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What it’s Like to Have a Child with a Life-Threatening Food Allergy

by Mara Ryan

Food Allergy Advocate & Mother

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I have a daughter who is one of a kind. She is brilliantly witty with charm and a hint of sass. She is strong-willed, yet sensitive and inclusive to those around her. And she is free-spirited with an imagination that knows no bounds. My daughter is also 1 in every 13 kids in the U.S. that suffer from life-threatening food allergies. Having a Child with a Life-Threatening Food Allergy is More Common Than You Think Eight common foods account for 90 percent of all food allergies: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Every three minutes, consuming a food allergen sends… Read More

I have a daughter who is one of a kind. She is brilliantly witty with charm and a hint of sass. She is strong-willed, yet sensitive and inclusive to those around her. And she is free-spirited with an imagination that knows no bounds.

My daughter is also 1 in every 13 kids in the U.S. that suffer from life-threatening food allergies.

Having a Child with a Life-Threatening Food Allergy is More Common Than You Think

Eight common foods account for 90 percent of all food allergies: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Every three minutes, consuming a food allergen sends someone to the emergency room. That’s more than 200,000 emergency department visits and more than 300,000 ambulatory-care visits among children every year.

What’s even more troubling, food allergies are on the rise, at alarming rates. Food allergies have been labeled the fastest-growing childhood epidemic. According to the CDC, food allergies among kids increased by 50% from 1997-2011. During this same timeframe, allergies to peanuts and tree nuts tripled.

It Affects Your Everyday Life

As a mom, the growth rate, coupled with the lack of understanding about the disease, is not only confusing – it’s overwhelming. Having a child with a life-threatening food allergy impacts not just my family’s lifestyle, but every aspect of our day. Not a day goes by without worry.

Worrying that I forgot to pack my daughter’s Epi-pen. I worry that I forgot to triple check a food label. Then I worry that she may have a new substitute teacher at preschool that doesn’t know our protocol. I worry that I might miss an emergency text message. And worrying that she missed out, got singled out or worse yet, bullied because of food allergies.

You Need Support as a Parent of a Child with a Life-Threatening Food Allergy

As moms, we are SO great at worrying, and we’re strong enough to admit that the whole mom-guilt thing is REAL. I’m grateful I’m surrounded by a tribe of amazing moms (and some equally wonderful dads) who have my daughter’s food allergies on their radar. These moms don’t think I’m crazy when I’ve made public requests or family requests that impact my daughter’s safety – they’ve had my back. They’ve lent an ear and a shoulder to cry on when food allergies have brought me to my knees. Whether it was when I ripped apart our pantry, agonizing over every food label after learning our then 6-month-old was allergic to milk, eggs, and peanuts. Or when I learned there was a four-year waitlist for my daughter to take part in the only OIT treatment program in our state. Or when I administered an Epi-pen for the first time and pleaded that my daughter comes back to consciousness. These amazing moms have been there for me. They’ve been there for my daughter.

May is Food Allergy Awareness month. Chances are you know a mom with a one of a kind, 1 in 13 kiddos. Remind her that you are on this crazy journey with her. Remind her that as moms, we have each other’s backs and a tissue whenever necessary. And tell her that you will educate your own family about the severity of food allergies and the importance of being inclusive. Because as moms, we want every child to be safe and to thrive. As moms, we have the power to change the world. We are human-kind.

Mother with her two daughters sharing with others to sprout confidence.

Mara with her two beautiful daughters, Cooper and Quinn.