parents

"Please stop telling me how to cure my son's food allergies."

There is no cure for food allergies and I’m sick of people telling me that there is.

By “people” I mean friends, strangers, educators, health professionals, news reports and Google.

The latest ridiculous claim states that feeding your child peanuts early in life could help to prevent them developing an allergy later in life. As all allergy parents know, food allergies don’t often spontaneously develop. Our kids are born with deathly allergies to certain foods.

Called the LEAP-on study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy), approximately 600 children in the U.S. were examined for peanut allergies. Food allergies is a growing problem in America. Researchers found out that among the children who avoided peanuts, 35 percent tested positive for an allergy with a skin prick test however among those exposed to peanuts it was just 11 percent.

They did emphasis that further research was needed before these results are used in any guidelines.

Food allergies have reached epidemic proportions in Australia leading to restrictive food bans in many primary schools. As an allergy mum it’s hard to understand how the timing of introducing certain foods could affect whether or not a child will be allergic. My son was born with food allergies. He couldn’t keep one drop of my breast milk down, that’s how sensitive he was, and still is.

I find the overly simplistic nature of most food allergy cause and cure advice frustrating. I can’t help but feel annoyed when someone tells me how to cure my son’s food allergies. Do they think I haven’t heard of it? Do they think I haven’t considered it or tried it?

None of these “cures” and “treatments” work:

  • Introducing foods earlier;

  • Choosing organic foods;

  • Having a messy home full of germs;

  • Acupuncture;

  • Feeding programs;

  • Eating a wide variety of foods while pregnant;

  • Avoiding certain foods while pregnant;

  • Jumping up and down while eating certain foods;

  • Meditating;

  • Mind over matter;

  • Carrying crystals containing life-saving super powers.

It’s truly frustrating and worse, it’s parent-blaming. The suggestion is that children are suffering from food allergies because parents are following or not following the latest health advice on when to introduce foods. Except it changes every year.

Here are a couple of facts:

1. We don’t know what causes food allergies;

2. We don’t know how to cure food allergies.

All we do know is how to manage food allergies. This is done by educating people who don’t know about food allergies and helping sufferers learn how to manage their own food allergies when they come of age. That involves carrying their life-saving medication with them at all times and exercising vigilance when it comes to food. There’s no way around it.

Sure it’s a bit of a bummer but it’s not like they have a choice. You just do what keeps you safe. This constant discussion about possible causes of food allergies and baseless suggestions about ways to avoid them help no-one. They oversimplify what is a very dangerous condition. What’s going to keep those with food allergies safe is more people understanding the reality of living with them every day.

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Philip is so restricted in what he can eat when we go out that he tends to go overboard when he finds something he can have. Let’s call this frozen yoghurt Exhibit A.

Some parents of toddlers may introduce known allergens to their children much earlier than planned with devastating consequences. If a child has food allergies, they just have them. They don’t catch them like a cold.

The only move that would make any sense would be skin-prick testing for all toddlers as they transition into eating solids. It is a relatively pain-free process that only takes approximately 20 minutes. Then you know if they have food allergies and what they are allergic to.

Currently there is a massive waiting list for free food allergy testing – up to 18 months to two years – however you can have it done privately and it costs around $90. If there are children with asthma or food allergies in your family I highly recommend it. Then at least you know. You can introduce solids including eggs and nut spreads without any fear.

Or you can begin to deal with your child’s food allergies early before an emergency situation arises.

Food allergies are a fact of modern life. Speculating about cures doesn’t help, except to confuse those who don’t know any better.

My son was born with food allergies and his allergic reactions were mistaken for reflux. It took over two years to diagnose him and longer to learn how to keep him safe. We have regular food testing, food challenges and have participated in feeding programs. We attend one of the best hospitals in the country when it comes to food allergy management and treatment.

Even they don’t know what causes them and how to cure them.

Even they are confused about what the latest “research” says and why.

So when I tell you that my son has food allergies try not to say, “Have you tried acupuncture? My cousin’s sister’s best friend’s girlfriend did it and now she’s cured.”

Not likely. It’s more likely that she grew out of her food allergy, if it even happened at all.

I’ve watched my son grow out of some of his minor allergies but at the same time the more serious ones become acute. I have accepted that he has permanent food allergies and so has he. It hasn’t been an easy process. We held out so much hope that he would grow out of them or a treatment would work.

Nothing has. Nothing does. The only option is to stop listening to all of these alleged cures and treatments and just accept his food allergies are here to stay.

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