The Dreaded Accident…

The past two weeks have been rough. We spent a week in the hospital with my son who had RSV. Thankfully, he is all better now, but that week was hard. There’s not much worse than watching your child in the hospital and feeling like you have no control. The day after we got home from the hospital, I got a call that my grandpa (PawPaw) was in the hospital. It quickly progressed to a critical situation. I was able to visit him in the hospital just hours before he passed away. Our new year was off to a really rocky start.

Right after learning that he had passed, we had to take the kids to the doctor so that my son could have his follow-up appointment from the hospital stay. I didn’t want to miss it, so we sucked it up and went even though I wasn’t in the best place mentally. After we returned home, I loaded up my arms and unbuckled my two-year-old daughter like I always do since she sits on the passenger side of the van like me. I had her in my left arm while I also tried to balance my purse, her diaper bag, and my coffee cup from that morning. All of the sudden I heard her say, “I take a drink of Mommy’s cup!” I looked over, and she was sipping from my straw!

I immediately jumped into panic mode. I had coffee in the cup but I also had creamer in it – creamer that contains traces of milk – milk that she is allergic to…

I yanked the cup away as fast as I could and started talking loudly… “No! Asa you can’t drink that! Oh crap! Ryan, help me! She drank from my cup! No!” I ran up the stairs and into the house as fast I could while still balancing everything in my hands. I threw everything down and started examining Asa immediately. I knew that I had finished my coffee already before the appointment, but it was iced coffee, so the ice had melted leaving some watery-coffee at the bottom of the cup. I asked Asa if she actually took a drink. She said yes. I asked her is she actually tasted it in her mouth (trying to clarify is she REALLY took a drink). She said yes. My husband ran for the Benadryl as I stripped off her clothes so I could keep an eye out for hives. I started asking if she felt itchy and she said no. Then I started lecturing her. “Asa, you can’t drink out of people’s cups, baby! Remember that you have allergies? Remember? Like the BugaBees?” (see my previous blog post to understand what this is…) She could sense my fear and tension and she started crying. She didn’t understand what she had done. Why was I lecturing her? While I did want to explain and help her understand why she can’t just grab someone’s drink, I shouldn’t have acted mad at her. It was myself I was mad at…

After we gave the Benadryl, I held her close to me. I felt bad that she was crying and then went into Mama Bear protective mode. I wanted to comfort her. I held her close and apologized for scaring her. I kept asking if she felt ok and she said yes. I kept watching her skin but it stayed clear. I asked if her throat felt ok and she said yes. Once I started to settle down, I began crying…

How could I let that happen? How was I so stupid? Why did I have that cup anywhere near her? How could I have put it right by her face without thinking? Why wasn’t I more careful? Why was I so irresponsible? How could I do this to my baby? I couldn’t even think about another hospital visit – not after the week we had just had. Two hospital visits were enough. The thought of another one was enough to make me cry. But the thought that I would have been the one to send her there was so much worse. The thought that she could need an epipen because of me was horrible. And the thought that she could die… well… I couldn’t even let myself go there.

After the shock and severity wore off and after I knew she was ok, I had time to think. I was still beating myself up pretty hard. The anxiety and fear that parents of kids with food allergies face is so real. It’s hard to explain to anyone that’s never had to deal with it. The pressure that a parent feels when they have a little one with food allergies is so intense. Your child relies on you for everything. They rely on you to feed them, and they rely on you to keep them safe. One small mistake can be catastrophic to a kid with food allergies. You have to be vigilant at all times, and that can lead to constant anxiety. The fear is tangible all the time. It never goes away. Even those of us that are really cautious, and yes – even those of us that run food allergy blogs and long to help educate others – even we make mistakes. The problem is, it only takes one mistake to possibly end in tragedy.

We were lucky this time, but not everyone is.

To those of you that navigate this food allergy world like we do, I see you. I feel your pain. I know your anxiety. I feel your fear. And I’m here if you need to talk, vent, cry, or complain.

