Sometimes you just have to shake your head. I often join about 7,500 others on the moms-only Facebook page, Food Allergy Moms. A frequent discussion topic is what people say to mothers about their kids’ food allergies. Despite all the progress in allergy and celiac awareness, the ignorance can still be mind-blowing, especially in restaurants.
Here’s a sample of what we moms hear—and yes, these moments are used as important teachable moments. But secretly, here’s how we’d like to respond.
“There’s no gluten in that. It’s just white bread, not wheat bread.” (Shakes head.)
“What CAN she eat anyway? There’s nothing left.” (There’s an entire world of food available beyond her allergens.)
“There’s only a LITTLE x,y,z allergen in it.” (OK, he’ll only stop breathing a LITTLE.)
“I’m ‘pretty sure’ there’s no fill-in-the-blank-I’ve-heard-them-all allergens in it.” (I’m “pretty sure” this gun isn’t loaded.)
“It’s the last ingredient on the list, so she’ll be fine.” (Those are the last words you’ll say before dialing 911.)
“There’s no dairy in this. It’s just Parmesan.” (Shakes head.)
“Allergies are psychological. If you don’t tell your kid the ingredients, they won’t know and won’t react.” (Yup, and emergency rooms are psychological, too.)
“Oh, but this is lactose free, she’ll be fine.” (But that lactose-free product contains casein, to which my daughter is anaphylactic.)
“Don’t worry; everything here is gluten-free.” (But his allergies are dairy and nuts.)
“Don’t worry; everything here is vegan.” (But her allergies are cashews and wheat.)
“I told you. There are no peanuts in anything here.” (But what about cashews?)
“Don’t worry; it’s organic.” (Great! She’s not allergic to pesticides. It’s still milk and her throat will still close if she drinks it.)
“Don’t worry. I took the butter off the pancake.” (You mean the butter that was melted on it a moment ago?)
“No, there’s no milk in our bread.” (Can I see an ingredient list? Milk is in most commercial breads.)
“These aren’t the peanut M&Ms. She’ll be fine!” (Shaking head again.)
“Are coconuts even nuts?” (Does it matter? She’s still allergic to them.)
“We’ll just take the cheese (meat, tomato, bun, etc.) off the sandwich.” (No, no, no… shaking head.)
“One bite won’t hurt.” (Here, please hold this rattlesnake for me; one bite won’t hurt.)
“She’s allergic to chicken? Have you tried just giving her some?” (Um, no. Would you like to hold this rabid bat for me?)
“Hasn’t he outgrown it yet?” (I’ll let you know when my ER bills stop stacking up.)
“Why can’t my kid bring cupcakes to school for his birthday?” (Shaking head.)
“But she’ll feel left out! While handing my daughter a slice of pizza with dairy cheese on it.” (No time to talk…too busy stabbing my child with an EpiPen.)
“No one is allergic to broccoli! That’s crazy.” (Well, what’s crazy are the trips to the ER every time he eats it.)
About 5.9 million children have food allergies. That’s about 1 in 13 kids, or roughly two in every classroom, according to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). Mothers of kids with food allergies encourage everyone to learn more about food allergies and anaphylaxis. It will save lives.
Jennifer Ward is owner of Be Free Family Farm, an organic urban farm in Kansas City, Missouri.