Special thanks to Nutricia, maker of Neocate®, for supporting our educational blog series on managing food allergies in infants and toddlers. This post is the first in a three-part series.
By: Gina Clowes, Director of Education, FARE
I was so happy to see my 8 month-old son Daniel enjoying homemade split pea soup. But I wondered about the pinkness I saw around his mouth. By the time I got a washcloth, I saw a look of panic in his eyes. Then came the vomiting. After a stressful trip to the pediatrician’s office, and confirmation of yet another food allergy, he was no worse for wear by that evening. I, on the other hand, still feel a twinge of mommy-guilt when I see his scared face in my mind’s eye.
When your baby is diagnosed with food allergies, it is life-changing. Whether it is “only” one allergy or multiple food allergies, when your child can no longer grab a cookie off of the buffet table, life gets a lot more complicated.
The good news about caring for a baby with allergies is that your infant is not going to a pizza parlor or the prom any time soon. You have time to adjust to the food allergy world before your little one is out and about. However, there are a few things you’ll need to know to create the foundation for calm and confidence now. Here’s where to start.
Learn to Use the Epinephrine Auto-injector
If your child had a serious reaction, hopefully you received a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector. If not, call your doctor’s office today so that you child can be evaluated, diagnosed and given a prescription. Have your doctor demonstrate how to use it. Or watch an online video tutorial from the manufacturer. Then practice with the trainer. It’s easy. And parents routinely report that they feel more empowered and optimistic when they have actually used an epinephrine auto-injector. Now they know that they can do it. You can too!
Emergency Care Plan
Download and print FARE’s Food Allergy Emergency Care Plan and bring this to your physician’s office or mail it to the office along with a self addressed stamped envelope.
This is the plan that tells you how to treat a mild or severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis). In an emergency, you do not want to have to make the decision about how to medicate your child. You want your child’s doctor to make this important decision for you ahead of time.
The emergency care plan (ECP) is individualized based on your child’s age, weight, allergies and unique medical history.
Introduce Foods With Care
When a baby has food allergies, the normal process of introducing foods can feel like a minefield. A baby cannot tell you that the formula in her bottle makes her throat tight or that your split pea soup upsets his stomach.
Food allergy testing does not give you black and white answers but it’s a place to start. My son’s allergist reviewed his skin and blood testing and made specific recommendations on foods that we could try at home, foods that needed to be challenged in the office and those that needed to be avoided altogether. When in doubt, ask your doctor about the foods you’d like to introduce to your baby.
I also watched closely when my son didn’t like a particular food. For example, he rejected green beans and although the pediatrician swore he could not be allergic to green beans, we found out the hard way that he actually is. This doesn’t mean that you should not introduce new foods. The key is to work carefully with your child’s allergist and report any issues of concern.
Find one friend who “gets it.” It can be lonely and scary when caring for a baby with food allergies. Even when both parents are on board, they often have different ways of coping. Having a friend in your court can make a world of difference. They don’t have to live with food allergies, but it helps if they can truly listen to your concerns and fears.
Reach out to friends and share what you are going through or look for a support group in your area to connect with other food allergy families.
It’s normal to feel scared or overwhelmed when your baby is diagnosed with food allergies. Follow the steps above to create a foundation of care, and take it one day at a time.
Most important, enjoy your baby every day. They are never this age again.
This blog series is made possible through a gift from Nutricia, maker of Neocate®.