I would like respond to a Parenting article that I just read titled “The Truth About Food Allergies.” You can read it here. I would definitely agree that the author is correct to highlight some of the amazing advances that are occurring in the area of food allergies. However, it seems clear that there are definitely some areas that also expose some of the misunderstanding that exists when trying to walk in the shoes of a parent whose child has food allergies.
In one section, the author tries to convey that we are now “allergy savvy and accepting.” I cannot speak for other parents but only can speak from my own experiences and I would say that this statement is far from the truth. Things are better than they have been for many parents. If you were a parent 15 years back, for instance like Linda Coss, who has written several great books on Food Allergy Recipes, you were a pioneer as a parent and flying blind if your kid suffered from food allergies. There were no food labels indicating the existence of certain food allergens. No studies being performed in the area of food allergies. No Internet to quickly turn to in hopes of finding an answer. Yes…things are better than 15 years ago and even 5 year ago. But those of us whose kids have food allergies have true daily struggles.
Sending your child off to a public school requires a lot of prayer and faith that the Lord will be watching your kid from high above. It is a dangerous place. It is definitely better if your kid has peanut allergies because there has been some progress made…but peanuts are not the only life-threatening allergen. Anaphylaxis can occur in milk, eggs, fish and other common food items. The next time you are at school…count the number of items at any given table that contain some sort of “milk” product. Believe me…milk exists in everything. However, if you kid does have milk allergies…you will have a few choices as a parent. You can choose to have them sit by themselves, away from other kids. You can have them sit with at the “peanut-allergy” table where every kid at the table will most likely be eating something that is deadly to your child. Or have them sit at a regular table with the other kids and have faith that your child will be safe. These are the tough decisions that parents with kids with food allergies get to make.
Luckily we go to a school that is accepting of the food allergies….but it is still a lot of work. It is work in the process of “understanding” and “educating”. Educating teachers; writing letters; being involved in the school; observing your child in different conditions and environments…..and some of the things to consider. And even in the “best” of situations, you can still run into non-accepting and even “bullying” behavior by other children if you kid has food allergies. Our child at age 6 has already experienced this in school. This is not what I would consider to be an “accepting” behavior.
However, there is good news. We are so blessed to live in Orange County with access to such a great support group that meets at Saddleback Church monthly. Meeting with other parents that share the same daily struggles has made a great deal of different in our lives. As parents, we are extremely hopeful that are kids will grow out of their food allergies and that someday food allergies will no longer exist….but in the interim, we are going to pray daily for our children.
Going back to the article, the unfortunate situation is that the article paints too much of a picture that the “war on food allergies” has now been already won….and this is a disservice in my opinion. Parents of food allergy children are not waking up everyday thinking of allergy cures. They are trying to navigate their ways through the daily obstacles of dealing with food. My wife and I are praying for an allergy cure….but the daily struggles of food allergies usually have us focused on praying to get through the day without an incident. Let’s not forget there are a lot of possibilities for cures…but no cures as of yet. There is a lot of research in process but a lot more research to do. There are a lot of parents with kids with food allergies today and this rate is growing. And with the increase in numbers, more parents (and children) that are in need of support.
The best thing we can do for our kids today is to help others understand the problem of food allergies and to live a life in which we love one another. As Jesus Christ said in Mark 12:31, “love your neighbor as yourself.” This means putting yourself in the shoes of others and understanding what they are going through.
If you are a parent of a child with food allergies and live Orange County, we would love for you to come and share your experiences and gain support from our monthly support group at http://www.ocfoodallergy.com