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6 Concerns I Have as a Food Allergy Mom During the Holidays

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For many of us food allergy parents, the holiday season can be overwhelming. We work hard to find our grooves, brands and habits that make life work smoothly for us. What was once mysterious and nerve racking, is now the norm. I read fewer labels, I interrogate fewer babysitters and teachers. Before you wonder what kind of allergy mom I am, just know that this level of chill is only achieved by hard work to create a very aware village for our allergy kid (and always sending her with snacks, because deep, deep down I trust no one). However, the winter holidays tend to raise the general threat level to defcon 2. We have legitimate concerns:

1. Casserole season is terrifying. Everyone begins toting around their prize casseroles, family recipes, bake sale finds, etc. Who knows what’s in it? Half the time people have no clue, “Oh, it’s such and such. They don’t put egg in that.” I don’t really care if this offends you — I will not take your word for it. Just hand me the box or tell me the recipe. Many people tend to be mistaken about ingredients, I’m more than happy to verify.

2. My allergy kid is 2. Do you know what most parents of 2-year-olds are doing? They are teaching their children to share. In our family we teach that we do not share food, and we do not ask people for their food. It’s a work in progress — this is where the intentionality with our village comes in. You will hear me announce “watch your plates!” Our 2-year-old is sneaky and too young to fully understand what egg would do to her.

3. Similar to the first point, food prep is a concern. Did you touch my egg free dish with a used utensil without washing it? Yep, we’re that careful. I may or may not have a need to explain factories, or shared lines, and why some brands are egg free and safe, and some are not, etc. Just know I try to make reasonable requests. If you are uncomfortable, I can create signs or create a buffet buffer to avoid such an error.

4. Candy. By now many people are aware of The Teal Pumpkin Project, but we all know that children are given candy year round. Not all individually wrapped pieces have allergy warnings on them, we have to do our research. At large gatherings I find it easier to simplify it and pre approve one treat.

5. Allergic reactions. Some people are nervous about watching kids like mine; even my best friend is. Here’s the deal — we live in two realities. A) Everything goes according to plan and no one needs their action plan, or B) An accident happens and we need to use our action plan. I will never be comfortable with anaphylaxis, but accepting its place in our story gives me permission to relax a little — just enough to make memories.

6. I don’t find it funny to joke about feeding my allergy child the food they are allergic to. Some of you may be shocked to hear that this has happened many times. We aren’t overprotective. Our little one isn’t missing out. “Just a little” is all it takes for a reaction, so no, “just a little won’t hurt” does not apply here. Have you ever held a child gasping for air? Have you held a screaming child as they passed bloody stools? Have you pulled all nighters with a baby covered in hives? There are so many other things we can joke and laugh about… leave my child’s health out of this.

It may not comfort all allergy parents, but for me, I walk into large gatherings and repeat to myself, “We have an epipen for emergencies… try to enjoy yourself.”

Every allergy family is different, with different concerns. If casserole season sounds bad, don’t even get me started with Easter. An egg allergy at Easter is like wearing red at the running of the bulls. So we take precautions. You may or may not see our precautions, and you may or may not be comfortable with our approach. Please feel free to communicate with us. We have regular visits with our allergist, so we will update you if our rules change.

These holiday parties, though they come with some risk, will be a great joy that we remember for years to come. Raising your awareness makes you a valuable part of our village, and an integral part of helping me relax a little so I can enjoy our time together.

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Getty image by Rayes

Originally published: December 11, 2017
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