Being a parent of a child with any physical issue has its overwhelming moments.
Sometimes it has its overwhelming years.
Watching them deal with frustration, fear, and pain can tear at your heart.
Dealing with life-threatening allergies can be a very emotionally draining and physically exhausting lifestyle.
There are sleepless nights as you lie listening to their breathing, jumping up when they sneeze or cough.
There are trips to the ER on family vacation because of exposure to animals, plants, or food.
There are hours spent in grocery stores reading labels, and trying to understand their mumbo jumbo.
There are choices you must make of where you can eat, sleep, and play… based on pets, food, and cigarette smoke.
There are parties you can’t go to, sports events you can’t attend, and restaurants you can’t visit because of peanuts and other allergens present.
For the past 17 years we have had to pay attention to every meal and snack and drink, 2 of our kids have eaten.
Over the past couple of years, we have been able to let our oldest daughter take more responsibility on her own about what food she eats…
She has allergies to all nuts, and is now showing sensitivity to gluten, avacado, and dairy.
Our youngest is just 10.
He has been dealing with allergies to nuts, peanuts, coconut, soy, and environmental triggers like dust mites, cats and dogs, and many pollens since he was 2.
So yes… it can be very overwhelming and stressful to be a parent of a kid(s) with allergies.
There have been times (after having to deal with unexplained anaphylaxis) that I have been fearful of saying something was “ok” for my son to eat.
I have jumped at every cough and sneeze, in a panic.
I can tell my son’s coughs and sneezed out of a houseful of coughs and sneezes.
My other kids tease me… saying they could be coughing for a long time and I don’t say anything.
But if Chris sneezes… I come running.
It is in those moments that I realize that I live under a certain level of stress that feels “normal.”
I want to share with you a few things I have found to help relieve some of that stress:
1) Find Support
Find another adult that is willing to be a safe person for your child. If you can, find several!
It might be a grandparent, an aunt or a friend.
This person is willing to take the allergies seriously, and be an advocate with you for them.
This person is willing to take the extra steps to keep your child safe when you are not able to be there.
This person is knowledgeable in how to use the medicines necessary to help in case of anaphylaxis.
Having this support in your life, gives you as a parent a mental and emotional break that we all need.
It gives you encouragement that someone else cares enough about your child to be that for them.
2) Educate Yourself and Your Family
One of my biggest stress relievers has been to learn as much as I can about living with allergies.
And then I educate my family and friends. (and anyone who cares to listen!)
Learning when and how to use an “epi-pen.”
Learning to check expiration dates on medicines.
Learning to read labels on food.
Learning to understand what the different medicines do for my child.
Hearing the doctor say, “You did the right thing. Don’t be scared to use the “epi-pen.”
Sharing with close friends and family what to do if our child is experiencing anaphylaxis.
Educating my kids has also been a HUGE stress reliever.
The more they know about what is happening with their own body, they can become a part of their own safe support group!
3) Make Your Home Safe
Another thing we have done to give our bodies and minds a break from the stress that comes from living with allergies,
is to make our home as safe as possible for our children.
This means purchasing doubles of some items.
This means keeping certain foods out of our home completely.
Some foods like nuts and peanut butter are so hard to contain.
Our pediatrician asked us to not even have them in our home when our son was younger.
We enjoyed the stress relief that gave, and still do not have any nuts or peanut butter allowed in our home.
This means cooking with only certain oils, reading labels, and keeping utensils from touching more than one food.
This means making it clear through communication and labeling, what foods ARE and ARE NOT safe for specific children.
This means investing in a good vacuum, and cleaning on a regular basis.
This means purchasing mattress covers, and pillow covers.
This means washing and cleaning anything that comes into our home.
This means not having cats and dogs in our home. :(
By taking these extra measures (which now just feel “normal”), we are able to provide a clean, safe home for our kids.
They are able to relax, lay on the furniture, eat the food, and feel as safe as they can with the allergies they deal with.
4) Focus On What You CAN Do.
By training my mind to see the glass half full, I can relieve my stress.
I focus on all the food we CAN have.
I talk about all the fun we CAN enjoy.
I can meet and hang out with families that GET the allergy world, even if they don’t have any kids with allergies.
I can let my child go over to friends houses that ARE willing to make their home safe for them.
If my language and attitude are positive, it relieves my stress.
5) Plan Ahead.
Because it is not easy for us to safely eat out, it has helped over the years to plan ahead for our meals.
If we are going to be out for the day and need to eat out,
going on-line and finding allergen menus for the restaurant ahead of time, saves us frustration in the moments.
Packing lunches, doing our errands after we just ate, and using our crockpot, has also saved us so much stress!
Talking to the hosts of functions we are attending, ahead of time, has allowed us to attend weddings, graduations, and other events.
Most of our interactions with people concerning allergies have been positive and full understanding.
With 1 out of every 13 kids having some sort of food allergy, it is not as unusual as it used to be!
At our family functions, people have been willing to bring desserts and other food with no nuts!
What an understanding family we have!
As I am writing this post, I am reminded of all the people that have taken time to educate, support, encourage,
and make it possible for us to participate in functions.
To those that show love to our family as we deal daily with the reality of living with life-threatening allergies, I say, “Thank you!”
If you are one of those support people for someone with allergies, YOU ARE AMAZING and IMPORTANT!
Thank you for being a soothing balm to a troubled mom or dad.
Thank you for being peace in the midst of the stress.
Thank you for being LOVE.
If you are a parent of a child with allergies… You are not alone.
Share your story.
The more we share, the more others are aware.
I’d love to hear your story.
Please share in the comments!
Check out our children’s book about allergies: James and the Big Battle
Available in paperback and kindle versions.