Parents' nuggets of wisdom, Useful Links & Articles

Sometimes mommy ‘DOES NOT’ know best…

‘Mommy – aren’t you glad that I saved myself from dying today?!’ – these words will echo in my ears for a long time to come. Ironic that I should file this post under ‘Parents’ nuggets of wisdom’ 😉

Much as I would like to think that I am an awesome mom who has always ensured that her boy is safe – I have made many, many mistakes. This post needed to be written to demonstrate how carelessness, overconfidence and sheer ignorance can cost a food allergic child his life! As my son, Arjun is growing up and we are getting comfortable managing allergies – we are slowly slipping into a comfort zone and that’s the moment to watch out for…

  1. Don’t rely ‘just’ on Ingredient Listings: Use visual cues too! Recently I bought a box of exotic seemingly safe cookies. When I offered them to my son – he was very hesitant and made me re-read the ingredient statement and all was fine. But, he insisted and said, ‘Mom – the picture on front seems to be that of some tree nut!’ And, was he right or what – the cookie was Hazelnut flavored. A flavor that probably got included under the broad spectrum of ‘Natural flavors’. Yessss – my little boy saved himself on that day and as he put it, ‘Mommy – aren’t you glad that I saved myself from dying today?!’
  2. Yes – moms are human too: And we forget and make occasional mistakes. I used to pride myself on being very careful when it came to being mom to a kid with food allergies.  Not anymore! The top 3 shelves in my freezer are meant exclusively for allergy friendly foods so that my son’s nanny finds it easier to feed him when I am at work. Accidentally I put a box of ‘soy’ chik’n nuggets on the Allergy Friendly shelves. When I walked in from work – I saw my little boy happily eating them. Yes – I had been careless and put an allergic food in his shelf and my nanny was careless and din’t re-read the instructions before serving. Thankfully – he had eaten only a little and he also seems to be not that allergic to soy now. But – what if it had been a nut-based product. The very thought got my son so scared that he has been scared to eat for a week now 😦
  3. Beware when buying unfamiliar foods: Recently I picked up a box of a ‘safe’ Indian snack from the local grocery store. A quick glance at the ingredient list confirmed it to be okay. Thankfully my background in Indian cooking stirred up and I remembered that this snack is made from wheat flour but it had not been mentioned in the listing. Yes – it was an inaccurately labeled box!!! I would have never realized it if I had not been conversant with Indian cuisine. Moral of the story –  ‘be extra careful when buying ethnic, foreign-made or unfamiliar foods’.
  4. NEVER stop taking extra care when introducing new foods: In the initial days, I was constantly on the lookout for healthy fats that I could include in my son’s diet because he was so underweight. That’s when the flax revolution happened and I started adding small quantities of flax to his meals. It was much later that I realized – thanks to all the feedback from my blog readers that flax could be extremely allergenic. I just lucked out that Arjun did not react to it.
  5. Spices – beware: It was only a couple of years after I had started using asafoetida to flavor Arjun’s otherwise bland food that it contained wheat in small quantities. And, mustard – pheww I din’t even know that it is one of the top 10 allergens when I first introduced it to Arjun.
  6. Don’t skim over the ingredient list: Even though it is tempting and we feel we know it all after reading millions of ingredient lists. Flashback to 4 Christamses back…Arjun and his cousins huddled around a Gingerbread house as they decorated it. The baker in me forgot that sometimes store bought frosting uses egg whites to help decoration harden faster and form shapes better. So, as the other kids licked spoons of frosting as they decorated, I let my little one eat it too – and within the hour his lips had swelled up and he was throwing up 😦 Lucky for us – it was not an anaphylactic reaction!!! And, how can I forget the Halloween night when I let him have Twizzlers because a cursory glance did not reveal that wheat is used to make Twizzlers.
  7. Being ‘hungry’ is sometimes the lesser evil:  Now this has to be one of my worst goof-ups. I fed him airline food since it looked okay on inspection even as he said that he is not feling okay because I was worried that he will be hungry. Thankfully – I stopped forcing him after the first few bites. Within an hour – he had thrown up all over me. I forgot that one has to be  extra cautious when in situations where emergency help is unavailable. Yes – ‘use extra precaution when traveling’.
  8. Avoid packaged foods with too many ingredients: Ingredient listing runs more than 3 lines? Ditch the item! Not worth taking the risk because half of them are chemical preservatives and enhancers. Most of us are not chemists or biologists to know if they are safe and who wants so many chemicals in our systems anyways! Yes – the mistakes I have made has usually been because my eyes missed an ingredient when reading such a long list.
  9. Do not assume that you know the ingredients used in a dish/ snack: I have accidentally offered dark chocolate to Arjun assuming that it ‘obviously’ will not have nuts in them. Lucky for me – he did not want to eat it because I found out minuted later that it contained almonds – the tree nut he is most allergic to.
  10. Homemade food is not necessarily safe: This is especially true when you are visting a friend/ family and the dish served is not made by you. They may forget to mention a vital ingredient in the midst of entertaining – a genuine mistake that could happen to any one of us. Arjun was just 3 when I let him eat baked chicken that had been marinated in yogurt. A definite no no for someone who is allergic to dairy 😦
  11. Cross-contaminnation can happen at home too: There are times when I am using all 4 burners to cook different dishes – one of them supposedely allergy-friendly.  big cheese cube flew from my dish while stirring and fell into the allergy-friendly food while stirring and I did not pay attention. Thankfully – we noticed it as he was eating it though we could have as easily missed it.

