What it means: constant vigilance

vig⋅i⋅lance –noun
1. state or quality of being vigilant; watchfulness: Vigilance is required in the event of treachery.
2. Pathology. insomnia.
Origin: 1560–70; alter. ( -ance for -ancy ) of obs. vigilancy L. vigilantia; see vigilant, -ancy Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

What it means to have a kid with food allergies:

It means that I worry any time I open a packet of instant 3 in 1 coffee, because the fine powder that floats up out of the mug might settle on something I can’t see, and the milk in it will get into her food.

It means that every time I make a breakfast that involves bread or anything that has wheat, I have to wash my hands in between handling our food and her food. And if while I’m eating she needs help, like with cutting her special toast, for example, I have to wash my hands again before I can touch her food.

It means that I’m super anxious about crumbs at the table. I always wipe her spot at the table first when the cloth is the cleanest, then move on to the rest of the table.

It means that anytime we’re serving food, I have to watch to make sure there isn’t any accidental cross contamination into the safe foods. No crumbs, no drips, no using serving utensils for multiple dishes. No touching bowls of plates when serving out the food.

It means that if I’ve been drinking milk or tea, and she needs a kiss, I have to wipe my mouth carefully before I kiss her.

It means that at Halloween, we come home and go through her candy, sorting out all the chocolate and other things she can’t have, and trade her for the bags of chips and the fruit gummies that she can have.

It means that we can only eat out at certain restaurants, and even then only certain menu items are safe. We have pored over many a restaurant’s ingredients list online, and have spoken to many a chef to find out what a certain dish is made with. It means that whenever we find a place that does offer something safe, we make sure we go back there, and often.

It means that I thought about getting a separate toaster for her so that we wouldn’t contaminate it with our bread crumbs. In the end we got a toaster oven that has two racks, and we keep her bread toasting on the top, and ours on the bottom, so the wheat crumbs won’t fall on her special bread.

It means that she wears a MedicAlert bracelet whenever she goes out and she’ll be under someone else’s supervision (at school, playdates, parties, etc.).

It means that for the first three years of her life we’ve had to avoid shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crab) and fish, not because she was allergic to them, but because they are foods that people are commonly allergic to. Since I have a slight reaction to crab and lobster, combined with the fact that she has a lot of other food allergies, we were advised to keep her off fish and shellfish until she was older and could be tested for them.

It means that I go through the ingredients of everything we buy to make sure it’s safe, even those things which we’ve previously vetted, because the ingredients may have changed since we bought them last. It has happened.

It means that she always has two Epi-Pens and a bottle of Benadryl nearby at all times.

It means that at school she has to have her own snacks, her own special cookies and treats, and can’t use certain materials like Play-Doh or egg cartons. It means that I nearly cried when her kindergarten teacher got her whole allergy information from us, and then asked for recipes for wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free birthday cakes, so that she could make cakes for the monthly birthday celebration not only for our daughter, BUT FOR THE WHOLE CLASS. :*)

6 responses to this post.

  1. There's just nothing like living with severe food allergies, is there? My brother had a myriad of allergies, food and otherwise. But none were serious.

    I have been so incredibly blessed to have 5 allergy free kids. I am amazed with family history on both sides of allergies, and asthma that we have it so easy.

    By the way, I noticed your book listings on the side there.. great books. 🙂 I have a few of those on my own shelf.


  2. Posted by Tom on 2008/12/09 at 8:19 AM

    WOW – that's a lot of commitment and effort – I have a friend whose daughter has the same kind of allergies, but she's grown out of some of them aged 10/11. How did you approach things with the school – have they handled it well?


  3. @churchpunkmom when I think about it, I know that there are many other things that could be much worse, and that parents deal with and cope with things that are much more difficult than food allergies. So I count myself blessed as well.

    It's funny, that once you start, and put the procedures in place, so to speak, things just become natural and second nature. But because foods and ingredients can change, you can't really get complacent about it, you have to always stay on top of things.


  4. @Tom,

    With the school we just talked with the teacher at the beginning of the year, and explained the situation. The teacher was AWESOME, and so they asked for a list of safe snacks and recipies for cake, and they just keep things separate. The teacher even thought it through to the play doh and egg carton issues, and has been checking with me about various things. So it's been very well handled.

    The school also has a nut free policy, so there are no peanuts or tree nuts to worry about. They have even changed what they sell for school fundraising (the classic chocolate covered almonds and so on) to something else, because of the nut issue. That's pretty amazing.


  5. Posted by HM on 2008/12/10 at 12:11 PM

    Looks like more research is being done. Have hope!



  6. Posted by Medela on 2009/04/06 at 7:31 AM

    Just came across this post and found it really very interesting, just keep posts like this one coming!


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