Giving My Daughter Confidence to Live with Her Food Allergy

SHE is in control — not her allergy

by: Lesli CK
Giving My Daughter Confidence to Live with Her Food Allergy

How do you raise a child to feel normal when she isn't quite like the other kids? 

My daughter Casey was a toddler when she was diagnosed with a severe peanut/nut allergy after she ate a cookie from a health food store. She has never known a time when she hasn't had a severe allergy and learned from a young age that there are risky foods that she can't eat because she could get really sick. And, of course she practices complete avoidance of peanuts and all nuts. She's 13 years old now and we have not had to use her EpiPen (epinephrine auto-injector) since she was a toddler.

Our family is allergy-aware. We have shown the people that are around Casey how easy the EpiPen is to use just in case they ever need to inject her. She knows how to use her EpiPen, she knows what to say about her allergy when we are eating in a restaurant and she often carries her own "safe" food.

I've always stressed to Casey, her schools, and our family that being safe is the most important thing, but I have not wanted her to feel like she lives in a bubble either.

That is the challenge.

How do you raise a child to feel normal when she isn't quite like the other kids?

Our family has always tried to model the sense of self that comes from knowing that ultimately we need to make this the best situation we can without making her paranoid and scared of her allergy. I have always encouraged Casey to pursue her interests without letting her severe allergy hold her back. As long as she is aware, asks questions about what she eats, doesn't take chances and carries her EpiPen wherever she goes (usually tucked into her backpack or mini shoulder purse) then SHE is in control — not her severe allergy.

We have travelled coast-to-coast within Canada, and into the United States. We always travel with extra EpiPen Auto-Injectors and "safe" snacks — in case we aren't able to track down peanut/nut-free products, which has often been the case. 

Casey was only a baby when we first flew with her severe allergy. Since then we've flown many times with WestJet, and our experiences have always been fun and positive. A few years ago we flew from Calgary to the East Coast. Contacting WestJet prior to our flight and letting them know that Casey was at risk for anaphylaxis was easy and reassuring, especially since they now stock EpiPen on board their flights. They flagged her file and when we boarded the flight, a flight attendant spoke with us personally about Casey's allergy. I was really impressed when they announced on the flight that there was a passenger with a severe allergy on board and that it would be appreciated if the consumption of nuts and peanuts be avoided. We felt grateful and relieved that Casey’s severe allergy was recognized and that steps were taken to help keep her safe. Of course, we also travel with an up-to-date EpiPen, just in case.

This past spring we travelled to Paris for an 8-day adventure — 10 hours on an airplane, a foreign language, French bakeries on every corner, and no nut-free products to be found!

How did we handle this? 

First of all, we always had several EpiPen Auto-Injectors with us as we explored the cobblestoned streets of Paris. We brought peanut/nut-free snacks like granola bars and cereal from Canada, but my daughter still enjoyed plenty of local produce, cheese, yogurt, and meats. Through the advice of a friend, we carried a French translation on an iPod that briefly explained my daughter's severe allergy to show to restaurant servers. This was always met with complete respect and concern by the server, and concessions were often made with my daughter's severe allergy in mind. With a bit of preparation and forethought, we had a fantastic experience in Paris!

I want my daughter to have the confidence and tools she needs to travel and feel safe in the world — whether she's travelling to her grandparents’ house or backpacking through South America.

From an early age we instilled in her that SHE is in charge of determining what is safe for her.

And at the end of the day, she needs to know that no matter what, she needs to have her EpiPen nearby.

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.
espresso drinker. proud mom. happy wife.