My 5-year-old daughter Pamela does not have food allergies but she has a sibling who does. Her brother Joseph, age 10, is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard.
Pamela wants to protect Joseph when he’s exposed to an allergen. She understands why she can’t eat certain foods near him. She is conscientious about following the rules we’ve put in place to keep Joseph safe. She gets sad when he feels anxious or down about his allergies, and she gets scared for her brother when his asthma acts up.
Joseph lives with the knowledge that one bite of food has the potential to end his life. His sister lives with that knowledge, too. Not only do her feelings need to be acknowledged, it’s essential that she be an expert on food allergies, just like he is.
Musician Kyle Dine helps her with all of this. The Canadian singer and songwriter educates and supports kids through his music. He is an invaluable resource for children with food allergies--and their siblings.
Kyle’s albums, “You Must be Nuts!” (2007) and “Food Allergies Rock!” (2010), hit plenty of fun notes. Whether he’s crooning about cool medical ID bracelets or listing all the foods that might contain eggs (with the help of squawking chickens, of course), my kids love to sing along.
Both Pamela and Joseph were very excited to see Kyle perform recently in Apex, North Carolina. The concert was sponsored by our local support group (NC FACES, Food Allergic Children Excelling Safely) and FAACT (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team), a wonderful new national organization for families with food allergies.
When Kyle asked the kids to raise their hands as he called out each of the top 8 allergies, Joseph’s hand went up a lot. Kyle Dine’s hand did, too. (He’s allergic to peanuts, nuts, eggs, seafood and mustard.) The concert was great fun for the kids. It was also a great reminder to Joseph that someone like Kyle, whom Joseph considers a cool guy, can be successful and travel all over the world.
But just as important, Kyle Dine showed Pamela that she’s not alone as a sibling. The concert was packed with happy, singing kids who have food allergies--and their siblings.
With so much family-focus on the child with food allergies, it’s important to remember that siblings have needs, too. This isn’t always easy. What do you do in your family?
Living Without correspondent Wendy Mondello blogs at TasteofAllergyFreeLiving.com.