WHEN FOOD ALLERGIES EFFECT THE NON-ALLERGIC
When I started writing several months ago, I had little plans in mind. I knew I wanted to write about Molly and our struggles with her Sensory Processing Disorder because it takes up most of our energy every day. I wanted to include our journey with food allergies as well because they definitely play a roll in our family dynamic. Sometimes the food allergies are why I am going insane. I mean who wants to bake cupcakes every time you go to a birthday party?? What I didn’t expect is that people would read what I wrote and change their behaviors. Seriously, I am humbled. In the past 18 months our lives got turned upside down, but in the journey I have seen how our family has effected other people. I have witnessed a 4 year old hold off on taking peanut butter and jelly to his new school because he wanted to find out if any of his new friends were allergic. A 4 year old that put someone else first, that’s amazing to me. Moms have come to me and asked about taking snacks to public places and told me that they are now conscience of how their children eat on public spaces such as playgrounds. I’ve had educators reach out to me and ask about safe classroom snacks for special occasions or parties. I had no idea that Charlie and our family would raise that much awareness, I don’t think I could ever express how touched I am by people’s concern for Charlie and other children like him. I wanted to find an easy way to help those that don’t have food allergies and want be considerate of those that do. So I put together a list of what do when food allergies effect others.
1. Ask the mom. If there is a child attending a party or in a class that has a food allergy, reach out to the parents. We are more than willing to help and answer any questions you may have. But don’t ask Stampy. He told a Charlie’s classroom parents that home baked goods are ok to serve. It will be years before I let him talk again to other parents. Other than Stampy, we can tell you what food could be avoided and food alternatives could be served.
2. Eat where you eat, not where you play. If you are at a public venue such as a playground, story time or a pool and you want to have a snack then sit and eat, clean up and return to play. Easiest way to avoid an accidental contamination.
3. Read labels. If a food contains an allergen it will be listed. This gets tough when allergens can come listed in many forms. A gluten allergy for example has to read for many types of grains and even “malt” so it does get complicated. Occasionally, food companies are nice and will list the allergen content separately. For cross contamination, I usually will pick up several packages from a similar manufacturer to see if it has a “may contain” allergen statement. If it does and your package doesn’t, you can be pretty certain that your food will not have cross contamination issues.
4. Save the packages for the parent. Honestly, I do not have all labels memorized. I barely have my name memorized most days. I read labels every time I go to the store to make sure ingredients or manufacturing methods haven’t changed so I wouldn’t even trust my memory if it worked.
5. Use clean surfaces, dishes and utensils when preparing food and keep prepared food separate. This may sound like a no-brainer, but not everyone wipes down their counter tops 24-7. I know I don’t. But I have a nut-free kitchen. If I had to cook for a milk or wheat allergic child, I would need to scrub my counter tops down first.
6. Be understanding. When a parent of a food allergy child still wants to provide their own food even when you’ve taken the allergy into consideration, don’t be offended. It’s not that we don’t trust you, but we don’t. There’s a lot at stake with one simple mistake and it’s a mistake even we can make.
As a parent we are always trying to protect our children and it’s nice to know that I have friends helping to protect mine.