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Thrive: Kristen Chandler

Today we wanted to introduce you all to lovely lady, Kristen. Not only is she a food-allergy mom, but she is a member of the team at My Kids Food Allergies. We connected earlier this year and I’ve enjoyed watching her and celebrating their successes. When I read over their list of food allergies it made me feel better about our own situation and realize we’re not alone and that things will all be ok! I really enjoyed reading what she had to say and can’t wait to share her wise words. Let’s go ahead and let her take it away!

I am a mom of 3, and I am a member of the MKFA team. I have a 9 year old son who was diagnosed at 23 months with a severe egg, milk and beef allergy, as well as dog and cat allergies, and mild allergies to peanut and shellfish. He has since then outgrown the shellfish and peanut but is still allergic to all the others. I also have a seven year old daughter who is allergic to vinegar and has seasonal and environmental allergies, and a 5 year old daughter who is allergic to cinnamon. I am allergic to shellfish, tree nuts (both are adult onset allergies, I was never allergic to anything as a kid) and have seasonal and environmental allergies. Some people look terrified when I tick off all of our allergies. Yes, it’s a lot and they’re all different so it makes life hard sometimes. But we DO live.

What are five tips, tricks or products that have made your life with food allergies (or just life in general) easier?

1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Do your homework. When we first started our allergy journey with my son, I knew little to nothing about food allergies. I knew of people that had them, but not severe cases. I basically had no firsthand experience. So I had to learn. I had no one to talk to, no one that understood my situation. So I researched websites and grabbed recipes and joined in chat forums and did everything I possibly could to learn about food allergies

and to make sure I gave him a healthy and safe life, without placing him in a bubble so to speak. And learning so much in the beginning helped me when dealing with the girls’ allergies, as well as my own. And it helped me be prepared for daycare, school, camp and situations like that. And doing your homework also means learning how to read labels. You have to know what allergies to look for. They won’t always be listed in bold black print. And sometimes they won’t be obvious (such as whey, which is milk protein). And always pay attention to the “may contain traces of” listing if there is one. When you’re dealing with someone with serious allergies, this is important. Label reading is vital part of thriving with food allergies.

2. PLAN AHEAD AND BE PREPARED

In the beginning, I didn’t take my son anywhere I thought he might be exposed, other than daycare. We didn’t go out to eat, we didn’t go to other people’s houses, no birthday parties, no church functions. Then I realized that as long as I was prepared, there wasn’t a need for us to just “hide out at home” all the time. Now I am that lady who practically has a medicine cabinet in her purse, who wipes down the tables and chairs in public eating places with the antibacterial wipes produced from her purse, and shows up at parties with a lunch box full of safe food in hand. I check ahead for parties at school to see what the menu will be so I can make sure my son has similar things, and more to eat than just a bag of chips and a Capri sun (that DID happen once, when a teacher sprang a surprise party and gave me no warning). I take safe popcorn in my purse to the movies. My son has played sports, all three children attended daycare and summer camps, and we eat out occasionally, and go to movies and other places.

3. TRY NEW THINGS

By new things, I mean recipes. Otherwise, especially if you have multiple allergies, you’ll hit a point where you are basically eating the same things over and over. DO NOT GIVE UP if you try a new recipe and it doesn’t turn out how you expected it to the first time you make it. I can’t tell you how many times I made crumbly cake and cupcakes and rock hard brownies and soupy pudding before I found a way to make them successfully. And I still goof sometimes. But I don’t let it stop me from trying again.

4. LET GO

Sending them to daycare wasn’t so hard, but school was a different story. Leaving them at any new place pretty much was scary. Still is. As a parent in general, taking your child somewhere new and leaving them, even for an hour, is stressful. When you’re a food allergy parent, that stress is magnified by about 1000. But at some point, you have to let them go and trust someone else with your child’s life. It’s not easy. I still get nervous sometimes, even with people we know- people I’ve left them with before. But I also leave them with safe food, Benadryl, Epi-Pens, and an instruction card. (Side note, I still attend every field trip with my oldest, who has the most severe allergies.)

5. EDUCATE YOUR KIDS ON THEIR ALLERGIES

Because I can’t be around my children 24/7, I try to teach them as much as I can about managing their food allergies. Yes, I still do everything I can for them. But I also talk to them about as much as I can that relates to their allergies. I am teaching them how to read labels, teaching them what they can and can’t have, and most importantly they have learned to be vocal about their allergies. My youngest child, who is 5, will ask “Does that have cinnamon in it?” if it’s something she’s never had before or isn’t 100 % sure she can have it. And my oldest will check a label on something, but he will still say, “Mom, I think I can have this, but will you check it?” And they are pretty quick to announce their allergies when we go over to someone’s house or something of that nature.

 

Follow along with Kristen: http://www.mykidsfoodallergies.com/

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