Friday, December 3, 2010

There's No Other Way to Say It: Please Don't Bake for My Food-Allergic Child

I had another post I was going to run today, but the influx of e-mails in my inbox have prompted me to re-run a post that is very timely for the holidays.

A little over a month ago I asked parents of non-allergic kids NOT to bake for the allergic ones. My reasons? Cross-contact, lack of food allergy education and risk of allergic reaction due to lack of understanding. Also, studies have shown that desserts cause the most allergic reactions. Many kids also experience allergic reactions while at school: my daughter has.

With the winter holidays upon us, I am now getting many, many e-mails from well-intentioned moms who want to bake for the allergic kids in their classroom. This post is for them. First of all THANK YOU for caring. I, and the other moms who deal with food allergies, seriously appreciate your concern for our kids. You rock.

Secondly, and don't get your feelings hurt now: Please don't offer to bake for my allergic child. The only exception would be that your child has the EXACT SAME allergies as another child and you have kitchen free of those particular allergens.

I know it's hard to grasp, but your cookies could land a kid in the hospital. Put yourself in our shoes: would you want others, who may not be quite sure how to go about it, to bake for your severely food-allergic child?

I urge everyone interested to follow the link to my original post. Here I outline all the reasons why non-allergic peeps baking for the allergic is a bad idea.

A much better idea: Bring something with a label that's not homebaked. Or bring non-edible treats.

One other note that I will follow up on later: Almond extract. Don't use almond extract for the nut-allergic.

Dealing with nut allergies isn't like trying to get out of a parking ticket, unfortunately. When you are severely allergic, wiggle room doesn't exist with regard to what you ingest. Either you're allergic to nuts or you're not and if you are, you just avoid anything that says "almond." Period. Unless you want to risk the ticket, i.e., the possibly fatal trip to the emergency room.

Sorry if I sound cranky but there is real lack of education out there and I am concerned for all the nut-allergic kiddoes as they head to their winter parties or what have you.

Allergic families, this is for you. Please step up! Offer to bring something so that the room moms and family members aren't put in a position where they even feel like they have to bring a treat specifically for your allergic child. Be proactive and it will pay off, I promise. Your kids will appreciate your involvement, too.

Readers, your thoughts? Am the only one worried about this?


Tiffany said...

Great post! Thank you for suggesting non-edible treats. Fun for everyone :)

Kelly @ In Everything said...

great post!! I just found your blog through The Divvies post you did.

Love the idea of non-edible treats or store-bought foods with LABEL:)

And yes I get a little crazy during the holidays and having fmaily attempt to cook for us... I questions EVERYTHING like 2 times. And truth be told we've had more Allergic reactions when visiting family than even in our home!! Everyone is soo sweet to offer, but allergic-families have such a different ingredient view than others.

Karen Akins said...

Amen! And thank you.

I had a scare while we were spending the weekend with a group of friends just one week after we found out about our son's peanut allergy. I had instructed everyone **not** to give him anything to eat, to run all foods by me first. And it was right after Halloween, so I got to feel like a Grinch insisting that we put away all the peanut-containing candy in case their kids left it out.

The second morning we were there, my son walked up to me with food in his mouth (he's 2). And I distinctly smelled nut, so I wigged out, ran into the kitchen with him to try to figure out what he'd eaten. One of the other moms said, "Calm down. It's just Cheerios." "Honey NUT Cheerios?" She turned pale. "Yeah. I checked the label. It didn't say it had peanuts in it." Thankfully, it was off-brand and only contained almond flavoring, not extract (and he hasn't even tested positive on almond at all).

It's so hard to find that balance between educating/advocating and haranguing. Unfortunately, it seems like if you don't harangue (and even sometimes if you do), people still don't get it unless they have a food allergic child.

Sorry. Thanks for letting me vent. :)

Anonymous said...

no, i am petrified, of those who just don't care about the allergies and of those who try to hard to show they care! please, please just be respectful of my little one and how we need to live our life to sta safe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thank you for this post.

dannyscotland said...

Many schools here where I live only allow store-bought treats in the classroom now.

