Monday, July 27, 2009

Reflecting on a year

It's been just about a year since Georgia's first known allergic reaction, which was to a bite of hummus. (I say "known" only because there are some of her more serious eczema outbreaks when she was younger that I now wonder if were due to foods that I was eating that she was getting through breastmilk.)

Anyway, I thought I should pause and reflect on our first year of dealing with a food allergic child. What the surprises have been, etc.
  • It feels like it has been a lot longer than a year. Feels like it's been from the beginning but it hasn't.
  • The wait to get in to see the allergist felt interminably long.
  • I can't believe what a crazy restricted diet she was on for about 2 months while we were waiting to get in for that first allergist appointment. Felt like a caveman's diet.
  • Given Georgia's young age, and our ability to control her diet 100%, I think the biggest impacts on our life so far have been: (1) When we go out (for errands, outings, whatever) we tend to take food with us way more often than other parents of a toddler her age, just in case; and (2) We hardly ever eat out at restaurants with her - to us it's just not worth the hassle most of the time. (So, yeah, I guess we're not the "cool" parents who haven't let having a child impact their own social life at all (the ones that many childless people I know seem to always think of as the "best" or most laid back). Oh well!)
[As to (1) and (2) -- both seem silly if you consider the multitude of foods that Georgia CAN eat. Problem is knowing what's in everything, which is why it's just so much more convenient to us to pack stuff or eat at home than to have to constantly ask questions or read labels when we're out.]
  • We've been lucky that Georgia has had no serious allergic reactions. What I wish people could understand is that even the mild ones are not fun to experience. They're scary.
  • I think every first time parent goes through those, "is the baby dead?" moments when they just have to go in and check on the sleeping child to put their mind at ease. I think we experienced (and still experience) that syndrome WAY worse than the average parent. (It stems from the fact that we've been told that anaphylaxis can kick in up to 2 hours after exposure to a food, and when you're dealing with a kid who sleeps as much as Georgia did this year, well, there's not always room for a 2 hour window between eating and sleeping.) I know it's probably a ridiculous, unfounded fear, but it crops up now and then.
  • I guess I knew before we were thrust into the fold that food allergies were a "hot topic." But I had no idea how much misinformation is out there. How strongly opinionated people can be about this stuff. How much negativity there often is in the media's coverage of the issue. How truly unsympathetic, and frankly, downright cruel, people can be when leaving comments on the Internet (to articles or blog posts they've read). I have got to learn not to let those people get to me, or just not to read the comments! (BTW, when it comes to this stuff, Joe is SO much better than I am at not giving a hoot what anyone else thinks. He would never let such hurtful comments get to him.)
  • I've noticed a pattern. As vigilant as we try to be, we ebb and flow. We go for a period where Georgia has no allergic reaction to anything and slowly we become just a little bit more lax -- a litte more willing to let her eat something without asking first what's in it and instead going with our assumption that it's okay. And then she has some kind of reaction, and suddenly we're all hyper-vigilant again. [That's normal, right? I imagine that pattern will continue forever as we, and eventually she, try to always strike the right balance between safety and unnecessary caution.]
  • To our surprise, we find the sesame allergy to be the most annoying to deal with.
  • Another surprise: We wish they could come up with an allergy test for severity almost as much as we wish they could come up with a cure. Of course a cure would be ideal, but if that's not possible in the near term future, then please, oh please, scientists, work on a severity test.
  • This is stating the obvious after having reflected on all of the above, but it's remarkable after one year of dealing with food allergies how much of a head game allergies can create. (At least for the parents. I don't ever want this stuff to stress Georgia out as much as it can stress us out.) The physical part of food allergies is so manageable; the mental part sometimes requires more work.

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