When I met Evanthia, we had many things in common. We had kids the same age, we were teachers-turned-stay-at-home-moms, we lived next door…the list went on and on. We were constantly discovering new similarities, and one day, while lounging at the pool with our little ones, I happened to mention that K had a specific food allergy. “He does?” Evanthia said. “So does A.”
Amazing. I discovered K’s when he was eight months old. He broke out in hives when I introduced a new food, and two minutes later, I was on the phone with the pediatrician, asking what to do. Scary. So, we made appropriate accommodations for about a year and a half. At about the time A outgrew her allergy, so did K. And we were all so, so grateful, because even just dealing with the inconvenience of an allergy altered our lives. Many families have it so much worse.
Sadly, just this summer, we realized we’re onto the next set of allergies, but this time, each child is dealing with their own new challenges. In talking with other moms just in our neighborhood, we realized we’re not alone. The prevalence of childhood allergies is both alarming and puzzling.
One afternoon, while running errands, my husband picked up a granola bar for A during a Starbucks run. We didn’t think twice about handing it to her until she started to develop hives around her mouth. One surprisingly pleasant trip to a pediatric allergist later, we’ve got a diagnosis that she probably won’t outgrow and that will definitely limit our daughter’s food choices.
With A starting school in the fall, working around this new allergy isn’t as simple as us just making some minor adjustments to her diet. At our preschool, parents provide the class’ snacks on a rotating basis, but school personnel have decided that they feel it’s too great a risk to expose A to outside foods, so she’ll have to eat something I pack for her instead. How isolating! And you know when parents bring in cupcakes for their child’s birthday? Yeah, she won’t be able to have those either. I feel so badly that her first experience outside our home will be one where she’s singled out and made to feel different. It breaks my heart.
In all this, I’m left wondering, “How did this happen?” I thought 17 months of breastfeeding would “help guard against food allergies.” So much for that!
Was it the non-organic, store-bought baby food? Was it something I overindulged in during pregnancy? Is it all the genetically modified foods that are causing our kids’ bodies to go haywire?
For now, my husband and I have decided to take a moderate approach to keeping A healthy:
- We’re avoiding the allergen but not cutting out all foods prepared in the same vicinity, which would be a monstrous feat.
- We’re checking food labels carefully.
- We’re asking lots of questions when we eat out.
- We’re overcommunicating with A’s allergist and preschool.
- And to a certain extent, keeping our fingers crossed.
While K has outgrown his food allergy, and as of now doesn’t have any new ones, there are many environmental factors that cause skin reactions for him. Consequently, he has spent many days at the doctor’s office this summer (so much so that “doctor, doctor” is his favorite game to play with his sister), and we’ve had to minimize some of his favorite activities such as swimming, playing outside, or getting dirty. It’s been tough for him, but he’s been surprisingly flexible and excited to try new indoor games and activities.
Like Evanthia, I nursed K for 17 months, I was vigilant during pregnancy, and I even made his baby food. Knowing that my husband suffers from allergies and asthma, I was extra careful, reading as much literature as I could about how to prevent these things and crossing my fingers that we’d dodged this challenge. But none of this seemed to matter.
K has had one frustration after another all summer, and my husband and I have been worrying all summer about what we can do to keep our little boy healthy. And now, as his reactions start to fade, and the summer starts to wind down, I’m realizing how important it is to read your child’s cues and use them to keep him healthy. He’s three now, so he’s old enough to say what he needs and how he feels. But we have to be vigilant. Right now, that means keeping him indoors, in air conditioning for most of the time, applying medicine almost hourly, and encouraging him to tell us when he doesn’t feel well. Of course, as his symptoms go down, he’ll have less restrictions on him, but for now, this is our daily life.
Keeping our kids healthy is a unique situation for every family. While for some it means regular hand-washing, for others it means carrying medicine, keeping kids inside, or managing their diet down to every single ingredient. But we all have the same goal: keeping our kids active, happy, and of course, as healthy as they can be.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of iVillage
. The opinions and text are all mine.