This is not easy to write. To prepare for this post, I’ve had to remember some of the scariest times we’ve had with food allergies. Knowing that things I did (even though they were accidents) may have caused these situations, makes my heart ache. The mom guilt is real. And exposing my incompetence to the world is even harder. Luckily, my daughter’s reactions were mild, but I don’t know what I would’ve done if my daughter would have had full-blown anaphylaxis (and even thinking of that is too difficult). Let’s just say I’m SO THANKFUL that all the situations turned out well and we can now just call these situations learning experiences.
Whether your LO has been newly diagnosed, or you’ve been at this a few years, I hope this post helps you. And please know, I don’t write this to scare you. I'm hoping to show you that nobody's perfect (especially not me!) and to make you aware so you can learn from my mistakes! So here goes.
5 Mistakes I’ve Made as a Food Allergy Mom
1. Allowing my daughter to have a food with a “may contain” statement on the label. This happened early in our food allergy journey. At the time, we were unsure whether the companies using “may contain” statements were “covering their butt”, or if we really had to worry. Well, when my daughter had a reaction of swelling on her face and hives, we realized quickly that “may contain” statements could actually contain what they say they do. In fact, just after this incident, I ate a cereal which had a “may contain almonds” statement. When I poured the cereal into the bowl, what did I find? A WHOLE almond. Yes, that cereal contained almond, even though it only said: “may contain almonds”. After these two incidences, I’ve never allowed my daughter to have anything with a “may contain her allergen statement" again. I know that if the company goes to the extent of putting this statement on the product, don’t take it lightly.
2. Not knowing the symptoms of anaphylaxis and delaying action. When my daughter was 3, we went to a friend's house for a playdate. This mom knew of my daughter’s allergies. My daughter and her friend were in the playroom. About an hour into the playdate, my daughter came to me with her WHOLE side of her face swollen. Especially around her eye and going all the way down to her mouth. She wouldn't talk to me. My first thought was that she hit her head, but she wasn’t crying and there was no bang, so I just couldn’t figure it out. The other mom said to me “Oh no, my kids ate peanut butter in there yesterday”. Now I started to panic. I knew this could be a reaction, but honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was or what to do. We left the playdate and I went home and gave my daughter the antihistamine prescribed by our Allergist. After a tense morning, the swelling went down, but as I look back on this situation, I think I was afraid to use the EpiPen. I kept stalling and ALL THAT TIME PASSED from when we left the playdate to driving home, to waiting for the antihistamine to work. Which is why I now refer to my daughter’s Emergency Plan (which I’ve gone over with her Doctor), so whenever we suspect a reaction, we know EXACTLY what to do, and we don’t doubt ourselves or wonder if it’s actually severe enough to use the EpiPen.
3. Being lazy about reading labels. I’m usually pretty good about reading labels, but there are times when I might be overtired or feeling lazy because I’m buying a product that we’ve bought several times before. This happened to me a couple years ago with pita bread. I bought the same brand I always bought so I skipped reading the label at the store. It wasn’t until I was home that I realized the label had changed and it now had a “may contain tree nuts” statement. At the time I didn’t realize that product formulations, manufacturing plants and production lines can change at any time. It all depends on the company’s needs, which will change if an ingredient becomes difficult to source or they need to use a different production facility due to demand. Now I read labels EACH time I shop. Then re-read before I store the food and again before I cook the food in case I missed anything the first time.
4. Assume a product won’t have an allergen in it because it doesn’t seem likely. This was actually my hubby’s mistake, but it’s definitely something anybody can do and a learning experience for both of us. We were lucky in this situation because the mistake was missing wheat in a pack of Twizzlers. Lucky for us, my daughter is only gluten intolerant and doesn’t have a severe allergy to wheat, so it wasn’t life-threatening. But it goes to show that you need to read the label every time, even when you don’t think you do. For example, did you know deli meat could be contaminated with dairy because they may use the same slicer for meat & cheese? OR that store bakery items may be contaminated with nuts? OR that those "may contain" statements we talked about in #1 about are not regulated or required to be put on a product in Canada? The same goes for food cooked in our friend's and family's homes where the allergen is present. Because of this, we've learned to always read labels. Not only that, if we're EVER unsure of a company OR if there could be chances of cross-contact between foods, we contact the company directly before giving the food to our daughter. We also make sure that friends & family know how to cook safely for the food allergy, or we bring our own food or make other accommodations.
5. Take the wrong coat after a birthday party. This happened only last year. My daughter had the same coat as another child at a birthday party. It was a cold day and my daughter had the zipper done all the way up and the coat was one of those warm and cosy ones that went all the way to her nose. When we got back to the car my LO mentioned that her face was itchy. Sure enough, we looked and found a couple of hives on her face. It took awhile to figure it out, but she had the wrong coat. Obviously, the child who owned the coat had eaten peanut butter or some sort of nuts and got them onto her coat. Needless to say, as soon as we figured it out, we traded coats with my other daughter and hightailed it home to do laundry. Now we always make sure to label our daughter’s coat & take the right one at the end of a birthday party.
Have you had food allergy mom mistakes or learning experiences that aren't too scary to post? Share with us in the comments.