Imagine opening your fridge and seeing a jug of windshield washer fluid or a brick of rat poison. This is a familiar scene to me... except the jug of windshield washer fluid has the label 1% milk and the brick of rat poison is mozzarella cheese. There's poison in my fridge and I don't know what to do about it.
My 2 1/2 year old daughter has an anaphylaxis allergy to all dairy. What is anaphylaxis? According to Anaphylaxis Canada, "anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that can be life threatening. Food is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, but insect stings, medicine, latex, or exercise can also cause a reaction" (Anaphylaxis Canada, 2010, Paragraph 1).
We found out she had this life threatening allergy shortly after she turned one. A small taste of yogurt resulted in respiratory distress and a trip to the emergency. After a shot of epinephrine, we were sent beck home and told to avoid all dairy. That was it... nothing else. No literature on anaphylaxis, no referrals to specialists, no recommendations for support.
Up until now, it has been manageable.
- We self-educated ourselves on anaphylaxis.
- We have two Epi-pens that we carry with her at all times.
- We have provided Epi-pen demonstrations to family members who care for our daughter.
- She only eats food that is prepared by us.
- We are very aware of cleanliness in order to avoid cross-contamination.
- We have a fridge which has the freezer compartment on the bottom and the fridge up top, so she couldn't open the fridge by herself.
- When we go to parties or dinners, she wears a large stop-sign shaped sticker on her shirt that says "Do not feed me - I have life-threatening allergies".
- I prepare homemade breads, meals and desserts for her.
- We talk to her about her allergies (e.g. "You can't have that cookie because it has diary in it - dairy makes you sick")
However, my little girl is almost three. She can almost open the fridge by herself. She wants the food that other people are eating... and unfortunately pretty much everything is made with dairy.
I feel overwhelmed by guilt when I open the fridge and see a container of milk or cream. My husband and I love dairy. I don't know what I would do without my coffee with cream or my snack of crackers and cheese! I've been asked by people if my husband and I avoid dairy as well. I cringe and I present the usual answer that we're still figuring things out. I have thoughts that I'm a horrible mom... other people with children who have anaphylaxis purge their homes of the contaminate... why can't I do the same?
We are still trying to figure out what to do. As every day passes we have new frustrations and challenges with allergy management. Should we have a locked-box in our fridge to store our dairy products? Do we try to convert to dairy-free? Will we have to attend all birthday parties with her? Will she be home-schooled? Why does it feel like there's no information on dealing with a child who has life-threatening dairy allergies? Will we ever have a leisurely, relaxed, meal-time ever again?
I don't know what to do. Naturally, like most parents, at one time or another we have feelings of gross incompetence. Lately, those feelings are exponential. We will continue down the path of self-education and hopefully, we will have a better grasp of what to do in this next stage of our daughter's life.
Anaphylaxis Canada. (July 26, 2010). Welcome to Anaphylaxis Canada. Retrieved September 22, 2010 from, http://www.anaphylaxis.ca/.