Letter from an ‘Allergy Child’ ParentWhat I REALLY Want You to Know!

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  • Letter from an ‘Allergy Child’ Parent

Dear Parents of the ‘Easy’ kids……

It has been brought to my attention on more than a number of occasions that children with allergies are becoming quite a nuisance for you. As a parent of one of those kids, I would like to express how deeply sorry I am that this is an issue, not only for you, but for me.

You see, having a child with allergies may impose a bit of a re-do of your child’s lunch box, but for me, it turns an hour grocery shop into a 3 hour label-reading hassle and a $25 packed lunch for a 3 year old. I can understand that not being able to slap your child’s sandwich with the convenience of peanut butter or Nutella would be frustrating, or that your child may have to wash their hands after eating their yoghurt or cheese stick before they can play with that other kid. Believe me, I understand. It frustrates me too when I can only give my daughter strawberry jam because Vegemite makes her break out in hives or the touch of a cheese slice may mean another trip to the hospital.

What I don’t understand is the ignorance some parents have towards allergies. Just because you haven’t experienced it or you don’t live it, does that mean that they don’t exist or that parents exaggerate their severity? I bet you get sick of being told what you can and can’t pack in your children’s backpack. I’m sick of being told that my child’s allergy only exists because I didn’t expose her to those particular allergens. How do you think I found out that she had any allergies in the first place?

I know this may be coming across rather ignorant or rude even, and I apologise for that as it is not my intention. I just want you to try and see this matter from my point of view; put yourself in my shoes if you will.

I have been battling/handling/nurturing my daughter’s allergies since she was just 4 months old. Before that, my husband and I tackled silent reflux, breast refusal, shame and guilt for bottle feeding, and being told our daughter was underweight and malnourished. Try that on for size when you’re a first time mum!

At just 16 weeks young my sweet, tiny first born was subjected to severe eczema resulting from the use of milk protein-based formula. Allergy number 1 emerged – dairy. Switching to a soy-based formula was her doctor’s directive which we hesitantly followed. Her eczema continued; enter allergy number 2 – soy.

 

Nappy rash is common in all bubs, but when it continues and gets gradually worse, seemingly only when your bub eats a certain food – allergy number 3 – mango. Allergy number 4 snuck up on us when our bub celebrated a little friend’s birthday at day care. One of the main ingredients in cake and one of the most common allergies in Australian kids – egg. From there, we have discovered nut allergies and slight gluten intolerance and no, this isn’t just the reaction of a fearful parent, this is her body carrying misfortunate genes.

I get exhausted just reading that. And so does my purse. Formula, eczema cream, specialist and dietitian appointments, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, flavour-free foods that cost a fortune because apparently a person with allergies is classed as a ‘niche’ market. Did you know that over 4.1 million Australians have had at least one allergy-related issue? That’s 19.1% of the population!

There is a real lack of appreciation and understanding of the impact of allergic disorders, not just on the child, but on their families also and the last thing a parent of a child with allergies needs is other parents saying how inconvenient it is. All I ask is a little compassion and if anything at all, a little understanding. Because yes, you do have to eliminate certain foods from your child’s lunch box to decrease the possibility of severe allergic reactions in other kids but I have to eliminate entire food groups and proteins which may very well hamper my child’s growth, nutrition and wellbeing. I have to eliminate risks and from there, I have to eliminate my child’s sadness at the fact that she can’t share in the birthday cake for her little friend’s birthday because it will make her sick.

See, there are two sides to the allergy stone and all I hope is that you try and understand what it would be like if it was your child that was putting other children out, seemingly agitating their parents in the process. Because if it was your child, you would be standing right beside me feeling exactly the same way as I do, asking exactly the same thing of other parents – to help in keeping all of our kids safe, no matter how many jars of chocolate spread you had to return to Woolies.

Yours sincerely,

 

That Parent

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