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Food allergies are now so common that most moms, whether they have an allergic kid themselves or not, know the basics. Small things like packing nut-free school lunches, wiping hands before playdates and asking other parents before offering food to their kids make a big difference in keeping allergic littles safe.
Unfortunately, some people still just don’t ‘get’ it. For people with food allergies (or their parents if those people are small,) this translates to a near constant stream of bizarre, offensive and potentially hazardous conversations and situations. Read on for the top ten things not to say to an allergy mom... or to her kid.
1. “How can you live without nuts/dairy/wheat/etc? I would die if I couldn't eat that.”
Oh, fun. Hyperbole. Insinuating that a food-allergic child is missing out on something amazing by avoiding a food that could actually kill him is insensitive... and annoying.
2. “Oh, food allergies, I have the same thing—I'm lactose intolerant.”
Yeah.... No. Not the same thing.
3. *The eye roll.*
Sorry to inconvenience you? Or maybe you think I’m being overprotective. Well, take a moment to imagine if everyone around your kid were carrying a loaded gun. Trust me: you’d be doing exactly what I’m doing if a food—or multiple foods—could kill your child. Have a little compassion.
4. “She has an Epi Pen, so she’s good, right?”
Epi Pens work for a finite amount of time to keep our children’s organ systems from shutting down while a speeding ambulance brings them to an emergency room. And that’s just the beginning of the very long, very traumatic sequence of treatments in the event of anaphylactic shock. Most allergy families have experienced this first-hand at least once. Please do everything you can to help us avoid having to use an Epi Pen in the first place. (Though if you’ll be supervising an allergic child for any length of time, definitely ask how to use it—and DO use it if you need to.)
5. “Have you tried curing it with kale shakes?”
Oh! Kale shakes! Of course. How could I not have thought of kale shakes to reverse my kid’s mind-blowingly complex immune disregulation?
Flying is really scary for allergy moms; we’re definitely having a harder flight than you are, no matter what kind of snack you wish you were eating.
6. “It only has a little bit of *insert allergen* in it. Just a little couldn’t hurt.”
This one usually comes from well-meaning grandparents holding plates of freshly-baked cookies. Thing is, only a little definitely could and would hurt. Please understand: no nuts means NO nuts. Not even a little. None.
7. “Your son has food allergies? I don't know how you do it. That must be horrible for you.” (In front of child.)
Thanks for that... I’m assuming you’ll now be footing my kid’s lifelong therapy bill as he works through believing he’s an unwanted burden to his family and to society at large?
8. “I’m not inviting your child to the party because I don’t want to deal with her allergies.”
Here’s what to say instead if, you know, you’re a decent human being: “How can I help to make the party safe and fun for your child?” Allergy parents will happily answer this question, and will go out of their way to make the answer simple and easy for anyone considerate enough to ask. You’ll probably end up with another set of helping hands on party day. (Not to mention with a new mom friend who henceforth totally has your back.)
9. “In the olden days, these kids would have just died. It’s survival of the fittest.”
Theoretical debates about what might have happened to my kid in the olden days aren’t really my jam. I’m pretty busy helping him live an awesome life right now. Here in 2015. The present time in which one out of every thirteen kids has a potentially deadly food allergy. It’s an epidemic: a new one, a growing one, and a serious one that is not the result of Darwinism not doing its job. (Also, let me Google the word "Tact" for you.)
10. “Oh snap! You’d prefer I don’t eat nuts right next to your allergic kid as we hurtle through the air in this flying metal box at 35,000 feet? That stinks! I really want to eat these nuts. Your kid won’t have an allergic reaction just from being near my Snickers bar, anyway.” *Heavy sigh/sad face/groan.*
Oh, you want to eat those nuts? Do you want to kill a two-year-old? Didn’t think so. As for the proximity issue: some people will react by airborne inhalation. And even if someone's kid most likely won’t, an airplane is the last place a parent wants to experiment with that kind of thing. Do us a favor and keep your nuts—and your self-pity—packed away. Flying is really scary for allergy moms; we’re definitely having a harder flight than you are, no matter what kind of snack you wish you were eating.
Tell me, allergy moms: What would you add to this list?