As I write this post – it hits me even more forcefully how careless I have been as a mom and how fortunate I have been thus far. However, one can push their luck only so far. This post needed to be written to jolt me into mindfullness and see things with a fresh and vigilant perspective!

Another great takeaway from these experiences – each time Arjun escaped because he was careful despite mommy’s words. That’s one thing I seem to have done right thus far – raising a kid who knows that his safety is in his hands! I can only hope that he never forget this valuable lesson.

This post has been in draft mode for weeks – with a full-time job it is becoming increasingly difficult to focus and write at the end of a long day. But, a dear friend Sandhya said. ‘Missing your blog posts. Loved reading your writing style.’ That too from someone who does not deal with food allergies. Thanks Sandy – that immediately motivated me to finish this post this weekend – just as I promised you 🙂

13 thoughts on “Sometimes mommy ‘DOES NOT’ know best…”

  1. Hi Anu. This link was shared by a mutual friend Sandhya Unni. Im curious to know what exactly are the foods/ingredients that ur son is allergic to ? I gather dairy, gluten and tree nuts. But does he suffer from any condition that causes the allergy/ its jus something he was born with? Hope u don mind the overt inquisitiveness. Jus that Im a mom-to-be 🙂 and also studying to be a nutritionist. Could really use some info on allergies.

    1. Thank you so much Archana for visiting Allergy Foodie. Wishing you the very best – I am sure you will love mommy-hood 🙂 Researchers are still trying to find out why some people suffer from food allergies. Arjun has had it from the age of 4 months but technically one could develop allergies at any age. He was allergic to all the top 8 allergens to begin with but has outgrown some. However – nuts is something that he may never outgrow.

  2. Thank you for your post. It’s not easy to admit our FA mistakes, especially so publicly. I once gave my egg allergic daughter frozen yogurt. I was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed that day and let my guard down. Turns out it contained egg. Fortunately her only reaction was vomiting. It’s hard to be forgiving of ourselves in those situations.

    1. Thank you Mary for visiting Allergy Foodie. You are absolutely right – it is tough to admit it so publicly. But, I did this as an exercise to force me to sit down and think about the many mistakes I have made and how dearly it could have cost me. It did help me put things in perspective and I do hope that it will serve as a constant reminder to me that even the best of moms can make mistakes and some of them could have awful consequences.

  3. Great article Anu! As someone not needing to be in the know (fortunately) it was very enlightening and will be something in the back of my mind as many of Jack’s friends have food allergies. One comforting thing is your son clearly has a sixth sense when it comes to this, so you should always tell him to always trust that sense, even when others may doubt it.

    1. Thank you so much Janine for visiting Allergy Foodie 🙂 Yes, Arjun trusts no one and would rather go hungry than eat something suspect. Empathetic friends make a huge difference because they accept it without making a big deal of it – so glad Jack is a part of Arjun’s life 🙂

  4. As a mother with two boys with food allergies, I know how it feels to carry around the ‘backpack of guilt’! As I tell my boys, mistakes are there to learn from…I can honestly say, I have learned plenty!

    1. Tell me about it Susan and in your particular case when your older one was very young there weren’t as many allergy friendly foods out there in the market or even as much info either – right?! Well – all we can do is keep trying and hoping…

      1. Exactly! Allergy friendly products have come a long way…educating the public is making a difference! I hold on to the notion of hope as our family continues on our journey with mulitple food allergies, asthma and eczema! Keep up the great work!

  5. Thanks for the response Anu and apologies for the late one from my side. Thanks a ton for ur wishes. I must say the effort and positivity uve put in dealing with ur child’s allergies is very inspiring. I’m glad he had outgrown some of them and hope he continues doing so. Very glad I stumbled upon this space. Very informative and innovative(especially the watermelon pancake recipe). Great work! 🙂

  6. Hi, glad I came across your blog. I have constantly felt the need to share my issues with someone from the same country. I find it impossible to get Indian groceries that are not made in a facility that uses peanuts/ treenuts. all the spices have the same problem as well . Do you know of a safe brand to buy?

    1. Hi Kanika – I seem to have missed reading your feedback. My apologies! You are very right about Indian groceries. Let me research more and get back to you with a detailed answer!

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