What to Expect When You Befriend a Food Allergy Mom

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May is Food Allergy Action Month/Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month. To be more specific, this week is Food Allergy Awareness Week. These two causes are very near and dear to my family’s heart. You see, I am a Food Allergy mom. I’ve been a card carrying member since January 21, 2014. My son, Theo, is ANA to PN, and allergic to TN and whey (don’t worry–these abbreviations will be defined in a moment). To say the least, it’s not fun, but we know people who have to deal with all of the top 8 allergens or even random ones like chicken, pork, watermelon, banana, etc., so really it could be worse.

Image courtesy of FARE

This time of year I always read Food Allergy blog posts that describe the day someone almost unknowingly killed their child (it is our personal day of infamy if you have an ANA child), posts that describe the battles between the food allergy parent vs schools/insensitive people/airlines etc. Chances are if it has been posted, I have read it, and I have probably shared it in my Facebook newsfeed. While I can completely identify with all of those topics, I thought I would share what it’s like to befriend a mom like me. We have really been SO LUCKY with the friendships we have, new and old, and the VILLAGE that has been created within our circles of friends that has ultimately been created to keep ONE CHILD SAFE and HAPPY. OUR ONLY CHILD SAFE. 

I totally didn’t research this part (i.e. ask my friends how they see me) but…let’s just go with this whole me bearing my FA mom soul…

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU BEFRIEND A FOOD ALLERGY MOM…

  • I will immediately tell you of my child’s food allergy. If this friendship is going to happen, we gotta be open and honest with each other. If I tell you that my kid is ANA to peanuts and tree nuts and you tell me your kid lives off PB&J, like it’s every meal, then we need to decide whether or not this friendship is going to go anywhere. I don’t expect anyone to change their life just to hangout with us. But I want people to know what they are getting themselves into and if it’s too overwhelming then hey, no offense taken. I get it. I go in and out of being overwhelmed with this all of the time.
  • I will use food allergy lingo and terms and you will soon learn it too. FA = food allergy, ANA = anaphylaxis, EPI = epinephrine pens, FRIO bag = my epi pen holder that keeps the epi pens at the right temp to prevent overheating/spoilage, SAFE = foods that are free of my son’s allergens; also made in a facility that is free from CC, CC = cross contamination, PN = peanut, TN= tree nut.
  • I will have a large bag/purse with me always. The bigger the better. The more of my FA mom arsenal I can carry, the more equipped I feel to handle any situation that we may come into.
  • In that bag will be a massive supply of essentials/first aid with me wherever I go: Wet Wipes and baby wipes, one or two sets of epi-pens (depending on the situation/location of where we are going and the likelihood of an allergic reaction), a travel dose of emergency Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, a handful of safe snack alternatives for my child, a water bottle, safe suckers (you just never know – also used for bribery). So if any other FA moms need anything for your kid, just ask!
  • I will unfortunately most likely always be late to things because a) I have to replenish my FA mom arsenal or b) I ran out the door and forgot epi pens or c) I forgot to give my child his daily antihistamine (because seasonal/outdoor allergies in general) so I had to turn back around and get it or stop at Target/CVS/Walgreens on the way to meet you and run in to buy a small bottle. Not to be confused with the travel dose of Benadryl I carry because that will make him sleepy and he could fall asleep during our playdate.
  • I will never 100% be devoted to our conversation if we are out in public eating with my child or at a public place like a zoo, park, playground with my child. IT IS NOT BECAUSE I DON’T CARE!!! It is because my anxiety has set in and I can’t help but watch what my kid is touching, what other kids are touching or eating, and if they are about to touch or interact with him. I wish I had eyes in the back of my head. Truly.
  • I will always wipe down everything we come into contact with. I’m that person and I may even embarrass you. But hey, I’m giving you a heads up. Shopping carts, benches, tables, playground equipment, railings – if it can be wiped, it will be.
  • We can only take our kids out to eat together at a handful of places that are deemed SAFE to me. So please be prepared to eat A LOT of PIZZA. Sorry in advance.
  • I will probably ask to read the label of your child’s gummies or crackers just to ease my mind or to further educate myself. I swear I’m not judging you. This is just me and my life now.
  • Speaking of that, if we are shopping for food together I will probably double check every label of everything we pick up to have. It’s not that I don’t personally trust you, I just don’t trust food in general now.
  • If you have dogs, I will bring them treats for my son to give them. That way I can guarantee they aren’t PB and that way I know what they just ate because dogs lick. And my son LOVES dogs.
  • If you want to go to a public place like a zoo, museum, park, playground, my preference is to go first thing in the morning, only because it is our greatest chance of not interacting with nut remnants from the previous day. So, be prepared to get up early for playdates.
  • If you invite us to a birthday party, please don’t serve anything with nuts. But we will bring our own safe cupcake. And if you want to use our baker that is safe for us, you will make me cry. God bless you.
  • If my child loves you then be prepared for a lot of hugs and kisses. That being said, if you know you might see him that day, please consider not eating nuts so that you can both enjoy a safe love fest.
  • If you invite us to do something new, like go to a movie, be patient with me. Things like that are always a test of my comfort level and I’m more prepared to expect the worst than for it to go off without a hitch.
  • On the rare occasion that I am sans child, I will have my phone out on the table or in my lap JUST IN CASE the school or the sitter needs to get in touch with me. Again, it’s not that I am not devoted to our time together or that I’m addicted to my phone, it’s for the just in case, so please don’t take offense.
  • I advocate FOR nut-free schools. PERIOD. This is 100% the reason my son goes to his school. Your kid won’t die if he doesn’t eat a PB&J for lunch. My kid WILL die if he DOES. So let’s just not go there.
  • I will most likely apologize profusely for making you deal with this or thank you profusely for dealing with us – either way I mean it. I may make myself crazy and obsess over something way too much or be afraid to get out of my comfort zone and you may have to hold my hand along the way, but just know this: I’m grateful for you. You are making a decision to be a part of my food allergy son’s village. You are choosing to help us give him as much of a normal life as possible and you have no idea what that means to me.
teamTCB - Memphis FARE Walk 2015
teamTCB – Memphis FARE Walk 2015

For more information on food allergies, please visit the Food Allergy Research & Education site.