“I was mad because I couldn’t eat peanuts and Dumbo could. I wanted to be like Dumbo,” my dad stated to me rather matter-of-fact last weekend when we were talking about growing up with peanut allergies. My dad also grew up with a nut allergy. He still is allergic to nuts, but not as severely as when he was a child.
When my dad said this, it reminded me of how it feels to be allergic when you are a child. I remember a family friend giving me a big book about an elephant that was fed peanuts at the zoo. I would read this book and think, “don’t feed the elephants.” I knew I couldn’t touch peanuts or be close to them, so I guess that meant I could never feed elephants at the zoo. It is difficult because I remember feeling like I wanted to be able to eat what everyone else could eat. I wanted to feel like I fit in. I usually felt like I stood out with my allergies. It is difficult not to feel that way when you have to bring your own cupcakes to parties, food to friends houses, and ask questions when you order food out. I also remember sometimes feeling guilty because it seemed like a lot of work for other people.
There were plenty of times though where I felt like I could forget about my allergies. When I was with my family when I was little I never worried about my allergies. When I was with my closest friends and their families, I rarely worried. It was only at birthday parties and summer camps where I felt like it was noticeable, and where people wondered why I couldn’t share food or eat what they ate.
Something that I think is helpful for children now is that they are in company. More likely than not, there is at least a few other kids in their class or grade that have similar allergies. This helps them to not feel alone. In a way, I think that is helpful that they don’t have to feel like the only ones. Of course, I am concerned with how many children are getting food allergies now though, especially since we have no cure at this point besides strict avoidance of the allergens!