Allergies. One simple word that often means something different to everyone. A few years ago my mind would have thought of seasonal allergies – reactions to pollen and dust, itchy eyes and sneezing. Seasonal allergies are something I, like so many other people, struggle with. However, Abigail, our middle kiddo, opened our eyes to the extreme suffering that can be a result of seasonal and environmental allergies.
There are certain times a year that she is unable to play outside. We can’t visit your home if you have animals. Her allergies trigger asthma attacks. She is on medication all year round and often requires additional support from nebulizer treatments. We carry a rescue inhaler and had her tonsils and adenoids surgically removed in order to keep her airways open. Sure, all of this is annoying, especially since it slows down our spunky 7 year old, but it is still manageable.
In March 2012 our family became personally acquainted with a different, more serious, allergy. An allergy to vaccinations that, once again, affected our Abbi. We were at the doctor’s office for her yearly booster shots. The result? Whole body hives. We took her to a specialist where we discovered that she is allergic to the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. While it was an unpleasant process, we trusted the experts and knew we were in safe hands. She now receives all questionable vaccinations at the allergist, instead of with our pediatrician, where they can closely monitor her.
This was our first experience with something other than seasonal allergies but, unfortunately, it was not to be our last…
We were at a party in December 2012. Bella, our oldest child, was 3 years old and Abbi was approaching her 2nd birthday. The girls were running around charming family members with their sweet personalities and eating all the fun little treats that come with the holiday season. After awhile we noticed that Abbi’s voice was sounding a bit odd. It was something we found cute and silly but didn’t take seriously.
Dave and I left the party early to sneak in a date night. Mark and Becky were keeping the girls for us. An hour after we left, Becky texted me a picture… it was of Abbi. It looked like she had just fallen down a flight of stairs (only she had not fallen at all) and her face was so swollen you could hardly see her eyes. One of Mark’s family members is a nurse and instantly recognized what was happening. Abbi was in anaphylactic shock. This was our heart sickening introduction to food allergies.
We, yet again, found ourselves under the care of specialists and discovered that our Abigail has life threatening reactions to walnuts, pecans and pistachios. In addition, she tested positive for sensitivities to things in the raspberry, pineapple, peas and rice families. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and a bit shocked.
Life as we knew it was over.
We began the process of educating ourselves, and our family and friends, on how to safely care for our girl. We had to create an emergency plan and become comfortable with how to use an EpiPen. We needed to clear our cupboards of all foods containing (or processed with) any of the anaphylactic causing ingredients and make label reading part of our daily routine. As Abbi’s #1 defenders we began the process of moving our entire family away from eating tree nuts and certain fruits and vegetables.
Now that we find ourselves with so many limitations, what exactly do we eat? Believe it or not there are still so many amazing foods out there that our kids absolutely love and that are good for them! Each week you will find these staples on our menu…
Vegetables: Beans. Bell Peppers. Broccoli. Carrots. Cauliflower. Corn. Cucumbers. Lettuce. Potatoes. Tomatoes.
Fruits: Apples. Bananas. Blueberries. Cantaloupe. Grapes. Oranges. Strawberries. Watermelon.
Grains: English Muffins. Oatmeal. Pasta. Popcorn. Whole Wheat Breads. Whole Grain Cereal.
Protein: Chicken. Eggs. Turkey. Venison. Pork. Peanuts/Peanut Butter – It’s a ground nut not tree nut and is completely safe for Abbi.
Dairy: Greek Yogurt. Hard Cheeses. Mozzarella Cheese. Lactaid Milk – Aidan, our youngest, has a dairy allergy so our entire family drinks lactaid.
Having food allergies in our house makes things more challenging. I panic every time Abbi is invited to a birthday party or when she has play dates with friends. I’m that obnoxious parent who is constantly asking for a list of ingredients and checking to see if the warning label says it’s a product processed with tree nuts. However, it has also helped us form healthy eating habits! We can’t easily buy dessert off store shelves or eat convenient prepackaged foods – homemade is always our safest option.
Do I wish for my daughter to have severe allergies? Of course not, but it has absolutely been a motivating factor in watching what goes into my family’s bodies, and for that, I can be grateful.