The Love & Hate of Food Allergies

by Guest Blogger Jeanne
Family Allergies: Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts

How did you first learn about your family's allergies?
With my 4 year old son, we learned of his egg allergy at around 1 year of age after giving him scrambled eggs for the first time. We learned of his peanut/tree nut allergies upon testing for the egg reaction. Looking back in hindsight, while breastfeeding him, he had eczema patches throughout his infancy that went away when the egg & nuts were eliminated.

With my 1 year old son, I knew there was something he was reacting to in my milk right from the start. My experience (and newfound knowledge on food allergies and the breastfed baby) with my oldest son led me to believe he was reacting to milk because this was the only thing I ate continuously. He had terrible eczema from head to toe. He had contact dermatitis that started as cradle cap. He had rashy cheeks that lasted for several months, and no ointment or cream would clear it up. When I eliminated milk, he appeared to be getting better. Upon testing at 10 months, we discovered that egg was the culprit. I didn't think I had been eating much egg (as we generally don't around my oldest son, and I occasionally would when he wasn't around) to cause a problem, but I was wrong. Once egg was eliminated from my diet, his skin condition cleared within 3 days.

What's the worst part of having food allergies in your family? My husband and I hated having to give up the foods we loved to eat, but we have made the sacrifice for the safety and well being of our children. I hate the holidays with family. I hate that even after nearly 4 years of dealing with food allergies, we have family that still doesn't get the danger of having the offending foods around. I hate how my children will be excluded at school and be made to feel different because they can't be around the other kids in the lunchroom. I could go on, but I'll step down off my soapbox now. ;)

For us, food allergies has lead to many unexpected joys. Can you share one positive thing that you've learned or somthing good that's happened because of food allergies? I always said (before I had kids) that I was going to go to my local supermarket to buy their birthday cakes. I had no desire to bake their cakes and I was happy with that approach. Then, God gave me not one, but two boys with severe, life threatening food allergies. I've had to learn to bake their cakes from scratch each and every time. I've taken cake decorating classes, and I've found that I love doing this for them. It gives me great pleasure to see the excitement on their faces when they see the cake I've made with love and hard work. My 4 year old just loves picking out his cake each year. It's a very exciting time!

If you could travel back in time, to when you first learned about your child's food allergies, what advice would you give yourself? It's not the end of the world. I often tell new parents of food allergic kids that they will come off as the overprotective mom. They will seem crazy for going to every extreme to protect their kids from a reaction. But it doesn't go unnoticed. Your child will thank you one day.

Note from Tiffany: Reading this reminded me of being pregnant with my oldest, while I was still working full-time. Planning my maternity leave, I insisted I'd return to the job because I didn't want to "bake cookies all day". It's a painful memory of my own misunderstanding of becoming a mom. Those words sometimes creep into my head while I'm happily baking cookies for my food allergic child, and I wonder why I ever felt defensive about caring for my family. I can relate to finding joy in unexpected places, and challenges with family members. We're lucky that our son's first allergic reaction happended during his first birthday party, with witnesses. I've also taken pictures of him at the hospital during reactions. I have to add that I hate when people think we're getting/giving attention, and respond with jealously. It makes no sense to me. Thanks to Jeanne for sharing your story, advice and struggles.

I'm looking forward to reading more on Jeanne's blog,