Until my daughter was diagnosed with a food allergy about 7 years ago, I never really thought about them. I don’t even think I knew what anaphylaxis was. Now, I think about food allergies almost every day, and not just hers. Just like anything that rocks your world, an allergy can open up your mind, make you more compassionate, and teach you a lot. You always get a choice in how you think about things, you can be discouraged and disheartened, or you can become empowered and learn to be a stronger person. So here are some of the top things I’ve learned over the years since dealing with food allergies, and it’s not all the scientific end of it either.
• Compassion. You never know what someone else is dealing with. Just as I have had struggles dealing with a food allergy in my family, other people are always dealing with something, too. And it may be a lot worse than what I have on my plate.
• People want to help. People will go out of their way to help whether it’s providing special snacks or reading labels over the phone. Take the kindness and if you still need to adapt, do so, but be appreciative nonetheless.
• Ignore a lot of it. Just as people want to help, they’ll try to hard or make bad suggestions. Ignore it, they mean well.
• Advocate when you can. Often people need to learn about food allergies, be it teachers, other parents or your child’s grandparents. Do it as a teacher would, with patience but assertiveness. I learned I am my child’s best advocate, be it allergies or anything else.
• Don’t talk about it all of the time. No one wants to hear about someone else’s problems all of the time. Talk about it when it’s appropriate, but know that is always isn’t so.
• Teach your child empowerment. You can’t be with your child all the time. Even if you can now, he will grow up. Teach him how to be safe on his own.
• Have a sense of humor. If nothing else, I know this! Everything is easy if you can laugh about it. No, allergies are not always funny, but learn to laugh. Often the alternative is crying, so make the choice that will keep you happier.
• There are yummy alternatives. With so many allergies prevalent now, there are usually some pretty good alternatives out there.
• There are worse things than allergies. Yes, allergies are tough, be it food, hay fever, bee stings, penicillin, whatever it may be. My child could have been diagnosed with things much worse than a tree nut allergy, some I can’t even think about. If this is the worse thing we have to deal with, we are blessed.