to bring a PB&J sandwich into the classroom. The uncomfortable conversations at family gatherings where some relative insists on putting out the bowl of life-ending nuts on the table for everyone (but your child) to enjoy. It the label for “Food Allergy” was just somehow different and could immediately described the emotion and the importance of the subject.
So if you are a parent without a kid with food allergy and you hear those words Food Allergy, please remember what is at stake for these parents. It is not fatigue or indigestion that is at stake. It is a child’s life that can be taken very quickly with the simple ingestion of a harmless looking cookie.
For now, I would continue to refer to Food Allergy as “A Life Threatening Food Allergy” until someone comes up with a better name.