From May 9 to May 15, the Living Teal Food Allergy Awareness Week is dedicated to providing resources to learn, love and connect with the whole wide Food Allergy family. While a central part of why we started was to help prevent food allergies through a food-first approach, we are also grateful for organizations like FARE that provide resources for families who suffer from food allergies, while also furthering research towards allergy prevention through their SEED study.
"We used to think feeding common allergenic foods increased a child's chances of becoming allergic to that food, but not only did this advice from the medical community not prevent infants from developing a food allergy, it actually appears to have increased the prevalence of them." said Dr. Ron Sunog, pediatrician and Medical Advisor to Puffworks. "Thanks to a groundbreaking [LEAP] study, we are now learning that early introduction to the of the Big Eight (soon to be nine - with sesame) can be a game-changer in helping prevent food allergies. As a doctor - and a father - I love the idea of keeping babies healthy with a nutritious food-first approach."
As we head into Food Allergy Awareness Week, we're so grateful to Samantha of @themommanual for her willingness to share share her daughter's food allergy journey. While her story and journey is unique to her, we thought it might be helpful for other moms/parents who might be going through something similar or who are nervous about early allergen introduction:
"I’ll never forget the first time we gave our baby peanut butter. Within a few minutes, her face and torso were covered with hives. She looked up at me and I could see in her eyes that she knew something wasn’t right. Panic swept over my body as I quickly pulled her from her high chair, striped off her outfit and cleaned her up. We rushed to the pediatric urgent care right outside of our neighborhood. Thankfully, she was okay and her reaction was limited to just hives.
Now armed with epi-pens and Benadryl, something within me shifted that day.
It was like all of the freedom and naiveté I had always lived with was stripped away from me.
Suddenly, my daughter’s newly diagnosed food allergy to peanuts (and we soon learned tree nuts and eggs as well) changed our entire lives. It changed the way I shopped for groceries, the ease and frequency with which we ate at restaurants, our ability to travel wherever and whenever we wanted, and the comfort level I felt when leaving her with someone other than me or my husband. Going to birthday parties, play dates, baking cookies, trick-or-treating on Halloween, even being able to swing through a quick drive-thru without a second thought… everything was different. Risky. And very limited.
Our lives now required a lot of legwork, research, planning way far in advance, having uncomfortable conversations with waitstaff, family, and friends, and having to avoid foods, places, and experiences that might put my child’s life at risk. It felt incredibly heavy, suffocating, and isolating.
The possibility that she could have a life threatening reaction at any meal haunted me each day. The pressure to keep her safe was anxiety inducing enough while she was small and within my care for each meal, but what about as she grew up and was apart from me more and more? As she went to school? To friends’ houses? What if a future boyfriend forgot and ate a peanut butter sandwich before giving her a kiss?
There’s so much I never knew about living with food allergies, and it turned my world upside down.
When it came time for our second baby to start solids, I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to give her the best chance of being able to tolerate the Top 9 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, shellfish, finned fish, wheat, soy, dairy, & now the recent addition of sesame), especially given her elevated risk since her sibling had a history of them.
I made a preemptive appointment with our allergist/immunologist to discuss our timeline of when we should introduce the most allergenic foods to her, and in what order. Studies show delaying the introduction of the “Top 9”, as they’re called, can increase the risk of developing food allergies. I often wonder if I’d only given peanuts to my oldest daughter a few months earlier, if it would have prevented her from developing a food allergy to them?
We followed our allergist’s advice and were thrilled to learn that our youngest was not allergic to any of the Top 9, though she did have a few random allergies to other foods (which isn’t common).
When my oldest daughter was 2, we were able to “challenge” her food allergies under the direction and supervision of our allergist. Most individuals with peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish allergies especially, will have those food allergies for the rest of their lives. The chances of ever outgrowing them are very small. Miraculously, she passed her peanut and tree nut food challenges and is now safe to eat those foods.
The relief and happiness I feel for our family, most importantly for her, is unquantifiable.
Equally important to the early introduction of the Top 9 allergens is consistent exposure to them in one’s diet a few times each week to help maintain your tolerance to them (as long as you are not allergic!). We love eating our Puffworks to help get our exposure to peanuts because they’re really, really delicious, easy to take with us on the go, and are much easier to clean up than peanut butter. I also love that the ingredients are super simple and minimal, and that they make a version for babies (Puffworks baby) that dissolve easily. I find that I always have a bag or two in our diaper bag, as well as in our car just in case we need a snack break at the park or when running errands. My husband and I even love to eat them just as much as our kids!
I never knew that food allergies could change so much for our family, and I’m unbelievably grateful that her past food allergies no longer pose a threat to her. If you’ve been fortunate enough to never have had to live with food allergies and have a little one who is about to start solids, I can’t stress enough how important it is to educate yourself on introducing allergens to your child, and speak with your pediatrician about how to do so and the best time to start for your baby. Once you get the go-ahead, Puffworks’ puffs are such a great and easy way to give your kiddos exposure to peanuts.
As parents, we don’t have control over everything in our children’s lives, but we do have influence over a great deal. There’s so much power in being informed and doing what you can to give your child the best chance of not developing food allergies."
Follow Samantha on Instagram @themommanual as she teaching other moms how to organize in a way that’s realistic, maintainable, & actually makes life easier.
Disclaimer: This was our personal experience with food allergies. None of this is intended as medical advice or is to be construed as such. Please consult with your pediatrician or allergist to determine the best course of action for your child and family.