Most of the time, Dietrich’s allergies are not a source of frustration for him. He rarely feels deprived of anything because I go out of my way to make or find foods that are safe for him to eat. Occasionally, he will ask for something, and I will search for a safe version of it. When or if one cannot be found, I create something special for him. This weekend, we stayed one night in our empty apartment. This weekend, Peter also happened to be on call with his new job. To get out of the empty apartment and give Peter some quiet to rest, we went exploring in our new hometown. Dietrich decided he wanted Donuts. Our new town doesn’t have any specialty bakeries or whole foods type stores, so I began a fruitless search. Since we have no pans or anything else, I didn’t want to get the necessary ingredients on this outing to make him safe donuts. We even went to a donut shop, where his heart broke as the lady said they made their donuts with eggs. As we returned to the car, Dietrich began to cry. “It’s not fair. Allergies are not fair. Why can’t they make things without eggs?” I agreed that allergies are not fair and that more people should make things safe for kids with allergies. I told him when we go back to the doctor to have his allergies checked, if the egg allergy came back as less bad, we would do an egg challenge under the doctor’s supervision (I explained all this to him). I told him that I wanted to keep him safe and that’s why I didn’t want to give him a food that might make him sick.
In Germany, Dietrich consumed more baked goods that may have contained eggs, yet rarely experienced allergy effects (though in a bakery, the handful of times he did get sick could be attributed to nuts). I think this has more to do with the freshness of the ingredients and the source of the ingredients. In America, commercially baked goods always produce an allergy reaction in Dietrich either by way of increased skin irritation, immediate rejection (vomiting), sneezing/itchy eyes, or asthma symptoms. Fortunately, his egg allergy has never caused anaphylaxis. We would rather not test that limit. When you really talk frankly to your child, who is almost seven, about the severity of food allergies, it’s hard to know the balance. Dietrich knows eggs, peanuts, and fish can make him very sick. Does he know or understand that “sick” could even mean dying? How do you explain such a big thing to a child without scaring him away from all food forever? I spent almost two years retraining him to eat after his egg allergy diagnosis, but I knew the problem and it had a solution.
Food allergies are not fair. If you are blessed enough to have no food issues in your family, thank God every meal for that blessing. If you are blessed enough to help your allergic child overcome and learn new things because of those allergies, thank God. Not everyone learns of a food allergy in time. Not everyone monitors every label. Cross contaminates are not required to be labeled at all. Not every intervention works in time. Some families have truly experienced heartbreak at the hands of a food allergy.
Dear Food Allergies, Don’t go breaking our hearts. We need our Sonshine, even on his moody days. Maybe life isn’t fair, but food allergies are a tough way to learn that lesson.