Is creating a food allergy safe house really what’s best for your child with allergies? This is a controversial topic among families with children with severe food allergies. Let’s break it down and really take a look at this.
The Food Allergy Safe House – A home in which NO allergy foods are allowed.
This child doesn’t have to worry (and neither do his parents) about what he may eat while at home. He’s comfortable and can choose his own foods with ease. While at home he’s able to relax (and so can his parents) knowing that he’s safe. His parents make sure that they speak with him about what he can and cannot eat. They make sure to educate him about the seriousness of his allergies when he’s out in the real world. At home this child doesn’t feel different because everyone in the house eats what he eats. He is brought up feeling secure about the safety of his food choices while at home.
So what happens when this child goes to school for the first time? Is this child really prepared for sitting next to his friend that has an open container of cow’s milk? What happens when he goes to school and gets his first dose of feeling different? For many children coming from a food allergy safe house, the first year in school is a huge learning experience. Not only because he’s starting his educational journey, but because he’s learning to manage his allergies independently in a world that is not allergy free.
One of the many ways foods need
to be labeled in a supervised house.
Y = Yes he can eat it
N=No he can’t eat it
The Supervised House – A home in which allergy foods ARE allowed, but monitored.
This child grows up in a house with allergens all around him. This child learns at a young age what he can and cannot eat, not because someone told him, but because he makes those choices every day. He learns that because someone else is able to eat foods that he’s allergic to, he should not feel threatened, that’s just his life. He learns that he can be around people and for the most part they won’t be affected at all by his allergies. This child does not feel different when going to school because that has been his life forever. That it is his “normal”. His parents let him sit at the table with his siblings while they eat milk products or egg products. He knows from first hand experiences what happens if he sips from the wrong cup. For this child that mistake happened at home in his own environment, with his parents to care for him. His parents trust his abilities to be around allergens because he’s dealt with it at home since diagnosis. This child is more aware of his allergens because he hasn’t been protected from them his whole life.
What happens when this child goes to school for the first time? Is this child prepared for sitting next to his friend with the open container of milk? Are the parents more relaxed allowing this child to go to school knowing there will be allergens present? Does living in a supervised house increase the chances of this child having a reaction? Do the child and the parents learn something each time there is a reaction? Is it a positive lesson?
Does it take more effort for the parents to live in a house where allergens are allowed? Absolutely! But, in my situation the outcome is worth it. When our son was diagnosed with allergies to milk, soy, egg, peanut, tree nut, coconut, green pea, and garlic my oldest son was six years old. In no way do our youngest son’s allergies seem fair to me, but taking all of those foods away from my other son is also not fair. Honestly, it never even occurred to me to not allow those foods into our house. We don’t have any nuts available when our youngest is awake. Every dinner is made completely allergy free for the entire family, every night (okay, okay I do order take-out occasionally, just not for our child with allergies). However, I believe that with the amount of our son’s allergies he has to live this way. He must always be thinking “is this safe to eat?” Because when he gets too comfortable with not having to think about it, is when I feel he’ll make the wrong decisions out in the real world.
There have been many pros and cons to living our lives this way. My husband and I have both changed very much. The stress and anxiety of feeling like we’re always “on guard” has been a lot to handle. It made me feel like everything always needed to be planned; where are we going? Will there be animals? Do I have enough food packed? Did our oldest son leave his milk on the table? Did I wash my hands enough after handling the cheese? Does the dishwasher do a good enough job? Did my husband use the wrong sponge to clean the spilled cream? Did someone accidentally use their buttery knife and dip it into the jelly? (Are these not the same things our son will have to think of when he’s in college and living in dorms?) It just goes on, and on, and on, and on… However, I choose this type of house not only for my oldest son, but for my youngest son as well. I’m choosing to be the one to give him the hands on learning so I can feel like he’s prepared to go to school and off into the real world on his own. Because the choices he’ll make while in school are no different than the choices he’s already making at home.