I was gutted to tears when I read a recent New York Times article about a 3 year old boy who died after being (irresponsibly) given a grilled cheese sandwich at preschool. He was severely allergic to dairy and died from anaphylactic shock.
Aside from the glaring reality that food allergies can be LIFE THREATENING, I am feeling validated in my inflexibility when it comes to protecting my child from adverse reactions to food.
On that note, here are the top 5 ways I help support my child in living a thriving life, despite her allergies & restrictions around food :
SELF ADVOCACY :
I have drilled into Arizona’s head, over and over, the seriousness of eating foods that are “not good for her body.” She knows, now, to ask me every single time if she can eat something she’s unfamiliar with. Although processed foods are few and far between in her diet; there are occasions where she has to read through a list of ingredients to determine whether she can partake of a certain food. She feels empowered by being part of the process.
It is my job as a parent advocate to enlighten everyone about Arizona’s food allergies including possibilities and risk for cross contamination. I write notes to Arizona’s therapists, spend time talking to her classmates about the importance of food allergy awareness, talk to my friends & family about the importance of keeping Arizona’s contact to allergens at a minimum, prep visits to other’s homes ahead of time, bring Arizona friendly snacks everywhere we go and make sure she has her own set of cookware & utensils for food preparation when we make trips out of town.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HAND WASHING :
One of the most important interventions for avoiding allergic reactions to foods : hand washing! When you are in a household or proximity of someone who has reactions to certain foods, washing hands after touching allergens can be highly effective. I had to teach my friends and family to wash their hands thoroughly after touching cheese, cracking open eggs and popping nut snacks into their mouth.
DIET POWER :
It’s not so fun to be told, all the time, about the things you CAN’T eat. So, I try to empower Arizona with all of the fun benefits to her healthy eating options. Understanding how certain foods can make Arizona’s body stronger, more focused and boost her mood make eating them even more compelling.
FOOD IS MEDICINE :
Lastly, and most importantly, food is medicine. Our bodies, regardless of allergies or intolerances, will thrive when we are putting the healthiest options in them. I practice eating healthy foods for my body as a model for Arizona to witness. We talk about living long and healthy lives together!