Being a mom of two preschoolers definitely keeps you on your toes (it’ll be fun, they said). But being a mom of two preschoolers who are picky eaters with severe food allergies is, at times, brain wrecking!
My son, Jovani, is 5 years old and he is allergic to several things including
- dairy (his worst allergy),
- and peanuts.
My daughter, Milan, is 3 years old and she is allergic to
- peanuts (her worst allergy),
- and wheat.
Yes, I know – that’s a lot of allergies. It’s also a lot of label reading and separate food prepping.
And trust me – if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, “Wow! They’re allergic to everything. So, what do you feed them?!” … I’d be rich.
After doing this for the last five years with my little ones, it has gotten so much easier figuring out what they can and cannot eat. For the most part, cooking fresh is always the safest way to go.
My biggest worry is sending them out into the world with their food allergies and the people around them not helping them fast enough.
I’ve never felt so much fear and hopelessness in my life until the day I had to use the EpiPen Jr. on my son. We were packing up our house to move across the country to PCS to a new military installation and his personal cup was already packed. So, he grabbed his sister’s cup that was filled with regular cow’s milk and drank the WHOLE thing.
His skin broke into hives, his face was swelling, and he had trouble breathing. I panicked and started freaking out. My first thought was to rush to the emergency room, but we kept an EpiPen in the car and my husband told me to use it first.
We had to rush him to the emergency room immediately after; where I was told he was going into anaphylactic shock (if not treated immediately, can result to respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest and death). They gave him another shot of epinephrine and when the symptoms came back again, he had to be airlifted to the closest children’s hospital. My then 3 year old son grabbed my hand and said, “Mommy, I don’t want to die.” I cried so much that night. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone.
My Tips for Raising Children With Severe Food Allergies
- Educate yourself. Learn about identifying the symptoms. Learn about food alternatives. Searching the grocery isles after the first diagnosis will seem very overwhelming, but it will get easier. There are plenty of websites with great information and resources like keychains and stickers for your child with their allergies listed and printable lists of alternatives. A few websites that I visited during our journey are the Food Allergy Research & Education® (FARE) website, the Kids With Food Allergies website, and blogs like
- Educate everyone who has to be around your child. Believe it or not, I have had a daycare worker give my son a full cheese stick because she thought dairy only meant milk. That was another trip to the ER and another cancelled daycare contract. Make sure everyone who babysits or cares for your children knows what your child is allergic to and alternatives to give them. Don’t assume that everyone knows or will be as careful about labels as you are.
- Use allergy-friendly products. I LOVEEEE finding new brands that sell allergy-friendly products. My favorite allergy-friendly brands are Enjoy Life Foods (my kids love their cookies and chocolate bars) and Ian’s Natural Foods (they have chicken nuggets, alpha-tots, pizza, and more). We also love Van’s Foods. Gluten free, dairy free, and egg free waffles? Yes please! Although my baby girl can’t eat their waffles because of the soy, my son loves them.
- Explain it to your little one. After we had that big scare and my son was air lifted to another hospital, he kept asking what did he do wrong. We had to explain to him that he accidentally drank the “bad milk” and showed him pictures of all that he’s allergic to. Now whenever he sees anyone with something that him or his sister can’t have, he’s able to say “No, thank you. We’re allergic to that.” It will be hard for them to see their friends with cupcakes and ice cream, but they’ll learn that those things aren’t safe for them eventually.
- Keep hope alive. If you’re one of the lucky parents like me whose children were diagnosed with their food allergies as a baby, there is a possibility that your little one could outgrow some of their allergies. I try to get my little ones retested every year and so far, my son is no longer as allergic to wheat as he was as a baby. To be on the safe side, though, I still give him gluten free products since his sister can’t have it.
Raising children in this modern society is tough as it is, and adding the worry of your children’s severe food allergies can be scary… But it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of parents on this journey just like us. Find an online community or local group that encourages you and shares food allergy tips. Focus on what your child CAN have rather than what they can’t have, and be the best parent you can be.