Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Food Allergy Anxiety

This week (May 9th – May 15th) is Food Allergy Awareness week, so it was fitting that I spent the day Saturday in Tarrytown at the Food Allergy Conference run by FAAN. The conference was a great source of information for parents, grandparents, teens, nurses and school officials. One underlying theme that crossed many of the presentations was the emotional impact of food allergies.

Anxiety resonated with the audience.

Parents of food allergic children are afraid – and rightly so. When your child has a severe allergic reaction those protective Mommy and Daddy genes kick in. Some families even go to extremes to protect their food-allergic child. According to the data presented, between 10 and 16 percent of food allergic children:
  • Don’t go to restaurants at all
  • Don’t engage in activities with relatives
  • Aren’t allowed to play at friends’ houses
  • Don’t go to birthday parties
  • Are home-schooled because of their food allergies (i.e. the family would not have chosen home-schooling otherwise)
Are you surprised? I was. Despite my son’s food allergies, I always tried to find ways to accommodate his dietary needs so that he wouldn’t miss out on ‘normal’ activities. Sometimes that meant feeding him before he went, but most often it meant bringing along foods he could eat.

It seems that food-allergic parents are far more restrictive with their children than those who have other very serious diseases (e.g. diabetes) and yet the incidence of death from food allergy is considered very low (estimated to range between 1 in 3 million to 1 in 20 million per year).

What do you think about this? How restrictive are you with your food-allergic child?


Donna McDine said...

Fascinating information. My oldest is severly allegric to shellfish and we are constantly aware of what she eats. Especially at special events.

Jane Anne said...

I am restrictive only in the sense that I am extremely careful at events that involve food. Like you, I plan ahead. I make provisions for my son. On the occasion that I am not prepared, he misses out (on some food) but not the event. It isn't fair- it is tough- but he is safe. Those are some interesting facts!

Colette said...

Donna and Jane, thanks for sharing your views. We definitely need to be cautious -- even vigilant -- about what our kids eat. But Jane, you said it so well.. it just isn't fair that they have to miss the event.

Jason said...

We started homeschooling because of the peanut allergy but continue because it works for us. Every year we review our schooling options: public, private or homeschooling. We don't skip many events. Like Jane Anne, we try to do as much investigating up front as we can.

We call the restaurant and ask about the peanuts and tree nuts. We call the parent hosting the party about the food being served. If there is some food that we know won't be safe at the party but we still feel safe going, we will bring a substitute. In doing so, we generally overcompensate so that our child's food is more appealing than what is offered. I know that probably sounds horrible and I am comfortable with that.

Play dates and sleepover are only at a subset of our friends houses. We end up having most of them at our house.

Great article!

Colette said...

Jason, it sounds like you have come up with a really balanced and positive approach. Kudos.