When my son was first diagnosed with food allergies my immediate concern was finding foods that he could eat without getting sick. Like most food allergy mom’s, I sprang into action:
I scoured the shelves of the health food store and read labels,
I learned to bake without wheat, eggs, or milk.
And like most food allergy mom’s I worried:
I worried about school lunches,
I worried about special events,
I worried about sleepovers,
I worried about sending him away to college.
But it wasn’t until recently that I really started to understand the emotional toll that food allergies have had on him. As he gets older (he’s now 20 and in college) he is sharing more about how he has felt for the past few years. In short, he often feels left out.
While his buddies at school are eating their dinner in the cafeteria, he is stuck waiting in line for his specially prepared meal. Yes, we are both grateful that his college is willing to accommodate him, but as he’s waiting his friends are finishing their dinner and off to study (or whatever is next).
When groups get together on campus, the typical take-out dinner is (you guessed it) pizza – about as close to poison as you can get for someone allergic to wheat and milk. And my son either needs to bring his own meal, or grab something on his own after the group has finished. He feels isolated.
And he worries:
He worries about constantly having to explain his food allergies,
He worries about being a burden when he has to ask for an accommodation,
He worries about missing out.
It’s not just about the food.
That’s why the quality of life study funded by FAAN is so important. Not surprisingly the study found that the most significant problem areas for teens included limitations on social activities and not being able to eat what others were eating. You can read the abstract here. FAAN plans to publish a full summary in the February-March issue of Food Allergy News, FAAN’s bimonthly newsletter for members.
As we move into 2011, I am going to be paying more attention to how we can improve quality of life for those with food allergies. What ideas do you have?