While they are manageable, reactions to food can be a parent's biggest fear if their child suffers from food allergies. Despite efforts to create safe classroom snacktimes and raise awareness of food allergies, there are still dangers for children prone to reactions. This mom asked for understanding for her son's food allergy after sharing a scary anecdote of what can happen if proper care isn't taken. Unfortunately, pleas such as this are not always well received by the public, but increased awareness and compassion for children with food allergies is the key to helping them live a normal life.
Blogger and mother Erin McIntyre of Real Mom Nutrition shared in a recent blog post that her children are fortunate enough not to suffer from food allergies. However, she received an email from another, unnamed mother whose child is at risk of deadly reactions to certain foods. The message was so poignant and heartfelt that McIntyre felt compelled to share the email on her blog as a post in an effort to pass on that family's story. In the post, the mom pleads with anyone who doesn't understand the dangers associated with food allergies and asks them to be empathetic towards her son and his struggles.
The post begins with a bit of background on the woman's son and his condition, sharing that he has "life-threatening allergies to certain foods." The mom who wrote the email wrote in to McIntyre to explain that lack of empathy that she witnessed online:
I thought that I was handling everything perfectly. It turns out I was wrong. It turns out that I am way more scared than I ever thought. It turns out that a few words from strangers have the power to make me crumble in a way I never expected. It turns out that the ignorance of others can’t just be brushed off as ignorance, because ignorance and lack of empathy on the part of others could be fatal for my son.
The mom who emailed McIntyre said she, "saw a woman post an allergy alert on a Facebook community forum." The woman had gone out to eat with her son, informed the staff of his severe peanut allergy, and still he was served peanut sauce. "She spoke to a manager then left without eating," the mom told McIntyre in her email. In the Facebook community forum post, the mom had explained her son's allergy:
Anyone who knows how dangerous accidental ingestion is understands how frightening that experience would be. It would be like the kitchen staff accidentally pouring rat poison on your food instead of Parmesan cheese. The difference is that if you accidentally ate the rat poison, you would have more time to react before it became fatal than my son would if he ate a food he is allergic to.
The woman who emailed McIntyre said that she clicked on the comments section hoping to find lists of alternative restaurants that cater to children with allergies, as well as some that she should avoid. Instead, what she found was mom-shaming.
According to McIntyre's blog post, one man even went as far to call the women who were complaining about the restaurant the “whiny allergic type,” and said that he didn’t “see it as the rest of the planet’s responsibility to bubble wrap itself to protect my beautiful snowflake." Both of these comments received numerous likes from other users.
Other comments were from restaurant employees who were frustrated by patrons with allergies, with one even saying that these children should never go out to eat. Another parent whose child has allergies responded to the comment, explaining that this isn't a rational plan of action:
We still eat out because we want our kids to learn how to manage their food and survive in modern society.
The comments were overwhelming and upsetting for the mom who wrote to McIntyre. She said in her email:
I felt physically ill. Trolls are a fact of life on Facebook—but why was the community I live in encouraging this type of ignorance on the subject of life-threatening food allergies?
This sort of ignorance persists despite how commen food allergies have become. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education network (FARE), one in 13 U.S. children under age of 18 has some form of food allergy. Rather than suggest that these children never eat outside of their own homes, here is some useful information on how parents can manage the allergies.
Parents recommends that parents conduct research and compile reliable resources on food allergies in order to be well informed. Parents should also find an understanding community to which they can voice their questions and concerns, such as other parents in similar situations. Health care providers can also be a valuable asset for this purpose. Parents of kids with allergies should also talk to friends and family members about the issue in order to keep their kids safe.
It is also very important to include children in conversations about their allergies so that they are able to protect themselves when you are not around. FARE provides tips on talking to children about allergies. It is important to start when they are young, and use simple terms such as "safe" and "not safe."
Children should also know what the names of their unsafe foods are and what they look like. Parents may want to advise them only to eat food provided to them by parents or other trusted adults. Finally, children should know that they can ask for help if they aren't feeling well after eating and have a general understanding of their emergency plan, such as going to the doctor and getting medicine.
McIntyre ended her post with the author's desparate plea for empathy and a promise to return the favor:
I promise to respect your children. I promise to protect your children from whatever may harm them when they’re in my care. But please respect us too. Please don’t roll your eyes when we order his food. Please know that we don’t want to be annoying, that this isn’t a choice. Please think twice before you criticize us online, because it hurts more than you can imagine.
Mom-shaming of any kind is unthinkable, but shaming a mom for wanting her child to enjoy the pleasures of eating out is just ridiculous. Rather than judge, consider compassion — I promise you're not allergic to it.