Most kids with food allergies hate feeling ‘different.’ They miss out on birthday cakes, trick-or-treating, and other rites of passage. Common food ingredients present real risk, requiring them to sit out on fun activities that all the other kids get to do. As the parent of a food allergic child, a little extra time can make sure that your son or daughter feels included in normal childhood activities. CNN recently outlined some ways parents are doing exactly that (http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/07/18/food.allergies/).
With food allergies becoming more common among young children – an estimated 8 percent of U.S. kids under 18 suffer from at least one food allergy – more parents find themselves managing food allergies, which goes far beyond medical care in the event of a reaction.
Dr. Clifford Bassett, a New York City allergist, says “It’s a whole lifestyle for the food allergy patient.” Seeking out allergen-free foods and diligently reading the labels of everything eaten takes a lot of time. Though it may be easier to forbid your allergic child from eating cookies and cakes – they aren’t necessities, after all – it’s tough to sit on the sidelines when your child wants something that all of their friends have. It becomes a true quality of life issue.
Gina Clowes, whose son has a list of food allergies including milk, egg, wheat, and peanuts, says “ You want to nurture your child the emotional side, so a lot of times you’re the one who’s bringing in the treat for the entire classroom. You’re the one who’s bringing the snack for playgroup” to ensure that it’s allergen-free. She estimates that she spends twice as much on food than she would if food allergies weren’t a concern. To throw a birthday party, she must seek out special cake mix, dairy-free milk and margarine, and allergen-free ice cream.
Other parents take time off work to keep an eye on their child at school to make sure that they don’t ingest allergens. Kari Keaton, whose son Daniel is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and soy, made the major lifestyle adjustment of quitting her job to attend preschool and elementary school with him every day.