To those of you that have never had to worry about this before, I hope this helps you get a glimpse of the pressure and anxiety that we feel every single day. We aren’t crazy. We are just scared – and you probably would be too if faced with the reality that we are daily.

Using the Epipen…

A year ago today I had to administer the epipen for the first time.

My husband texted me while I was at work to tell me he was going to try peanut butter with our daughter for the first time. About 3 weeks prior she had officially gotten diagnosed with a milk allergy. They sent us home with a ton of papers about food allergies, an epipen prescription, and anxiety. I was still trying to wrap my head around what a food allergy really looked like. No one in either of our families had ever had a food allergy before. They told us to slowly try some of the other major allergens throughout the next couple months and to keep the epipen on standby when we did. In my mind, there was no way we were going to have to use it.

My husband was texting me while feeding the peanut butter to her and said it had seemed fine. No reaction! I left work and headed home. When I walked in the door I greeted my baby girl like always by picking her up and giving her hugs and kisses. After just a couple of minutes at home, I noticed what looked like a small hive. I asked Ryan if he had seen it. It had been over an hour since he had given her the peanut butter. No way it was from that, right? We continued to watch her and check over her body. Hives began to spread. I called 911. While I was on the phone with them explaining what was happening, the hives got worse. They were EVERYWHERE – even in her diaper. It was worse than any hives I’d ever seen. I told the 911 dispatcher I was going to administer the epipen. She agreed I should. An ambulance was on their way to our house. With Asa sitting in my husband’s lap, I took a deep breath and gave the epi. She cried. I was on the verge of crying too. Within a minute of that, EMTs were walking into our house. Her hives slowly started disappearing. They checked her lungs. The epipen has worked!

We took Asa to the emergency room at the direction of the EMTs. You should always go to the hospital after administering an epipen just in case there is a rebound reaction after. Thankfully, she stayed well and we were sent home a few hours later.

Photo of her hives after giving the epipen and arriving at the hospital.

Suddenly the realization that we may not be done discovering her food allergies hit me. I was even more scared. I wasn’t prepared for this. There was so much I didn’t understand.

I was instantly thankful for the epipen. I was thankful for modern medicine that kept my daughter safe. I don’t wish having to administer an epipen on anyone. It was scary. But it was also very quick. Sure, Asa cried… but her tears were short-lived after the initial shock of what had just happened to her wore off. And the relief that she felt almost instantly made the fear of giving her the epipen disappear quickly. People are often scared or hesitant to give the epipen. But the safest thing you can do at the sign of a reaction, especially if two or more allergic reaction symptoms are present, it to give it! The person will not be injured if given epipen when it wasn’t truly needed. But the consequences of NOT giving it can be life-threatening. Always error on the side of caution. It could be the difference between life or death.

It wasn’t the last time that I’d have to give her the epipen, but I’ll save that story for another day.

*For a general overview of how to administer an epipen, click here. There are other brands that may vary slightly, but the basic rules for administration of them are the same!

Supporting Your Friends with Food Allergies During the Holidays

Yesterday we had our last family Christmas of the season. This was our first holiday season dealing with all of Asa’s food allergies. Group settings and parties are constantly scary and full of anxiety when you are living with food allergies. You’re eating meals that other people cooked, you’re usually surrounded by allergens, and it’s hard to keep track of if people washed their hands or wiped off their mouths after the meal. Kids are running around and you never know what they are going to put in their mouths. You try to watch your kids vigilantly, but even that is daunting when they are trying to play with their cousins and you’re trying to catch up and chat with your family. Food labels aren’t usually available to read when it comes to home cooked meals – especially ones that people have brought with them from home to contribute to the potluck-style dinner. It can be exhausting. Thankfully, we made it through multiple events with only one small skin reaction that we are pretty sure she got as a result from a kiss on the cheek. A little hydrocortisone cleared it up quickly. It could have been way worse.

