Over the past several weeks, I've received several e-mails and blog comments from mothers who are facing new peanut and tree nut allergy diagnoses in their young children. Even though I've now been in the "trenches" of food allergies for more than 4 years, I still vividly recall how I felt when I first found out about my daughter's life-threatening allergy to nuts.
It was one of the scariest times of my life. I felt certain that I wasn't cut out for the job. The first year I had a roller coaster of emotions. One day, I'd be very optimistic about handling my daughter's health problem. The next day, I'd feel so negative about the whole thing I wondered how our family would ever be normal.
Here's the good news for all of you facing this for the first time: you can do this. There is nothing like a mother's love to override obstacles. I'd be willing to bet that all of you will dig deep inside yourselves, like I have, to make sure that you give your child their best possible life despite the fact that you have to watch their every bite of food.
You'll wake up one day and realize that having a food-allergic child does not seem like such a crisis. You'll know you can do it and your child, as they get older, will be able to cope and have confidence, too.
My best advice is to stay positive. My allergist always tells us to keep life as normal as possible--even while we have to be cautious. Travel, eat in restaurants, go places. Let your child go to Girl Scout camp or stay overnight with a friend.
Of course, you have to take precautions. You can't be lax and everybody--teachers, grandparents, babysitters and other parents of the kids your child plays with will need to know how to use the EpiPen. But if you teach your child how to stand up for themselves and how to avoid certain foods, that's half the battle already.
The resources I have listed to the right of my blog have been invaluable to me in this journey and for those of you new to nut allergies, I suggest you take a look.
The other big thing to remember is that you're so not alone. When I first discovered my daughter's food allergy, it seemed like nobody was very familiar with it. Now it's rare if I meet someone who doesn't have at least some experience with it. Things are changing for the better, but we still have to be vocal for our kids.
I welcome your comments and suggestions for this blog and wish all of you the best of luck as we work through the "nut allergy maze" together.