I think this is very well-put and it's absolutely reasonable to ask people not to bake for a child with allergies.

Julie said...

Love your post! Can I say a hearty AMEN?

Ali said...

Thank you!!! Now if I could just get my non-allergic friends reading this. I have to say that I wouldn't even let a parent of a child with identical allergies bake for DD. It is just to risky and consequences are too serious.

Jenny said...

Thanks for the input, everyone.

Ali, you're right. Even if someone else's child has the exact same allergies, that doesn't mean they handle them the way you would like.

Everyone should use their judgment, so I appreciate that insight. Thanks.--Jenny

Wendy @Celiacs in the House said...

The same can be said for those of us with celiac kids. While they may not end up in the hospital, it could ruin the fun of the holidays with GI distress or mess up their GPA with brain fog and concentration issues before a big, important exam. Cross-contamination is such a big issue for all of us and sometimes the least understood by those living outside the allergy/intolerance/celiac world.

Also, a big thank you, Jenny. My two year blog anniversary is Tuesday and as I looked over my early posts, there you were commenting before anyone else found me and I was blogging away hoping someone was reading. Thanks for that early support.

hsw said...

I agree that I wouldn't trust even someone with the same allergies - one of the allergies we deal with is corn and so we avoid xanthan gum. Some corn allergic people still use it though. The allergist told us to avoid coconut and I know there's debate about that even among the nut allergic. Oh, and some people with soy allergies can tolerate soy lecithin but it gives my daughter a reaction, as does vitamin E in lotions. The list goes on and on, sigh. We avoid so much (wheat, corn, soy, milk, egg, oats, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, grape, melon...) I hate how events are so food centric! Sorry to ramble, thank you for your post!

Jenny said...

Wendy, you're right--the same goes for celiac disease. Basically, any dietary need or restriction is usually pretty complicated and everyone needs to respect that.

Also, congrats on your two-year blog anniversary! I LOVE your blog and it is beautifully written and great graphics, too!

HSW: wow, you do deal with a lot of allergies and that must be tough. You brought up coconut--I will be mentioning that in a future post. It's actually not a tree nut--nut allergic people can eat it--provided they also aren't allergic to coconut. More on that later!

hsw said...

Can't wait to read about coconut! We were vegetarian to start so anything that opens up her diet would be great. :) I appreciate being able to see how other moms deal. Speaking of which, I'd love to know how other moms deal with subsequent kids. I have a 4 month old son... we all eat only safe foods but I wonder how I go about ever finding out if he actually has allergies like his big sister. Or how other moms find out if their child has grown out of an allergy. Also, what safe makeup is there? I stoped using makeup for fear my daughter would kiss my cheek and react. In case you ever run out of topics. :)

Lindsay said...

I wrote a post about "food pushers" (that's what I call them) awhile back. It can be so frustrating, but we have to be willing to put our health above the feelings of others, even though it's hard to do. I just wish that friends and family members understood that rejecting their food is not a rejection of them as loved ones in my life.

@hsw: I agree! I'm also tired of everything revolving around food. My thought? Let's just start planning activities that don't involve food, and see if our friends even miss it. :)

@Jenny: I'm also very much looking foward to your post on coconut.

Jenny said...

Hi Lindsay--I forgot, I actually wrote a post about coconut and tree nut allergies already! Here's the link:

I may have to do some follow-up, but this gets you started.

One thing I've learned: there is no rhyme or reason with the FDA. Why they classify coconut as a tree nut when it is not a tree nut is completely useless and limits people unnecessarily.

Lindsay said...

Thanks Jenny! Just read the post. Even though I now know that coconut is safe, it's hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I can eat it (after being told it's a tree nut for almost 3 years!)

Anonymous said...

I came upon your blog while looking online about vanilla allergies. There is very LITTLE out there and is pretty uncommon from what I am reading. My other son is allergic to eggs, tree nuts, salmon (another wierd one) and dairy. So needless to say, I am in need of advise in any of these areas especially vanilla. The dr wants us to avoid "artifical flavorings" as well. YIKES!