Dealing With Food Allergies: A Parent’s Nightmare.
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One of the worst feelings a parent faces is when your child is suffering from an ailment and you are left helpless.
For me this situation occurs quite frequently with having to deal with my daughter’s food allergies.
My daughter has a severe food allergy reaction to peanuts and tree nuts and a mild/moderate reaction to sesame.
Her peanut allergy is so severe that it has required hospitalization in the past (I only found out she was admitted overnight in England years later because of a peanut exposure after I regained custody).
These particular allergens have indeed been the bane of my household.
More than one occasion has been ruined because of inadvertent exposure despite taking all the precautions.
The birthday celebration from hell.
The latest mishap happened this October on, of all times, my daughter’s birthday.
My daughter absolutely loves sushi (takes after her dad).
So for my daughter’s birthday I took her and my mother to one of her favorite sushi restaurants near my work.
We have eaten there countless times before with no issue.
In fact the sushi chef recognized my daughter and automatically knew about her food allergies.
Our waitress also was the same one that happened to serve us a few weeks before and she too remembered my daughter’s food allergy history.
Nonetheless, we again diligently reminded her that my daughter had a nut and sesame allergy and it was duly noted.
My daughter ordered her favorite entree (a sushi boat for 1) and we also ordered a dragon roll for an appetizer, something we have had before without issue.
This was my mother’s first time at the restaurant and she ordered a noodle dish and a calamari appetizer because she does not care for sushi.
My daughter was quite hungry and, unfortunately, our appetizer was delayed a bit.
My mother’s appetizer however came out fairly quickly.
Before my daughter could reach over and grab some of the calamari, I told her to wait until this particular dish was cleared for her to eat by the kitchen.
The waitress actually went back into the kitchen and came out and said that we had the green light and that the kitchen said there was no allergens in the appetizer.
Thrilled my daughter quickly grabbed a calamari piece, dunked it in the dipping sauce, and proceeded to devour it.
Not even a minute had passed when I could tell something was wrong.
My daughter had this uncomfortable look wash over her face.
My initial fears that this was because of her food allergies was quickly confirmed.
She told me she felt her tongue swelling and her lips start to hurt.
I quickly asked if she had trouble breathing and needed an epinephrine injection.
She said the symptoms were not severe enough to warrant the EpiPen.
Instead she wanted to drink milk, which has helped her somewhat in the past.
I quickly flagged the waitress down and told her what was happening.
I also told her that I thought she told me this appetizer was fine for my daughter to eat.
She assured me that that was what the kitchen staff had told her.
All of a sudden the chef who recognized us came to the table and said the dipping sauce contained chopped nuts and should not have been brought to our table.
By that time, of course, the damage was already done.
My daughter quickly downed an entire glass of milk and part of another.
She still looked quite unwell but said it was not getting worse.
The chef and waitress apologized profusely.
We asked if they had any Pepto Bismol because her stomach was still acting up.
They actually sent someone to the nearest store and bought some for her.
Of course by this time the food that we had ordered, and that she had been so looking forward to the whole day, started arriving.
She valiantly tried to eat some of the Dragon Roll but I could tell her heart was not in it.
Even worse was that she was so full from the milk that she didn’t even feel like eating the majority of the sushi that she ordered in the sushi boat.
I could tell she did not enjoy what she was able to take down.
Several times she said she needed to vomit and went to the bathroom but couldn’t.
Obviously this whole situation put a huge damper on everyone’s meals as I could not enjoy my entree while seeing my daughter suffering, again on her birthday no less.
I kept apologizing to her saying I am so sorry, but she put on a brave face and told me that it wasn’t my fault.
We packed up the majority of her meal and she actually wanted to go back to the car to lie down while I settled things up.
The restaurant comped the price of the offending appetizer and they said they would give a rain check for the birthday dessert that they would have given her that night.
The entire ride home my daughter would have spasmodic episodes of abdominal pain.
When we got home, she really didn’t even have the energy to blow out the candles and eat the special birthday Bundt cake I had bought her.
I felt so bad throughout the whole process thinking no one should ever have to go through something like that on their birthday.
Again I felt helpless.
Other instances where an allergen has impacted my daughter’s life.
I would like to say that this was the only time something like this happened, but unfortunately that would be false.
Everyone at my daughter’s private school has been informed about my daughter’s food allergies.
However even these safety measures can fall short.
My daughter has had an allergic reaction at school because a classmate inadvertently brought something containing nuts to a potluck class meal.
That episode required a visit to the nurse’s office and a subsequent EpiPen injection as my daughter did demonstrate difficulty breathing.
And then there are times where the school held a banquet for its student athletes and, despite knowing my daughter had allergies, only had food out that she couldn’t partake in (fried chicken cooked in peanut oil, etc).
That meant she starved the entire time until she was finally able to eat when I brought her home around 9pm.
I wrote an angry email to the headmaster saying that this was completely unacceptable as they are aware of multiple students having food allergies and therefore should have provided alternative options.
I quickly received an apology email and was assured it would not happen in future but again the damage was done and it was my daughter who suffered because of lack of foresight.
When she was younger, trick or treating for Halloween also entailed careful examination of the goods she collected.
I was always proud of her that she never put up a fuss, even at a very young age, about having to give up candy that could cause issues for her.
Parents of kids with food allergies know how difficult it can be to go grocery shopping.
Almost everything a kid likes has a disclaimer on the label saying that this product was processed in a facility that may handle nuts.
Going out for something as simple as ice cream also raises my anxiety level as it requires the staff to take extra precautions to ensure that there is no cross contamination.
One slip up in cleaning utensils etc can end up making a fun trip turn south in a hurry.
Price gouging of life saving medicine.
It truly is criminal when individuals are held hostage to price gouging by unscrupulous companies regarding life-saving medicine.
Before there was a generic option, the makers of the EpiPen, Mylan, had a stronghold on the price it charged to patients in need of this life-saving medication, with the price skyrocketing 400%.
Because schools require an individual EpiPen to remain in the nurse’s station for each child, parents are required to buy at least 2 EpiPens.
Before a generic option came out, I remember shelling out around $650 for an EpiPen set.
It is doable on a physician’s income but would be a major purchase for lower income families.
Worst of all is that the EpiPen has an expiration date of around a year from time of purchase.
And if, best case scenario, they never have to be used, there is no financial incentive to send the unused EpiPens back.
Even after a generic version of the EpiPen arrived the price was still substantial, costing over $300 for two.
The pharmacist knew that I was a physician and suggested that a much more cost effective option would be for me to order a vial of Epinephrine and then fill a syringe and administer it as needed.
A lifelong struggle with food allergies ahead.
Unless there is some miraculous medical breakthrough with immunotherapy this is something my daughter will have to deal with throughout her life.
As a connoisseur of food it saddens me that there are dishes that she will never ever be able to enjoy.
I asked what the one thing she would love to try if she didn’t have an allergy and she replied that she would love to try Nutella.
I also ponder if things would have been different if the current recommendation by pediatricians for introducing peanuts to infants had been made in time for my daughter so that it might have lessened or eliminated her allergen issues.
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