Food Allergies Do Not Define My Son

Severe Allergies are not that tough if you are equipped with the right armour

Food Allergies Do Not Define My Son

Our youngest was a toddler when we found out about his severe peanut allergy. His father was eating his toast with peanut butter and simply took him by the arm, transferring some of the peanut oil in the process. Almost instantly, his tiny arm started to break out in huge hives and within minutes had swollen to nearly three times its normal size.

We saw our family doctor and she prescribed an EpiPen (epinephrine auto-injector) for him before we even saw the allergy specialist. She taught all of us how easy it is to use it and recommended we keep it on or near his person at all times. And so we did. We even had multiple EpiPen Auto-Injectors. One for my purse, one in the house, and one with his care provider.

We knew that peanuts were going to be excluded from our diets at that point.

Well stocked in this manner, we went into protection mode!

Our eldest became Super Sister; his vigilant protector. She would trick-or-treat with him and educate those giving out peanut butter cups about the dangers of severe allergies. She would also edify her grandmother and great aunties about the difference between peanut-free and products which may contain peanuts. When I remarried, she took it upon herself to ensure that her new sister and step-dad were well informed and could also be protectors of the smallest member of our combined family. In fact, she might have been a wee bit over-bearing about her teaching, but her heart was in the right place. 

All in all, we have it fairly easy. Here in Ontario we are very conscious of children with severe allergies, especially peanut allergies. We have found little difficulty ensuring that he does not introduce peanut products to the soft tissues of his throat. Most family restaurants have peanut-free meals and desserts for children, schools are extremely strict about ensuring that allergens are not brought in, and most businesses that cater to children have signs proudly posted about being a peanut-free facility as well as posters for the staff about how to administer an EpiPen.

My child and others like him are extremely well-protected.

In fact, it's almost too protective a community.

It's easy to become a little too laid back about his difficulty. It was shocking, for instance, to learn that a childcare program outside of our province’s more allergy-aware society included a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. So we have learned to be a bit more cautious when travelling and ensure that we notify any food establishment we visit that we have a severe allergy in the family. Most restaurants are accommodating, some are down right amazing about it! Our boy has even received visits from head chefs who have offered their recommendations and special desserts made just for him!

Living with a severe allergy is just not that tough if you are equipped with the right armour—knowledge and equipment, like the EpiPen. 

There are disappointments, for certain. Not being able to find an ice cream store that has any peanut free products, for instance. But we make adjustments, and find alternatives. I make a delicious soy nut butter cookie! Each summer he gets his new EpiPen prescription and we bring his expired ones to the pharmacy for disposal. We review how to use it, (very simple, really) and we ensure there is one available wherever he may need it: one in a waistpack, one in each home and one at school. It’s a part of our back-to-school routine, but we can also register on the EpiPen website and they’ll remind us when our EpiPen expires.

In all honesty, our biggest challenge is the attitude around his severe allergy and not the allergy itself.

Our boy has been seen as “the allergy kid”; a mug shot on the school office wall, an invalid, a nuisance, deprived, lesser than others.  

But he’s so much more than his allergy. He loves diving, acting, singing, dancing, dressing up, cartoons, books and school. He’s a funny, smart, challenging, energetic eight year old and so very sensitive.

His severe allergy may be a part of him, but it doesn’t define who he is.

Severe allergies are on the rise in Canada.
We teamed up with EpiPen so you can arm yourself with information and be prepared if a life-threatening allergic reaction occurs.
You can find out more about life-threatening allergies and read stories from other parents on our A Parent’s Guide to Dealing with Kids with Severe Allergies page.

I'm a matriarch who is blessed with a beautiful blended family: a loving, supportive husband (my champion) and 3 bright, caring, precocious kids.