Monday, May 18, 2009

Are you ever jealous of people allergic to just one food?

I ask this because I'm embarrassed to say I am. Now, I know that, to the mom of, say, a peanut-allergic child, the idea that anyone would be jealous of their situation would seem completely ludicrous. But I have to admit, so many times I have longed for Ainsley to "just" have a nut allergy or an egg allergy or even a milk allergy (although milk is, in my opinion, the most difficult allergen to avoid in our culture so that is at the bottom of my list of allergies to "want").

I have noticed this feeling among a lot of moms with kids who have multiple food allergies. I don't want to characterize it as a divide between the single-food-allergic and multiple-food-allergic; it's more like the feeling of, "Wow, it would be so much easier to prepare for/order food for/protect a kid allergic to just one thing." I think moms of kids with multiple food allergies are very aware of the difference, even if the moms of single-food-allergic kids aren't. For example, once, when I was talking with a mom of a child allergic to milk, eggs, and fish, and mentioned something a mom of a peanut-allergic child had said to me about dealing with allergies, the mom replied, "Leigha, don't you think it's just a lot different (read:more difficult) for us since we have kids with multiple food allergies?"

Even some food-allergy products are marketed toward children who have just one allergy. See, for example, here (cards to show kids what they can and can't eat if they're allergic to peanuts) and here (Alexander the Elephant books - he is allergic to peanuts only; to my knowledge, FAAN doesn't have books with any characters allergic to more than two foods). Some restaurants like Chili's and Burger King also very unhelpfully group their foods into separate allergy menus based on whether you're allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, OR soy - meaning you have to look at several of these special menus and compare the various foods listed on them to determine what your multiple-food-allergic kid can have.

I certainly don't mean to alienate any of you whose children have just one allergy. Food allergies are tough whether your kid is allergic to one food or all of the top 8, and there have been many times I've just been thankful that Ainsley isn't allergic to any other foods, such as soy or wheat, which we live on.

But I have often fantasized about the options that we would have if Ainsley were just allergic to one (or even two) foods. Each time we go to the allergist for her yearly appointment, I pray that Ainsley will have grown out of at least one of her allergens. When your kid has so many allergies, it's really hard sometimes to imagine that she'll ever lead a normal life ("Yes, she may grow out of milk and egg, but she'll still likely have the peanut and tree nut allergies"; "yes, her peanut number was much lower this year, but her egg number was still through the roof ..."). It frankly seems nearly impossible that she will overcome all of her food-allergy hurdles.

That said, I sincerely appreciate the advocacy that all food allergy moms undertake on behalf of their children - it benefits the multiple-food-allergic and single-food-allergic alike. The mom who has transformed our local elementary school into a food-allergy-sensitive environment has a son allergic to "only" peanuts and almonds, and I am forever grateful to her. I just hope that one day we can narrow down Ainsley's allergies into a comparable list.


Jennifer said...

I am often jealous. How old is A now? There is hope. Max outgrew wheat by 3. He outgrew peanut/tree nut at 5. That was great because you hear it's impossible, but 20 percent of kids do outgrow it. He also outgrew shellfish this year at 6. He's still off the charts on dairy and moderate for eggs, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's no hope. He was scoring high for nuts for years too. It quickly dropped off. The trade off for us has been that the environmental allergies start kicking in at this age, but at least they have treatments/shots for those.

Leigha said...

Thanks for commiserating, Jennifer. A is 4. Last year her peanut number went down by half, from about a 13 to about a 7. That was very encouraging and the allergist even suggested that she might be outgrowing the peanut allergy. I am so glad to know Max outgrew his peanut allergy too - there is hope! As you mentioned, A's environmental allergies are just starting so I think I'm going to have to start giving her medication for that (I'll ask the allergist at our August appt.), but like you suggested, that is no big deal compared to the food allergies.

Anonymous said...

I don't let myself get jealous. My daughter who is 6, is allergic to peanuts and most of the tree nuts. We've known about tree nuts for 3 yrs and found out about peanuts since last summer. This is our reality and I hope she can outgrow it. I noticed Jennifer's comment about her son outgrowing the allergies, yeh. Love to hear that type of news.

Col said...

I don't know if I would say jealous, but certainly it makes life easier. My 5 yo son is allergic to dairy, eggs, and peanuts (avoids all nuts and shellfish) and also has celiac disease. Feeding him is a challenge, and we struggle to make sure he gets adequate nutrition. Things like restaurants and packaged foods are waaay easier if you only have to avoid one thing.
I look forward to the day when he can possibly eat eggs, because they are everywhere in gluten-free recipes, especially baked goods.
But honestly, I consider myself lucky that we're not dealing with corn and soy allergies, because I think those two are the absolute hardest to deal with.

ChupieandJ'smama said...

I sometimes think our life would be easier, but we'd keep the others if we could just dump the wheat, rye, barley and oat. Those grains seem like they are in everything and make eating out at fast food and other restaurants so much more difficult. I know it would seem like avoiding wheat, rye, barley, and oat would be easier due to all the press "gluten free" gets from Celiac disease, but we have not found that to be true.
To this point his RAST numbers for everything (except milk) keep climbing. We just did our early RAST and are keeping our fingers crossed for some dropping numbers this year:)

Heidi Miller said...

I often feel the tug of jeaousy, as well. When people ask me about what my daughter's allergies are, their eyes begin to glaze over by the time I hit about the fourth or fifth item on the list. It is almost like they stop believing me or something. It is almost like they stop feeling sorry for us and start to think that maybe I am a little crazy. Oh well! By the way, I have a blog, as well. I have included a link to your blog on mine!
Best of luck!

E-Dawg said...

Amen! I wish we just had a peanut or treenut allergy! It seems like people get that one.
On the other hand I am also thankful that we don't have to deal with soy, wheat or corn allergies.
Looks like we might have outgrown the egg allergy! We will see....

FoodAllergyMom said...

My daughter is only 7, but what I worry about most is when she starts dating? She is allergic to eggs, dairy, nuts, gluten, and beef. What will she order at a restaurant? Will she hide her food allergies because of embarassment? I'm already going through this with my teens and they mostly "just" have the nut allergy. We do have it harder, and we do deseve a pat on the back...and yes, a little sympathy.