As a mother of two small children with allergies, I often find myself on the defensive. One of the hardest things is getting people to understand that even a little bit of what they can't have is simply too much. Getting people to understand that their allergy is not just a phase, and really could be life threatening, can be extremely emotionally draining.
Surprisingly, I've often found that it's family and friends who are the hardest people to communicate to just how important it is that my kids don't try a little bit of that ice cream or cake for example.
It's gotten to the point now that I feel uncomfortable explaining for the 100th time exactly what kinds of foods they can't eat and that the epipen that we have to carry for my son is about life or death, and is not a deterrent or cure.
At first I thought it was just a lack of understanding or education about good and bad foods but when your child is continuously unwell after a visit to someone else's house, you know it's more than that. Upon discussion you realise that actually they don't believe that it's real and that just a little bit is ok. They don't see the after effect of that visit and my husband and having to look after our unwell kids because of that little bit of food.
Other times I feel almost embarrassed having to explain an allergy or intolerance that my kids have is when they're invited to a birthday party for example. As soon as I get that invitation I know that I'll have to do what I always do and ensure that my child is fed before attending or make sure I'm stuck by his side through the whole party to keep my eye on every little thing that he puts in his mouth.
My son is only two and a half and doesn't understand what he can and can't eat. The thought of calling up the Birthday child's parents to start listing the "no foods" makes me imaging the less than impressed look on the face of the parent on the other end of the phone. Without fail it always comes the question "So what does he eat then?" and I'm always left saying "Don't worry, I'll make sure he comes with a packed lunch of foods that he can eat so that he's no trouble." I hate the word 'trouble' because he's really no trouble. Actually what he can and can't eat is such simple a list.
My top tips in such situations
1) Stand your ground especially with family and friends. Reiterate the importance of your child sticking to their bespoke diet.
2) Educate your family and friends on the importance of a little of what they can't eat is way too much.
3) Be prepared and plan ahead. Sometimes it's just easier to make a packed lunch of foods that your child can eat and recognises for social events so they don't feel left out.
4) Feed your child at home before any social event. You'll find that a full belly means lots more time to play instead of eating party foods.
5) Don't feel embarrassed or angry. It really is just a lack of education but the world is becoming more used to allergies and allergens being highlighted in our every day life so it's more common place.