Military Special Needs Network

Proudly Supporting all Military Families with a Special Needs Dependent

Our Introduction to Food Allergy Awareness

10350431_10101615395706021_483649700612281983_nWhen my Lilly was 10 months old I let her take a bite from a power bar that I was eating.

That single small bite changed our lives. She broke out in hives all over her body in just a matter of seconds. Having never dealt with something like this with my other three children, I ran her over next door to a neighbor who was a nurse. She suggested that it could be an allergic reaction to the power bar and quickly get her to the ER. That is the day we found out that Lilly had a food allergy.

The next day we had a follow-up with her PCM and received a referral to a pediatric allergist. What made this even more stressful was that we had only one meeting for the testing and results before we had to PCS. The skin, blood tests, and resent reaction history reveled that she was anaphylactic to tree nuts. We were given Epi Pens and told to keep her away from nuts.

Then we moved and my husband deployed three weeks later. We went to another allergist within that first month there. I was hoping to learn more about how to protect my child, how to read labels, how to know what has come into contact with nuts. This was so new to me. I didn’t have any friends that had gone through this so there was no advice that people could give. It seems easy to just not let her eat it but it isn’t. You can’t always know what has come into contact with food.

The day came when we were at my dad’s house that she had yet another reaction. She was covered in hives. I wasn’t sure what to do since it had been months since the first reaction. I gave her Benadryl but it did nothing for the hives. The allergist didn’t have an “off hours” number to call. We decided to rush her into the ER. When we got there we were rushed back and medication was quickly administered to her. It all happened so quickly. Thankfully, my cousin was there and took notes of the medication that Lilly was given. She was hooked up to monitors to keep check of her blood pressure and heart rate. My sweet baby laid on my chest as we waited for her to get out of the woods. I’ll never forget hearing some one in the hall way start yelling to “get epinephrine to room 6 stat!”

My cousin and I stared at each other with pity for that family in room 6.

Then the medical staff came running into our room!

At 2 am her blood pressure bottomed out as she laid on my chest and I had no idea: the monitors were on silence to let her rest. I am thankful that we where there when that happened. It was in that moment that I learned that I had no idea how to handle a truly life-and-death reaction. Lilly had a scary night but was okay. Since then I have set out to learn everything that I can about food allergies. I had switched from her local allergist to an allergist at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. There I received an emergency action plan that laid out step-by-step what to do during a reaction: when to take her to the hospital, when to give the Epi Pen, and call 911. I learned what to watch out for. Most importantly I learned that when it comes to food allergies that it isn’t a question of if an allergic reaction will occur but when it will happen. And all you can do is be ready and prepared to handle it. I urge every food allergy family to have an action plan. Ask every question you can think of to your allergist until you feel like you have the education needed to handle a reaction. Education is the key to protecting our children. The job of an allergist isn’t just to tell you that there is a food allergy and give you medication. Their job is also to educate you.

We are our children’s biggest advocates and protectors. And as such, it is our job, as parents to educate everyone in contact with our child or selves about our specific food allergy: what the allergy is, possible signs of a reaction, the action plan, and everything else that goes along with food allergy awareness. It simply cannot be said enough: Education is key.


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