The Emotional Roller Coaster of Life With Food Allergies :: The Reality {Part 1}

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Emotional Roller Coaster of Life with Food Allergies - Pre-Peanut Butter
Happy boy eating a graham cracker, before Momma decided to add a little peanut butter

Being a mom is never easy. There is always mom guilt and wondering if you are doing it right. Throw in a potentially life-threatening medical condition, like food allergies, and get ready for a roller coaster of emotions.

The Diagnosis

No one ever wants to hear, “Your child is allergic to peanuts. You will need to have EpiPens with him at all times.” What does that even mean? No one in our family has food allergies. I eat peanuts all the time. How did this happen? I ate peanuts during pregnancy, during nursing, and pretty much every night on my ice cream.

Emotional Roller Coaster of Life with Food Allergies - Post-Peanut Butter
After Benadryl, eye flushing under the bathtub faucet, and a dry shirt

I remember when I suspected my son was allergic to peanuts, my husband said, “He can’t be. Peanuts are in everything.” Well yes, peanuts do seem to be in everything. However, that doesn’t change the fact that when I gave him peanut butter at 18 months, he rubbed it in his eye and his eye started swelling and itching uncontrollably. THANK GOODNESS HE DID NOT ACTUALLY EAT any of the stuff.

Fortunately, my husband’s denial ended as soon as he saw the huge welt on our son’s back when we had him officially tested. We had driven separately to the allergist’s office because he was supposed to be going into the office after the appointment. I was still planning to head straight home, until my husband said, “I’ll meet you at the pharmacy to get his EpiPens.” Although I was not in denial about the allergy, I did not yet understand the gravity of the diagnosis.

Understanding the Reality

Fast forward a few months: in doing a Google search, I happened upon some online support groups for families managing food allergies. It was in one of these groups that I realized the severity of a peanut allergy diagnosis. I came across a thread involving a mom who was stressed out from dealing with her child’s school, and she commented that it was too hard and she just didn’t want to deal with it.

I will never forget the comment of another mom trying to encourage this overwhelmed mom. She said, “You can do it. You have to. Just imagine waking up one morning and your son not being there anymore. Dealing with the school cannot be that hard.”

What!?! What is she talking about? Him not being there? He could die at school, what?!!? I became obsessed with educating myself about food allergies. Yes, I knew the EpiPen was prescribed because a severe reaction could cause airway swelling. I am not an idiot. Logically, airway swelling, if not treated, can lead to death. But until reading that post, I had not let myself go there. Now that I was there, I still did not understand how people were actually dying from food allergies, until I came across a page on the No Nuts Moms Group website.

Remembering Those We Have Lost to Food Allergies 

This page shares story after story of children and adults who have lost their lives to food-induced anaphylaxis. Here is where I learned how REAL PEOPLE DIE from food allergies. The child was treated for asthma instead of anaphylaxis, or his EpiPens were left in the car or at home. The EpiPens were in the student’s locker, not the office where she was when school staff finally realized she was experiencing anaphylaxis. In the past, the child had responded to Benadryl and never needed his EpiPen before. Based on this history, the family gave Benadryl and it wasn’t enough. Possibly the most scary for a food allergy mom to read, the child whose father had multiple EpiPens available, and treated her appropriately. However, the reaction was so severe that three, yes THREE, EpiPens just weren’t enough.

“Unfortunately, food allergy deaths do occur, even among persons with a history of mild reactions in the past.”  http://www.foodallergyawareness.org/foodallergy/.

The truly terrifying discovery is that deaths from food allergy-induced anaphylaxis continue to happen. If you follow a food allergy page on Facebook, with each death the story is shared, followed by the questions: How did this happen? How could this have been prevented? Then, there is mourning by a community of strangers for a family they have never met because the reality is that this could one day be their child…your child.

Note from Birmingham Moms Blog: We’re grateful to our writers who are raising awareness about the potentially life-threatening medical condition of food allergies. Read Part 2 of Amy’s journey tomorrow as she shares how food allergies have changed their way of life. 

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Amy, originally from Maryland, met her husband shortly after moving to Auburn for graduate school in 2000. The two have been together since first meeting, getting married in 2004, and now live in Chelsea with their two boys, ages 8 & 6. Amy's step-daughter, 19, is studying at Vanderbilt. Pre-kids, Amy worked in Property Management but quickly turned SAHM after the birth of her first child. The family manages multiple food allergies and Celiac Disease. Seeing a need for connection and support for local families living with food allergies, she started the local support group, The No Nuts Moms Group of Birmingham, a chapter of the national, No Nuts Moms Group. Amy also home-schools her sons, and is on a quest for organization and minimalism. She enjoys being in nature and camping trips with the family as well as reading and writing about all things motherhood.