I was thrust into the world of food allergies when scrambled eggs almost killed my fourth child.
As the mother of four, I thought I was pretty savvy when it came to feeding my kids. But that morning, when my littlest one’s face inflated like a red balloon, I realized how little I knew…and how much I had to learn.
I was totally oblivious to food allergies when my baby started to fuss that morning. I thought that she was tired and put her down for a nap. When I checked on her, her eyes were swollen shut. Still in complete oblivion, I turned to my older three and asked if they had put something in her face.
With their blank stares, I turned back to my baby and noticed that she was having difficulty breathing. Then I got scared. Really scared. The kind of scared that only a mom knows when she sees her child in danger. And I raced to the pediatrician’s office.
They told me “food allergies.” My daughter was having an allergic reaction to eggs.
What in the world did that mean?
Today, 1 out of every 15 kids under the age of three has a food allergy. That means that one out of every 8 moms has engaged in the vertical learning curve that I went through last spring.
I quickly learned that any food can cause an allergic reaction, but 90% of food allergies are caused by wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, shellfish and fish.
What that means is that your child sees certain foods as threats to her system. Food becomes the enemy causing her body’s immune system to attack and act out on itself.
Symptoms of food allergies can be mild and may include hives and itching (sometimes known as eczema). Not too bad, you think. That’s manageable.
Symptoms can also include wheezing and difficulty breathing (asthma). A little bit scarier.
Some symptoms include gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting. Nasty, but as moms, we’ve seen it all.
More severe symptoms include swelling of the face, lips, throat and tongue which is when things start to get scary.
And the scariest, most heart-stopping moment when you have a child with food allergies is the threat of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock which can lead to a drop in blood pressure, a closing of the airways, shock and unconsciousness. Anaphylaxis can be fatal.
It’s a lemon of a diagnosis.
But I’m a lemonade kind of girl. So when my fourth child was diagnosed with food allergies, I got to work.
I launched AllergyKids to create awareness of the millions of children with food allergies. AllergyKids designed the universal symbol for food allergies- a bright green octagon, our very own “pink ribbon” – to make it easy to identify these children at school, in the daycare or at a birthday party. AllergyKids also engaged some of the brightest minds in pediatric care and developed a free newsletter to help educate moms and caregivers.
To save you precious time, we’ll briefly highlight what we’ve learned and invite you to follow our Hot Moms Club column to learn more.
Diet can play an important role in the health of children with immune challenges like food allergies (did you know that processed foods contain hidden allergens?).
There are steps that every mom can take in an effort to prevent the development of food allergies (have you heard about soy formula as a factor in the development of peanut allergy?)
There are foods besides peanuts that you may want to avoid during pregnancy (have you heard about the hidden allergens in soy?)
When you are armed with knowledge, you suddenly realize that this whole thing is manageable.
With food allergies, it’s still a crazy world. Peanut butter battles are brewing in schools across the country.
But if you stick with Hot Moms Club, we’ll keep you savvy and help you protect your little ones with food allergies. What a precious gift!
About AllergyKids: AllergyKids launched on Mothers’ Day 2006 and was founded by Robyn O’Brien after her fourth child was diagnosed with food allergies. Visit Allergy Kids for additional resources including free newsletters about food allergies and simple steps that you can take to help keep your family safe!
Robyn O’Brien is the founder of AllergyKids which launched on Mothers’ Day 2006 after Robyn’s fourth child was diagnosed with food allergies. Prior to motherhood, Robyn worked as an analyst on one of the nation’s largest portfolio management teams. Robyn received an MBA in finance on a full scholarship and was a Fulbright Fellow. She has been interviewed on CNN, ABC National News, and for local television, radio and newspapers across the country.
Robyn is married and has four children between the ages of 2 and 7. In her efforts to create awareness of children with food allergies, she has received encouragement from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Erin Brockovich and parents around the world