My Thanksgiving Wish as a Mother of a Child With Food Allergies
It’s hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is almost here. Families will gather, food will be consumed and spirits will be both raised and enjoyed.
Many people will share blessings, say prayers and talk about what they are thankful for.
This year, I am thankful for family and friends, as usual, but I am also thankful that my son survived his first year after being diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies.
It’s the kind of diagnosis that people dread. On the one hand, you’re grateful it’s not a life-threatening disease, but on the other hand, you know deep down that it is in fact life-threatening.
One bite of my son’s allergens could kill him. My son, who will forever be my little turkey-bib-wearing cutie pie.
What many people don’t know is that it can only takes a tiny amount of an allergen to harm or kill someone with food allergies. While the law requires a warning label for the top eight food allergens (tree nuts, peanuts, soy, dairy, fish, shellfish, egg and wheat), it does not require that foods be labeled for shared factory equipment or shared facilities.
Sometimes cross-contamination may occur at these factories, and this can be harmful or fatal. These top eight allergens are the cause of 90 percent of all food allergic reactions. But there are many more foods that people can be allergic to, including sesame, one of my son’s life-threatening allergens.
People with food allergies can also be harmed by a small amount of their allergens being spread at school, on a plane, at sporting events or at a Thanksgiving get-together.
Unfortunately, I’ve read many stories of beautiful children dying from small amounts of their allergens hidden in common foods or by touching a surface containing their allergen. It’s hard to estimate how many food-allergy-related deaths there are, but it’s not hard to see that one death from food allergies is enough.
No Nuts Moms Group has a list of some of the faces and names lost to food allergies. They had families who loved them, they all deserved to live longer lives. Please take a moment and look at their faces, and read their names.
Now imagine your child has food allergies. Imagine them never coming home again for a Thanksgiving meal.
This is a reality food allergy families face every single day. Even though we read labels, do research, educate our children and their caregivers, mistakes can easily be made. Though we know a lot, we can never know enough. There are too many things we can’t see or predict that can harm our children. This is a reality for any parent, but it’s increased exponentially for food allergy parents.
I know so much more about food allergies now that my 5-year-old son has them. I did not have any idea about how hard it is to keep children with food allergies safe. I had no idea how easy it was for food or particles from food to harm them. I thought they had to eat a lot of their allergens to suffer anaphylaxis, but I was wrong. Even though I also suffer from a life-threatening food allergy to shellfish, I was uneducated on the subject. I’m lucky I survived anaphylactic shock at age 28. I’m lucky never to have experienced it again.
But despite all of this, I’ve never been mean or not shown compassion to someone with food allergies. I’ve never called them names. I’ve never called them a liar. I’ve never harmed or bullied them.
Unfortunately, many people have. Many children are bullied at school or after school. Many are ridiculed or abused on social media regarding food allergies.
When did it become socially acceptable to make fun of people who have food allergies? When did it become OK to mock those who could die from a severe allergic reaction? I’m here to tell you that it’s not OK.
We have a long way to go as a society. Everyone deserves to be included, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
Here is my Thanksgiving wish:
All of us have issues and difficulties we deal with on a daily basis, some more than others. I believe all of us are flying through life on broken wings, walking on difficult tracks that are sometimes laced with pain and driving through rough terrain. Do we really have to make it worse for one another?
My wish is that we will not continue to.
My wish is that we will try to help others more, and when they tell us they have a life-threatening food allergy or disease, we will believe them, and we will do whatever it takes to keep them safe or comfortable. We will make their journey better and full of love.
Because a world like that would sure be something to be thankful for.
Follow this journey on Nuts About My Son.
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