But as we were driving home last night, my husband and I were talking about how thankful we were for multiple people that we spent time with throughout the holiday season and the way they handled Asa’s allergies. And it got me thinking about things you can do that go a LONG way to people with food allergies or parents of kids with food allergies. So I complied a list of things that you can do to be supportive of your friends and family with food allergies during social events:

1. Ask questions.

Simply taking time to understand their food allergies goes a long way. I love when people ask me questions about Asa’s food allergies. It lets me talk about it without having to bring it up myself; it allows me to get some of it off my chest. And, hopefully, it also educates others during the process! Even asking little things like how we found out about her allergies or how severe her reactions are tell me that you care enough to want to know more. Asking about the things we deal with day to day makes us feel not so alone.

2. Be inclusive with your food.

We were super lucky to have several family members make things just for Asa or bring alternatives for her. Yesterday we had someone bring a salad but also bring along all the ingredients individually so that we could check the ingredients and give her food accordingly. She even brought vegan dressing for the salad! (It was delicious by the way.) At Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law literally brought the container for every single ingredient she used! It was a good thing she did since one ended up containing an allergen (see my former blog post called “Every Label. Every Time” for that story). We had both of our parents cook with alternative ingredients to accommodate her at all the holidays this year. My mother-in-law even went as far as making a dairy/egg free pumpkin pie from scratch that included evaporating her own almond milk (like… what?). It was awesome. There is nothing that makes you feel more valued and loved than when people take the time to make you and your kids feel included.

3. Help keep the person with food allergies safe.

This one may sound like a no brainer, but doing everything you can to personally keep the person safe is huge! Wash your hands. Don’t double dip. Be cautious. My mom made an announcement before the meal at both Thanksgiving and Christmas with extended family to remind them of Asa’s allergies and ask them to wash their hands and mouths after the meal. This took a lot of stress off of me. When you have a kid with allergies, it’s easy to feel like a nag who has to constantly lecture people about what they need to do around you. Someone else making that announcement for me meant more than my mom knows (Shoutout, Mom!) and it helped keep Asa safe during the festivities.

4. Don’t feed anyone’s kids without asking!

I’ll say it again for the people in the back. Don’t feed anyone’s kids without asking! In general, giving snacks and treats to kids that aren’t yours without asking probably annoys more parents than you think. But to a kid that has food allergies it can be deadly, especially if not caught in time. So please, just don’t do it.

5. Talk to your kids about food allergies.

This one can be huge. Kids just don’t always know better. They share food without thinking. They don’t always wash their hands unless we make them. They constantly share germs without even knowing it. But they can also share allergens without knowing it too. So talk to your kids about food allergies. Make sure they understand that they can be deadly. (We don’t shy away from this word in our house. I need everyone to know the severity of it!) Make sure they wash their hands after eating. Keep snacks that contain another’s child’s allergen away when you are near them. One of the kindest things that my friends or family have done for me is to only pack “Asa friendly” snacks when they know we are going to be together. Eliminating the allergen from the kids means there won’t be any accidental mishaps. And it takes away the fear and anxiety that a parent has when they know other kids are snacking on things that could send their child into anaphylaxis.

By no means is this list exhaustive. There are a lot of other things you can do to be supportive. But it’s a great place to start! Again, never be afraid to ask questions! There are no stupid ones, and like I said earlier, just asking lets us know you care!

The BugaBees – A Children’s Book About Food Allergies

At one of Asa’s first allergist appointments, I noticed a book they had in the room. It was called “The BugaBees: Friends with Food Allergies” by Amy Recob, and after giving it a quick glance, I jotted it down in my notes on my phone. We had just learned about her food allergies and I was still pretty overwhelmed (as if that’s gone away now… ha!). I thought to myself, “maybe this could be helpful later” and then I kind of forgot about it for several months.

