Being on the receiving end of a food allergy diagnosis can be overwhelming and difficult, requiring adjustment in both your lifestyle and mindset. It can be hard to know where to start and what to do.
If you’re new to food allergies, I’m here to tell you that seven years after our entry into this world, I have found there are some positives to being a member of the club. So, be encouraged and read some of the upsides we’ve discovered.
You learn how to advocate. Whether it’s you or your child requiring an advocate, you learn quickly what it means to ask questions and stand your ground with the multiple medical professionals with whom you interact. You know and understand the ins and outs of the medications that work (or don’t), the protocol for treating anaphylaxis in the ER, and how to minimize the risk that would land your child in the ER in the first place.
You learn how to be gracious in the face of rudeness. If you’re new to this world, let me warn you: there are many people in this world that are ready and willing to share their own opinions as to why your child has food allergies. Prepare yourself for this; if you haven’t experienced it yet, you will. Oftentimes, the delivery of this opinion can be less than kind. While it stinks to deal with this, we have to remember that people will always share their opinions, no matter the situation. So, instead, you will learn not only to be gracious in your response, but also you will begin to extend a lot of grace to those whose life circumstances you don’t completely understand.
You become good friends with your local pharmacist. Doctors are fantastic. We love, love, love our doctors. But when it comes right down to it, I know that I can call my local Walgreens at midnight to get the scoop on whether I can give my dude Benadryl for his persistent sneezing, even though I gave him Claritin earlier in the day as part of his regular allergy treatment. See, I prefer to let my on-call doc sleep if at all possible—I want him to be on top of his game if we have to go in for that sneezing in the morning—so I call the person who is supposed to be awake and working. There was one time I could have probably gone out to coffee with my pharmacist and we could’ve been best friends for all the times I talked to her during a particularly bad stretch of illness.
You become an at-home chef. I’ll let you in on a little secret: when we were first married, I could handily put together a mean Hamburger Helper. And that’s pretty well it (sorry, babe). Since Z’s diagnosis, I’ve learned to put together dishes I never knew could be made outside a restaurant kitchen. In the past seven years, I’ve learned how to recreate dishes that are also allergy-friendly for our entire family to enjoy. Not all are well received—new dishes go through a rigorous review process of thumbs up, sideways, or down, majority always wins—but my guys are always willing to give new food a try.
You become more adventurous in your food choices, and as a result you eat healthier. I grew up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So when Z came up as peanut allergic, falling back on the typical school lunch sandwich was not an option. I promise you will find delicious substitutes like sunbutter and fall in love with them. And then you’ll discover you can make brownies with pureed black beans and you can use “flax eggs” for baking your banana bread. It’s like a whole new world of food choices open up to you!
These are just a few of the upsides I’ve found since we’ve learned of Z’s food allergies. If you’ve been a part of the food allergy community for any length of time, you can probably add to this list—please share with us in the comments.