Mitch's dermatitis began when he was around four months old, and even though we as parents knew he had food allergies, it took us three long months to convince just one of his three specialists that food allergies were the cause of his dermatitis. Even to this day, two of his dermatologists still refuse to acknowledge the relationship between his food allergies and his dermatitis, even though we have proven it. This is the reason why managing food allergies through education and advocacy is so important.
Managing Food Allergies through Education and Advocacy
The First Step is to Educate Others and Yourself
Now that we know what his food allergies are and how he reacts, it is our jobs as his parents to be his advocate and educate family, friends, and anyone who comes in contact with him, because food avoidance is the only real cure.
Before you can educate others, you need to educate yourself. There are many sites around the web that offer downloadable ‘cheat sheets' to help you read labels and identify the hidden names allergens hide under. I actually carry two lists for each allergen from two different sites (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and Kids with Food Allergies Foundation), because each list is slightly different and includes different ‘hidden' allergens. I carry these sheets in my wallet and literally sit and read labels every time I shop now. Yes, it is a daunting task and has doubled my grocery shopping time, but keeping my baby healthy is worth it.
Don't be afraid to be an advocate.
You may find yourself in situations where you hesitate to speak up about your child's food allergies. Maybe you don't want to offend someone or maybe you feel as though the person caring for your child is educated/trained in a manner to care for your child without your interference. Don't let these feeling or concerns stop you from being your child's advocate.
In a recent hospitalization for our baby, doctors initially unaware of his food allergies attempted to give him Atrovent which is known to contain peanut and soy, two of his many allergens. Though his chart clearly stated his food allergies, he was also served a grilled cheese sandwich with green beans, scrambled eggs, creamed rice and mashed potatoes which all contained one or more of his allergens. Having the confidence to be my child's advocate, even to trained health care professionals, saved my baby from the complications of an allergic reaction.
Having a food allergy child is challenging, but with a little education and confidence managing food allergies is possible allowing many children to survive and thrive with this condition.