When I was making Asa’s Christmas at the request of family last month, I remembered the book. Thankfully, her great grandma got it for her and we’ve loved reading it already!

The book focuses on the top 8 allergens: peanut, egg, milk, soy, fish, wheat, shellfish, and tree nuts. In Asa’a case, she has three of the top 8 (milk, egg, and peanut). These 8 foods account for 90% of all allergic reactions. In the book, each BugaBee has a different allergen. They talk about their allergy and focus on the fact that they can enjoy other foods even though they have an allergy. At the end of the book, there is a cool little section that has a page for every allergy where it really tries to help the child understand the individual allergen, identify foods that contain the allergen, and learn ways to tell people that they have the food allergy and need to avoid that food.

My daughter is only 2, so explaining her food allergies to her has been hard. I feel like this book is a great introduction for her and helps up explain the food allergies in a simple, yet effective way. It also tries to focus on the fact that food allergies don’t ruin all of your fun, which I think is really important as kids learn their allergies and start to see other kids eating things that they can’t. On their website,, it says that the books “are intended to inspire confidence and camaraderie among the millions of children all around the world living with food allergies.” What a beautiful thing!

If you have a child with food allergies or you know a child with food allergies, this could be a really thoughtful and cute gift idea for them! I know we will read it more and more as Asa gets a little older and starts to understand her food allergies better.

Brand review! Oat-ly Ice Cream!

Today is my daughter’s 2nd birthday! Unfortunately, we had to cancel her birthday party because the flu has hit our home HARD and 3/5 of us are sick (including her and me). We still tried to celebrate a little with some Asa allergy-friendly ice cream! She absolutely loved the Oat-ly chocolate, non-dairy, vegan “frozen dessert”! Asa is allergic to dairy, egg, and peanut which makes most ice creams impossible for her to eat – but this was perfect.

Also, I tasted it and it honestly tastes just like chocolate ice cream! I think if I served it to people without them knowing they wouldn’t even know the difference! We will definitely be getting this again! Can’t wait to try other flavors too!

*We bought this at Target for those wondering where you can find it!

Finding Dairy in Unlikely Places

When we found out that Asa had allergies, the first one we discovered was dairy. My initial thought was, “Well I guess she can’t have milk or ice cream or yogurt.” But the more I started thinking about it, the more I realized dairy was in everything! It’s hard enough to navigate food items, but I had never even thought about the non-food items that dairy could also be hiding in. I still find out new things every day. So where are some of these milk ingredients hidden, you may ask? Well… let’s look at a few!

First, it’s important to note that dairy can come in multiple forms so it’s imperative to know all the words you are looking for. Milk, lactose, Recaldent, casein, whey, and lactalbumin are all dairy ingredients, so it’s not just as simple as looking for “milk” on a label. Also, “lactose free” and “dairy free” are two VERY different things. A lactose intolerance is NOT the same as a dairy allergy and the two should never be confused. And just because something is “lactose free” does not mean it doesn’t still contain dairy/milk!

But if a label says “dairy free” it should be safe, right? Not quite. This is crazy to me, but some things can be labeled “dairy free” and still contain milk ingredients. Take coffee creamers for example. Many of them say they are dairy free but still actually contain milk. See the pictures below of this Coffeemate French Vanilla Creamer:

The first picture shows the “Non-dairy” claim while the second picture shows that it contains casein, “a milk derivative”. The one shows the importance of checking the ENTIRE label, no matter what!

So what about those non-food related things? A friend actually sent me this one the other day and I was appalled to find I had this one in my house! Thankfully I had never used it with Asa, but our older daughter has used them multiples times. She doesn’t have food allergies so we were safe there, but the thought that I could have used these with Asa without thinking terrified me. Crayola Color Bath Dropz contain lactose! Again, this label is super tricky. The ingredients do not list lactose. They legally don’t have to since this is not a food product. (Don’t get me started on the laws here. I’m saving that whole topic for another blog.) But a closer inspection of the box shows that it does, indeed, contain lactose. *It’s important to note that I have the box but most of these come in a tub so be on the lookout regardless of the packaging!

