If you're reading this article, chances are your child has recently had a frightening allergic reaction. Or, after months of colic, acid reflux, eczema, hives or wheezing, your child was finally diagnosed with multiple food allergies. With either of these events, you may not realize it, but you've been hit by the allergy avalanche. If you are at all like I was when I when the avalanche got me, you're wondering how in the world you will keep your child safe and how will you ever have a normal life. There is a lot to do to get up to speed but you'll find soon enough that it becomes second nature. So here is your allergy mom to-do list.
Find a friend who "gets it."
If you already know someone who has a child with food allergies, call her for a shoulder to cry on. She'll "get-it" and in the months and years to come, this category of people will become your lifeline.
If you haven't met anyone who cares for a child with food allergies, you will. We're everywhere! Search for a local support group in your area, or visit one of the online groups like peanutallergy.com, foodallergysupport.com or the forums on allergicliving.com. They're all free and even if you are reluctant to post at first, it will still be a comfort to know that you are not alone in experiencing the fear, anxiety or sadness that you may be feeling.
Buy a great book and educate yourself.
You will have lots of questions about this potentially life threatening condition and there are things that you should know but might not know to ask. One of my favorite's books is "Food Allergies for Dummies" by Robert Wood MD. Dr. Wood has a severe peanut allergy himself, so he has an understanding of food allergies from a unique perspective. No rolled eyes from him! Another excellent book is Understanding and Caring for Your Child's Food Allergies by Dr. Scott Sicherer from the Jaffe Clinic at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Get your spouse onboard!
The importance of this one cannot be overstated. Being Married with Special Needs Children can create an enormous amount of stress that can tip the proverbial apple cart if you're not careful. Involve your spouse in the allergist's appointments whenever possible. Buy him or her book or video so that he or she can learn more and you can make decisions together. It often makes a difference when someone hears from an expert rather than their spouse.
Find a great allergist who understands food allergies.
Now that you know the questions to ask, you need to find an allergist who understands food allergies. There are different kinds of testing and neither skin nor blood testing yields black or white results. Each food-specific score has to be interpreted individually based on the patient's age, individual history, other allergies or previous reactions and on the food itself.
Keep a separate binder for copies of all of your child's test results and remember to get your doctors help to interpret them. Write down questions and the answers you are given. And remember, medical advice should come from medical professionals.
Prepare an emergency kit for home and away from home.
You'll need a Food Allergy Action Plan or Emergency Plan that you complete with the help of your child's doctors. The form should include a recent photograph of your child for quick identification. If your child has a prescription for EpiPens or Twinject, make sure you include the prescription label and a letter from your child's doctor for travel. You will also want to include a liquid antihistamine (Benadryl) and a measuring spoon if that is part of your plan.
These steps don't need to be done in any particular order, but they will lay the groundwork for the changes that lie ahead. If you can educate yourself, find some support in your spouse and friends and if you have an allergist you can work with you are well on your way to a smooth transition. Next time, I'll share tips on preparing your home, talking with your child and navigating visitors and play dates.