What do you say?

We’ve all been in those uncomfortable situations.  Other parents are questioning why they need to change their habits for the safety of your food allergic kid.  Or maybe they are complaining about accommodations made by airlines, or schools, or churches that curtail their freedom to eat peanuts where they want, when they want.  And you are there, listening uncomfortably, to their complaints about how they have been inconvenienced by food allergies.

Magical Phrases

It is tempting to be silent, but please don’t!  Here are some phrases that are almost magical in changing the tone of the whine-fest.  Please only use when completely true!

“Before dear son was diagnosed with food allergies, I felt that way too.”

“Before he reacted at the baseball game, I wondered the same thing.” (true for us)

“Before that trip to the emergency room, I thought…” ( thankfully haven’t been there )

“Before his eye swelled up from contact with ____”

“We are proud of dear son.  He is used to going without and not complaining.  He can have something special to eat when he gets home.”

“Our allergist Dr. Wood told us to…”

“The allergist told us not to…”

“We know he has not outgrown it because …”

“We have thought about going to ___ restaurant, but we were not comfortable after we talked to the manager.”

“I was frightened when I thought about what could have happened…”

“We looked into ___, but our family has decided it was too risky for dear son.”

“I was so scared when I realized I hadn’t been careful enough…”

“After that near-miss, we started to ___.”

[Explaining why dear son can’t eat their home-made brownies.]  “I can cook for peanut allergic kids.  But even now I am not able to cook for kids with milk/egg/wheat allergies.  We just have too much of those in our kitchen; the kids and I are not that careful.”

Tone of Voice

You are not a paranoid, over-protective parent.  You are just stating what has happened in your family and the logical decisions you have made since.  Do you best not to get defensive!  These are all most effective when spoken in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice.  Good luck, food allergy parents!

But Dr. Wood Doesn’t Know Baseball

The “Baseball Welcomes Allergic Fans” article was published in the NY Times last August.  It covers the still-growing trend of peanut free sections at Major League Baseball games.  While it brings welcome attention to the tricky question of taking peanut allergic kids to baseball games, it also perpetuates the myth that food allergy parents are paranoid and overprotective.

In the write-up, Dr. Wood states that “watching a game in an outdoor ballpark posed no significant threat to peanut-allergic children or adults” and that peanut free sections are a “marketing technique.”  Now we love Dr. Wood.  He is our son’s allergist.  But I don’t think he has spent much time recently with active peanut-allergic kids at a ballpark.

Here’s our time at the ballpark when son was younger.

Son brings his ball and glove.  He drops the ball.  He picks it up.  He visits the rest room.  He touches everything.  He walks back to his seat.  He drops the ball again.  It rolls down the aisle.  He plays with the seat.  He stares at the people behind us.   He pokes his friend.  He trips over the seat.  He drops his safe candy.  He wants to still eat it.  He hugs the mascot.  He eats more safe candy. He drops the ball again.

Unless you have reserved a whole block of seats for your group of food allergy friends, somewhere in this mess someone will be eating peanuts and dropping the peanut shells on the ground.

Here are some techniques that do NOT work to keep a peanut allergic kid safe and happy at the ballgame:

  1. Get active son to promise to stay in his seat.  Nag him when he doesn’t.  Keep nagging until son stays in his seat or husband wants to go home.
  2. Ask strangers not to eat peanuts around your child.  This annoys strangers.
  3. Accept that strangers love peanuts.  Ask strangers not to throw peanut shells on the ground.  This also annoys strangers.
  4. Accept kid is active and people love peanuts.  Be super mom with lots of wipes.  Wipe, wipe, wipe.  This annoys husband, kids and strangers.  Mom goes crazy.

We took our 5 year old to a minor league game a few years ago.  It was an uncrowded day with plenty of empty areas; we could scoot away from any peanut eaters.  The game went really well.  On the way out, dear son’s eye started swelling up.  We think he must have touched a baseball with peanut residue and then rubbed his eye.  He was fine with Benadryl but it wasn’t the way we wanted to end our evening.

Please, Dr. Wood, don’t think that peanut free sections are just a marketing technique!  It’s the only way our family will attend a MLB game.  Yes, I do already have our peanut free tickets for July.


Dr. Wood Knows – Part II

We get dear son’s blood tests done at Quest Diagnostics a month or so before the appointment.  The blood draw does not go well, but that’s on us.

Husband, son and I trek up to Baltimore, leaving thankful daughter going home with a good friend from school.  Dear son is so happy thinking about his poor friends still stuck at school.  Instead of “Are we there yet?” we get a lot of  “Are they still at school?” then “ha ha ha ha” responses.

At the Dr. Wood Appointment

We check in and then speak with an associate of Dr. Wood’s.  This young doctor chats with dear son about his food allergies, his safety at school and how to administer the Epipen.   She shows us the blood test results, which are about the same.  Peanut number is very high, etc.  Son bangs his head on the wall and laughs and laughs.

Dr. Wood comes in a short while later and does a quick physical exam.  Dear son answers his questions well and they chat.  This is all nice but I’m wondering if we should have made the trip…

Any Other Concerns?

“Son had an itchy throat after eating soup once.  And at a house with a cat where he didn’t eat anything because they had nuts out.  And maybe one other time.  Any ideas?”

“Did the soup have soy protein isolate as an ingredient?”

I kept the label from the soup.  “Yes, but it’s at the bottom of the list!”


Dr. Wood explains that some kids with peanut allergies who start becoming sensitive to soy will be bothered by very small amounts of “soy protein isolate”.  This is a very concentrated source of soy protein found in soups, processed meats and other processed foods.  This also explains dear son’s bad tummy ache after a turkey casserole at a relative’s home.  It wasn’t that he pigged out and ate too fast!

Ditching Unsafe Food

We came home and sorted through the food.  I added “soy protein concentrate” to the NO list.  But we kept the foods with just “soy protein”, “soy flour”, “soy lecithin”, “soy oil”.  Dr. Wood was specific about not removing foods that son was currently tolerating fine.  I had a couple questions as I sorted through our pantry / freezer / shelves and his office was very helpful.

So, was it worth the trip to Baltimore?  YES!

Dr. Wood Knows

We live in Northern VA, so it is a challenging drive up around the beltway and up I95 to see Dr. Wood.  But it is worth it!

Back in the preschool years, we had been seeing a local allergist who didn’t understand why dear son was suddenly allergic to chick peas and lentils.  His very conservative advice was to avoid all legumes, including soy.  If you have had to avoid soy, you know it is very tough to do!  Out went son’s favorite bread, soy butter, McDonald’s buns, etc.

We made an appointment with Dr. Wood and waited about a year for it while still following our local allergist’s advice.  What a happy day when Dr. Wood took a medical history, studied the blood tests and told us son could have all legumes except peanuts, lupine,  chick peas and lentils!  We went out to dinner in Baltimore very happy that evening.

A few years later son reacts to peas ( with hives ) so those go on the NO list.  He is also really happy to avoid lima beans, which we all hate anyway.

Suddenly last fall, soy butter “makes his tongue itch” ( of course when we are on the way to the Kennedy Center!  Thankfully dear son was fine.)  Dr. Wood’s office puts “food with soy in the title” on the NO list.  That means no soy butter, soy milk, tofu.  We had been on a break from yearly visits with Dr. Wood, but the nurse encourages us to come back to see him.

More on this visit coming soon!