I read a story once of a girl dying from using a medicated toothpaste that her dentist had prescribed to her. This dentist knew about her milk allergy but still prescribed it anyway. Several whitening and medicated toothpastes contain an ingredient called Recaldent. This is made of a milk derivative. If you have a food allergy, it’s important to not only talk to your dentist about any allergies you may have, but ask them to see the ingredients before you begin using any new products!

Recaldent is not only found in these toothpastes, however. It’s also found in a very popular gum brand – Trident! It is not in every version, but it is definitely found in Trident White and Trident XtraCare.

Another weird place to find a milk ingredient is in dust-free chalk. Many of the name brands do not contain the dairy ingredient, casein, but some off-brands do. This can be scary because, again, they do not have to list this on the package since chalk is not a food product. You can always contact the manufacturer to get specific ingredient information, but this isn’t always an easy or quick task. Casein can also be found in glues, paints, and inks.

I hope this blog is as eye-opening to you as it was for me when I learned about these things. I only scratched the surface here, as dairy can also be found in daily things like cosmetics and lotions where, once again, they don’t have to be labeled. Navigating a dairy allergy is a lot more than simply avoiding that 2% gallon of milk most people have in their fridge. It’s something that requires you to be be vigilant daily to avoid a major catastrophe!

The Guilt is Real

I don’t know about any other allergy parents out there, but I constantly feel guilty having to talk about Asa’s allergies with other people. On Thanksgiving I had to make an announcement and ask everyone to make sure they washed their hands and their kids hands after they finished eating so that Asa didn’t get touched after someone who had touched one of her allergens. Even while I was making the announcement, I was cringing inside. I hate having to be “that mom”. You know… the mom that seems overprotective and pushy. The mom that wants to tell you how to parent your kid. The mom that has to ask you to take extra steps when you’re around my daughter. I hate it. But I have to do it.

The reality is, that announcement had to be made. I can’t risk my daughter’s well-being just for my anxiety’s sake. But man… it’s hard sometimes.

I can’t tell you the number of awkward moments I’ve had. The countless times I’ve had to ask people to wash their hands. The times I’ve had to remind my friends that their kids’ bottle filled with milk couldn’t be left out for fear my daughter would grab it and take a drink. The times I’ve had to remind the Sunday School workers again for the 10th Sunday in a row that my daughter has allergies and can only have the snack we packed for her. The times we’ve had to give the epipen tutorial. The times I’ve had to ask that my friends put away the peanut butter snacks while we are around. The times we’ve had to wipe down tables/high chairs when we get to a restaurant while other people look at us and think we are just massive germaphobes. All of these times are really hard. Every time makes me feel a little crazy, a little needy, and a lot self-conscious.

Trust me – the last thing I want to do is bring it up. The last thing I want if for you to think I’m telling you what to do with your kid or your life. But I have to. Because if I don’t stand up for my daughter, who will? After all, she’s only a toddler. It’s my job as her mom to protect her and keep her safe. If anything ever happened to her because I chickened out and didn’t give the reminder even just once, I’d never forgive myself.

I’m forever grateful to my friends that go out of their way to make sure their kids only have Asa-friendly snacks when we are around. The ones who text for clarification of her allergies. The ones who offer to order a special vegan cupcake at their child’s birthday party just so that Asa doesn’t feel like out. The family who wipe things down religiously and advocate on our behalf daily. I’m thankful for them because they take some of the weight off me. They make sure I don’t have to ask them to keep Asa safe. Instead, they proactively try to keep her safe themselves. And I can’t tell you how much that means to a mom who constantly feels like a crazy person with crazy requests. We don’t want to live this life. But we have to. So please, I beg you – be gracious. Be understanding. Be considerate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I don’t expect you to know everything about food allergies. I know I sure didn’t before we had Asa. I’m still learning everyday. But just know, it’s awkward when we have to ask people to help us keep her safe. And it means the world to us when you try to be accommodating and helpful! It means way more than you know!

