Spotlight on families dealing with Food Allergies – Nicole O’Dell

As part of food allergy awareness month, we have been putting the spotlight on people and families dealing with this medical issue. Nicole O’Dell has three children, two have food allergies and each day brings a new set of obstacles to overcome and victories to be celebrated. She writes about it on her blog  Here is Nicole’s story:

When did Food allergies come into your life?

My eldest son and my daughter both have food allergies. My sons allergies are not life threatening, but still cause him a lot of discomfort, and he has become very aware of making good food choices even when at school and Mommy and Daddy are not there to help him. My daughter on the other hand was allergic to both milk and egg, but in the recent months has out grown the milk allergy (Thank God!!). Her egg allergy still remains, and is life threatening. She is severely allergic to eggs, which requires us to carry an Epi-Pen Junior where ever we go.

How they have changed you?

Food allergies have changed me both as a Mom, and as a person. I used to be one of those people who got secretly frustrated when someone said they had a food allergy and couldn’t have something. I did not want to feel this way, but for some reason whenever I heard this “excuse” I kind of thought “Oh brother….here we go”.  Well, then I had my son, and soon realized the physical pain that allergies caused people, and I felt bad for ever having those thoughts. Watching my son feel so sick after certain food was very hard, but emotionally I did not fully understand the toll allergies took on a person and on a family until I had my daughter.

The hardest thing about dealing with food allergies?

The fear and worry of a food allergy can be down – right crippling. Not knowing if she is going to come into contact with something she shouldn’t and stop breathing at any moment keeps me awake at night. I remember getting her results from the doctor and just crying and crying because I knew life would never be the same. I also knew how people would not take this seriously- after all at one time in my life, I was one of those people. And now here I faced a huge world of triggers and I was not only responsible for keeping my child from harm, but I was in charge of keeping her alive- in a different way than most moms have to deal with.

The message you would want people to know about food allergies?

Food allergies are real. They are not a life style, or a choice. Yes, they may not all be life threatening, but a lot of them are. And even the ones that are not, still cause pain, and still cause every day challenges. If you do not have food allergies in your family and find yourself thinking “oh brother… here we go” when someone’s gives allergies as a reason why they can’t eat something or go somewhere… I challenge you to follow an allergy parent for one day. See what they face day in and day out. See how that Mama doesn’t have the luxury of zipping through the grocery store and grabbing whatever looks good, but instead spends hours reading labels in the isle. See how that daddy keeps his baby girl from playing on a swing set at the playground because another child just ate his snack while in the baby swing. See how that brother asks if “it’s his kind” when handed a cupcake at a birthday party? I can promise you this – you will never think “oh brother” again. You will most likely leave that day in tears because you never knew the pain and the worry an allergy family carry’s every single day.

Describe the activity you and your family will do when a cure for food allergies is found?

The day that food allergies are cured I think the first thing we would do as a family is go out to eat and order anything that sounded good. We would not bring any of our food from home, we would not wash the table and high chairs down before sitting. We will just sit down and eat, and not worry about a thing. I know this sounds so simple, and doesn’t seem like a huge celebration, but to us, it would feel like the biggest celebration in town.

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