food allergies, nut allergy, Uncategorized

The stress of dining out with food allergies

I don’t remember when it was, or where we had been eating. I do however vividly remember eating out at a restaurant when Alyssa and Tyler were very young. The waiter asked us if we had any food allergies and I replied: “Nope, luckily none of us have any food allergies!”  I’m not sure, why I remember this incident. Maybe, it is because shortly after this meal, we wouldn’t be able to answer that question the same way, or with such ease, again.

I was diagnosed with a severe Almond allergy when Tyler was around ten months old. After having Tyler, I noticed when I was nursing him I would feel very ill, dizzy, nauseous, horrible stomach pains and GI issues. I felt like I was going to pass out numerous times. When I told the doctors, they suggested I needed more protein because he was eating constantly.

I kept a bag of almonds on my bed table, and I would eat them the entire time I nursed him. I didn’t ever think the almonds what was making me sick since I had been eating almonds my whole life. One day, I made pad thai, and I felt like my mouth was itchy and throat was tight. I called the doctor, and she said to take some Benadryl and got me into see an allergist.

The scratch tests showed on top of being severely allergic to everything that grows,  I was severely allergic to almonds. The allergist prescribed me an epi pen and just told me to avoid eating almonds. Ok, that seemed easy enough.

It was about nine months later that Tyler was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. Tyler had been eating a Hershey’s bar with almonds, he hadn’t even eaten the almond just a piece of the chocolate surrounding the almond and he developed hives all over his back. I gave him Benadryl and the doctor confirmed he was allergic to peanuts a few days later.

I am very grateful, Tyler’s first reaction was mild, and we didn’t have to deal with a full blown anaphylactic reaction. I know a lot of people who have kids with life threatening food allergies are not this lucky.

Prior to Dylan being diagnosed, I was pretty laid back with what I ate. I didn’t worry much about cross contamination or avoiding all nuts until after Tyler. We now avoid all foods that say made in a facility that contains nuts. We avoid all bakeries, Chinese food restaurants, and most ice cream shops.

I so yearn for the day that we can be out and about and just stop at any restaurant we want to grab a quick lunch or dinner without stressing over what’s on the menu. I try to eat out as little as possible because I can’t take the stress of having the food prep out of my control. Eating at home just isn’t always practical and I want the kids to experience life as normal as everyone else.

Today, when we go out to a restaurant, I don’t have to wait for a waiter or chef to ask us if we have a food allergy because it’s one of the first things we tell them. Even when we are at a restaurant, which we frequent regularly and feel comfortable with I stress the entire meal. I watch, and I worry, I wish I could follow the wait staff into the kitchen and watch them prep the meal from start to finish. Obviously, I don’t do any of this, (sadly these are only some of the negative thoughts running through my head)

I do try to internalize my fears and teach my son to be vigilant about his allergy so, he will be able to safely navigate the world without me. I also hope, he learns to be cautious, and aware of his allergy without all the stress and anxiety that I have. I’m hoping maybe my anxiety will cover it for the both of us!

Luckily, most of the restaurants in the greater Boston area have good food allergy protocols in place and you can find a safe meal relatively easily. Traveling is even more stressful, I will post another article about how we traveled to California this summer. It was so stressful, it deserves it’s own post!

We do use the allergy eats app. I have found it can be very helpful reading other people’s reviews about how allergy aware and accommodating a restaurant is. I try to include reviews about restaurants we have tried especially when we travel outside of the Boston area.  If you haven’t heard of Allergy eats I highly recommend checking it out, the more reviews the better it will be for all of us!!

( I have no affiliation with Allergy eats, I have just found it to be helpful from time to time.)

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