Allergy Baby’s First Word

food-allergies_thumbYesterday afternoon—a notable day because for the first time in, well, a while Seattle was the hottest major city in the country, the poor little Washingtonians weren’t quite sure how to handle all that foreign sunshine—was spent catching up with my friend Aubrey.  She told me about her retro-themed wedding, their hippie landlords, gardening, and eating gluten-free (something we both share).  I tried to convince her to start a crunchy, foodie-ish blog.  Even promised to comment.  But we’ll see what happens.

Anyway, the story that stood out to me the most as we got caught up was about a little baby Aubrey knows. 

He’s a year old now but when he was only a couple of months old he had food allergy testing done because he’d been having some unusual skin irritation and general health oddities.  The poor little guy came up with 10 food allergies (exactly how many new ones I found out about when I had testing done back in September). 

Aubrey showed me a picture on her phone of Allergy Baby’s back after the testing—so many bright red, itching-looking bumps from where he’d reacted to the test.  Poor little guy.  I remember exactly what that feels like; at least I was big enough though to understand what was happening.

His first word was even … drumroll please … allergic.  As in, “No, baby you can’t have [insert yummy-looking food].” 

“Allergic?”

“Yes, allergic.”

In his little mind allergic might just be a shorthand for “not for babies” or “not for you,” but soon enough he’ll know how in addition to being disappointing the word can also be frustrating, annoying, and even scary.  I hope he also learns though how to stand up for himself and keep himself safe even when people think he’s just being dramatic or weird, to not be embarrassed about being the only allergic kid and to define himself apart from his allergies, and that a limited diet—and all of the other limitations food allergies impose on him—doesn’t mean he can’t live a full, satisfying life.   

What would you want someone new to the allergic life to know?

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Mr. Yuck Stickers: Helping You Stay Gluten-Free

220px-Poison_Help.svgMy friend, Emmalie, who is gluten and lactose free as well as vegetarian, and I were talking about the complicated process of going gluten-free.  And she shared an excellent idea with me about how she keeps track of what foods she can’t eat. 

Emmalie said that when she first became gluten-free, she bought a bunch of Mr. Yuck stickers and “put them on all the glutenous foods” in her house to help reminder her which foods were off limits.  Covering foods she couldn’t eat in the stickers helped her make the transition to a gluten-free / dairy-free / meat-free lifestyle a lot easier.  “It also helped my family understand what I could and couldn’t eat.”  Someone could easily use another type of sticker though (might be smart to use a different kind if you’re dealing with small children and are concerned the poison label might confuse them).  But whatever type of labels you use, I think stickers are a very simple way to effectively mark all the food foes in the kitchen.  

In addition to using Mr. Yuck, Emmalie also found star stickers to be helpful.  “I got tired of checking my food all of the time so I would stick a star sticker on food that I had checked and found to be gluten-free.”  The stickers have helped Emmalie to keep track of her food foes and now she says that she only uses “stickers for condiments and foods that aren’t obvious.” 

“Mr. Yuk’s face really helped me come to terms with the idea that foods that I loved don’t always love me back.  Love should be a two-way street.”  Absolutely.