The Mighty Logo

What I Want You to Teach Your Children About People With Food Allergies

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I lie here, weeks before major surgery, worried what would happen to my kids if something goes terribly wrong. My husband is wonderful and quite capable, but they need their Mama, their food allergy warrior. I have trouble drifting off to sleep. I dream of a good outcome. I dream of hugging my children after surgery, letting them know everything will be OK.

My kids both have life-threatening food allergies. I don’t just worry about the normal things parents worry about. I worry every single time they eat or drink something. That’s every single day. Every single bite. Every single sip.

It’s an endless amount of fear and anxiety that you face, an endless fight to figure out how to keep them safe. A fight, like many others, that you cannot possibly understand unless you’re going through it yourself.

I also have food allergies, as does my husband, but we never took them seriously until our precious children got them. You learn to adapt and educate yourself very quickly when your children’s lives are at stake. 

You’re surprised to learn that only a very small amount of their allergen can kill them. 

Now let that sink in.

A few tiny particles of food can kill your child.

How would you feel if you got this news?

It is a daily battle of preparing many homemade foods, reading labels, calling food companies to verify whether or not cross-contamination exists in their factories, making sure your kids are included and safe and protecting them from bullies (adult and child) they may encounter in person or online.

It’s a battle I wish we didn’t have to face. It’s a battle I wish none of you had to face. But the reality is that many of you will someday. One in 13 children currently have food allergies, according to Food Allergy Research & Education. It’s something we all need to participate in and be prepared for.

Even with the prevalence of food allergies, many still don’t understand the dangers involved or don’t even care to try to.

Because it doesn’t affect them.

Many still view food allergies as something that’s OK to make jokes about. They ridicule those afflicted or even bully children or the parents of kids who suffer. Food allergies affect a person’s ability to eat, drink, breathe, thrive and survive. It’s not something to joke about.

I worry about the struggles my children will face trying to stay alive every single day when there are so many things that could harm them. Everyday things such as food, drinks, lotions, shampoos, peanuts or other allergens on airplanes, events, parties and even dental visits could wind up becoming life-threatening due to certain hidden ingredients.

I haven’t had enough time to educate my young children on how to stay safe. As I prepare to have surgery, I pray I will get more time to continue that education. I pray I will be able to supply them with enough knowledge to lead healthy, productive and happy lives.

I also hope anyone reading this will try to put themselves in my shoes. What would you do to keep your children safe? I believe the answer would be — anything! 

So please understand that food allergies are real, serious and life-threatening. Food allergy families are only trying to protect their children from harm.

Be compassionate and helpful to these parents and any parents handling any type of disability or challenge. 

Teach your children that bullying because someone has food allergies, or for any other reason, is unacceptable.

Lead by example.

Don’t bully or joke about those with food allergies or other disabilities, and maybe your children will grow up to be kind, empathetic people.

It all starts with you and how you treat people. 

Treat them well.

Remember, we’re all in this together. We’re all facing challenges with something.

As I prepare to have surgery, I pray this message will reach many. I pray my children will survive and thrive no matter what happens. I pray I will be OK and wake up from anesthesia to a more tolerant and humane world.

Please help this dream become a reality.

Originally published: July 8, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home