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Food allergies tricky for mom

4/09/2011 11:57:48 AM

It used to be that food allergies were practically unheard of.

Growing up, peanut butter sandwiches on the playground were standard. If someone had suggested that a child have a peanut allergy, the other adults would have assumed that his mother was a little wonky and made the whole thing up.

That’s not the case these days. Entire classrooms are peanut-free. Teachers are asked to offer treats without Red Dye 40. National restaurant chains have gluten-free menus. Any fast food joint worth its salt has an online listing of potential allergens for every one of its food products.
Some 12 million Americans — roughly 4 percent — have food allergies, according to The Food Allergy and Anaphylactic Network.

Still, for the vast majority of Americans, food allergies remain a bit of a mystery. Most of us know someone with a food allergy, but we don’t truly understand the ins-and-outs of their diet. We don’t know the limitations on what they can eat.

And sadly, few people even try to figure it out.

Being a child with a food allergy can be a lonely place. No one wants to be left out — but starting at an early age, children with food allergies learn pretty quickly that they’re different from the other kids.

They go to birthday parties and can’t eat the cake. They go trick-or-treating, only to have mom take half of the candy away as soon as they get home. They watch other children enjoy a treat in Sunday School, not sure why they weren’t offered the same snack.

As the mother of a child who can’t eat dairy, I find myself making special efforts to keep my girl included. I sneak a dairy-free cookie into my purse before church each week — just in case she spots other kids eating the free cookies in the church lobby that day. I bring special snacks to playdates and won’t step foot in restaurants that don’t have menu options for her.

Still, I have to say “no” sometimes, even when the other kids hear “yes.” It’s a fact of life for children with food allergies, but one that is particularly tough before they are old enough to truly understand the reason.

That’s why, as a mother, it warms my heart when someone asks for advice on making a gluten-free birthday cake or a dairy-free meal — just so that they can include another child in their special celebration.

Certainly, no parent expects a hostess to go out of her way to make different food for their allergic child. But it shows a certain level of care and concern when someone willingly does so.

The fact is, our world is filled with special diets these days. It doesn’t help anyone when parents complain about sending peanut-free treats to school or when they knowingly break an allergen-free rule.

No one is being asked to walk over hot coals here — only to take a precaution that could save someone’s life. I’m certain the parent of an allergic child wishes they could be so fortunate as to only have to read ingredient labels before sending a treat to school — not for every meal, every day.

Children in particular haven’t learned the discretion needed to decide if a food is safe to eat. If an adult gives it to them, they assume it is. They might not even feel symptoms coming on until it’s too late.

It’s up to us — the parents who pack lunches and throw birthday parties, the adults who invite children to our gatherings — to be considerate of their needs. At minimum, we need to keep their safety in mind.

But we could take it a step further, and show a deeper level of consideration, by simply asking a few questions and thinking outside of our regular recipe box.

In the end, it’s really not much to ask. And that small act of kindness will stand out for a long time to come.

Tags:  online grocery shoppingbuy food onlineonline groceriesrecipesfood recipefood recipes

SRC: http://www.rrstar.com/updates/x816853582/Elizabeth-Davies-Food-allergies-pose-problems-for-mom


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