By Gina Mennett Lee, M.Ed.

Photo credit:  Kati Mennett

Photo credit: Kati Mennett

My daughter turned to me, in her little 9-year-old voice, that is a bittersweet reminder of how she has had to grow up way too fast, and asked,

“Am I ok, Mom?”

She was bracing herself for the worst. I had brought her to the restaurant bathroom to check on her legs. We brought our own food to the restaurant for her to eat. We were there because my other daughter’s lacrosse team was having a team dinner and we didn’t want to miss it. About 20 minutes into the dinner, she complained that her legs were really “itching” her. As soon as she turned around, I could see the large, raised bumps that were covering both of her legs. The bumps looked like really big mosquito bites, red and a little swollen.

Food allergies are unpredictable and when you have symptoms like this, it’s impossible to know for sure what is going on. I didn’t know if this was an initial symptom of anaphylaxis or merely a contact reaction. Because the bumps were isolated to only the part of her legs that were exposed to the chair she was sitting on, I calmly told her,

“I think it is a contact reaction. We are going to wash your legs and I’m going to wash your seat and then you need to tell me how you feel in a few minutes. Ok?”

“Ok,” she responded and finally let out the breath that she was subconsciously holding.

While washing her legs, I tried to ask matter-of-factly,
“How does your mouth feel?”

“Fine.”

“How is your breathing?”

“Fine.”

“Do you have any other symptoms?”

“Nope.”

Then as cheerfully as possible, we left the bathroom and I proceeded to wash her seat (with paper towels from the bathroom since the rags the restaurant uses would be cross-contaminated. These are the things you need to think about when you manage food allergies.) She hates when her food allergies have to call attention to her so I’m sure she was mortified I had to wash the seat while others were looking on.

A few minutes later, the itching stopped. 20 minutes later, the bumps were smaller. An hour later, they were gone.

She was ok.

I just want to share this in hopes that maybe people will begin to understand the emotional toll that food allergies can take. They hit when you least expect them to. They are always there and you can never let your guard down.

While my one daughter was laughing and joking with her teammates, my other daughter was worrying and waiting.

Even with careful planning, food proteins can sometimes be hard to avoid. This is why sometimes there are restrictions on food in certain settings.

If you or your child are asked to restrict food at times….maybe in a classroom, while on an airplane or on a sports team, I want you to know that I am extremely thankful to you for complying. When you do this, you are helping to keep my child safe. You are sending her the message that you care about her and most importantly, you are allowing her be worry-free, even if just for a little while.

*I originally posted this to my personal facebook page 2 years ago.

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