Becoming a Food Allergy Mom

On November 27, 2018, we found out that my 11-month-old daughter was allergic to dairy. I suspected she might be after two strange incidents. The first incident involved vomiting violently after eating a new baby puree. When I checked the ingredients of the tub of baby food, I saw that it had pineapple and milk – two things she had never had before. I wondered if that could be a cause but I quickly dismissed the thought and returned to life as normal. A month or so later while eating out at a restaurant, my daughter got ahold of a butter packet on the table. She chewed on it, busted it open, and made a mess. I didn’t think much of it – after all, my kids have done much worse before. But about 10 minuted later, I noticed that she had a swollen upper lip.

At first I thought she must have hit it when the packet exploded. Then my mom brain kicked in – what if this was the milk in the butter? Could she be having an allergic reaction? Again, I sort of dismissed my thought but her lip was only getting worse so we decided to be safe and head to urgent care.

The doctor said that it did, indeed, look like an allergic reaction. My head started spinning. There’s no way she’s allergic to milk, right? Not my kid. We made a follow up with our pediatrician who referred us to an allergist just in case. Two weeks before my daughter’s first birthday (you know… the one where they are start drinking whole cow’s milk…) we found out that she had a dairy allergy. What did this mean??? They ordered us an epipen, quickly taught us how to use it, gave us about 20 sheets of information about allergies, asked if we had any questions and sent us on our way. Did I have any questions? Um… yeah… about a thousand. I couldn’t even wrap my head around this food allergy. No one else in my family or my husband’s family had ever had a food allergy. I had no idea what it really meant. But boy, was I about to find out.

Within a couple months, our allergist had us try a few other foods – soy, egg, peanut. Soy didn’t produce an allergy. Thank God! One down! When my husband tried peanut butter one day while I was at work, he thought we had made it through that one as well. She was acting fine. But the moment I walked in the front door after work, I saw a tiny spot on her skin. We started checking her and the hives literally started spreading before our eyes. We called 911. I had to give the epipen. My daughter was crying hysterically. I was putting on a brave face but inside I was terrified. We went to the hospital to be monitored. Thankfully, the epipen worked and we were discharged within a few hours.

Another month went by and we introduced egg. This time, we were both home when we did it – we were scared to do it alone. Her reaction to the egg was scarier than anything we had ever experienced. She broke out in hives. BAD hives. So bad that they spread to every inch of her body. I called 911 to be safe. I wanted them to check her lungs. While on the phone with them, my daughter started wheezing. My husband and I looked at each other and knew that the epipen was needed. I once again slammed the needle into my daughter’s leg. She once again cried. We were once again terrified. We went to the hospital, as you always should after administering an epipen. But this time was worse.

The hives started spreading again. She was crying and lethargic. She was laying on me and not letting go. I was praying – literally. The doctor said they were going to have to do another round of epi. They went to place the order. I was filled with fear. Why wasn’t this working? Why was she so lethargic? Was she going to be ok? I prayed again – literally. Right before the doctor came back in the room, her hives started subsiding. She started acting more like herself. Thankfully, we escaped having to administer more medicine, but the fear remained.

My husband and I went home that day more scared than ever. It was the first time we had REALLY seen the potential danger of her food allergies. This was more than hives. This had effected her breathing, and that’s something you never want to see your child go through. From that moment on, we became more vigilant than ever. Throughout the past year, we’ve learned a ton. We still mess up. Food allergies are really difficult to navigate. And out of that, this blog/site was born. My goal is help provide support, educate others, and share some tips and tricks along the way! Like it or not, I’m a food allergies mom. I hope this will help some others out there like me!