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Story of the Month

But What About Me? Food Allergy Diagnosis Affects Siblings Too

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Brothers Nathan (left) and Michael.

OK, so your child has been diagnosed with a food allergy. You’ve fearfully witnessed the reaction that alerted you to the allergy, you’ve been to the doctor’s office and sat anxiously watching his arm for that telltale bump to appear and you’ve suddenly become the “food police” as you read, re-read and read again the labels on every food product that enters your home.

Your allergic child knows not to share food, to ask questions before eating and now carries an epinephrine auto-injector that he can administer to himself should the need arise (gulp!).

In all of the craziness, the worry, the anxiety, the fear and even the guilt there’s one little thing that often goes unnoticed: the siblings. It’s not that we mean to “ignore” them, it’s just that the immediate medical needs of the allergic child can easily – and understandably – take priority. But we need to remember that it’s not only the allergic child’s life that is changing, but also the lives of all the children in the family, so I would like to tell my story of a super-amazing little brother.

One day last summer, we finished our dinner and headed off as a family to watch my younger son Michael’s soccer game. As usual, my older son Nathan took along his own soccer ball to go and practice his shots on an empty net as his younger brother joined his team.

About 20 minutes later, I felt a tugging on my elbow. There was Nathan looking like a puffer fish, for lack of a better description: a red, swollen face and covered with hives. Luckily, I had allergy medication in my bag, so I administered it as the two of us left the soccer field, leaving my husband and Michael to continue with the game.

Just before leaving the house, Nathan had tried a pecan-based chocolate and he was now having an allergic reaction to it. Fortunately, the over-the-counter medication worked fairly quickly and we were able to touch base with a doctor and return to the soccer field just minutes after the game ended. As we pulled into the parking lot I could see the anxiety on Michael’s face as he now knew why mom was suddenly missing from the sidelines.

Yes, Nathan was exhausted from the physical demands of the allergic reaction. Yes, my husband and I were both riddled with anxiety over what Nathan had just endured. But, yes, Michael too was feeling the emotional demands of the situation. He too was afraid, upset and full of questions.

Over the next few weeks we went through what every family does when a child has been diagnosed with a food allergy, and Michael went through just as much as the rest of us.

Next: Tears of pride

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