Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Raising a Allergy Child

Recently I read a good article about raising kids with Celiac Disease and the challege involved in it. The article was very well written and so close to my heart and I would like to share some of the strategy that I use to raise my kids, Kimi and Isaac, who has suffered severe food allergy.

1. To educate them early
It is very important to educate them as soon as they started to aware of their surrounding. As for Kimi, I started showing her picture books of different type of food. I would show her the picture of 'Cow Milk' and told her that she could have Milk, but has to be Kimi Milk (Rice Milk) but not 'Cow Milk'. As Kimi became toddler, I would show her the picture of 'Cow Milk' and asked her whether she can have them. Kimi would shake her head and told me, 'Kimi cannot have cow milk, but Kimi can have Kimi Milk.' When I asked her why she could not have cow milk, she would tell me that cow milk make her sick and itch (she has terrible ezcema along with the allergy. By educate them early, they will learn to protect themselves to some extend and help minimize any accident.

2. Teach them How to Handle Emergency
When the kids are a little bit older like around 4 years old, being a parents should start educate the kids how to handle emergency situation when they have a reaction. I always have Kimi to bring her benedryl when having a sleepover. I have a long talk with the other parents about my kids allergy and how to handle the situation when Kimi is having a reaction. I teach Kimi how to use Epi-pen. Kimi  learn early on if she did not know what to do when she has allergic reaction, it will have serious effect on her life.

3. Bring them Shopping
I know sometimes it not be a great idea to bring young kids to the store; however, I learnt that it's important to show them what the food look like that they could have and what they could not have. When the children are young, they would like to grab everything on the store and they are extremely visual. By teaching them what the food look like will help them to say 'NO' to people who offer them with food that they are allergic to.

4. Teach Them Always Ask Before Eating
I always told my kids not to be shamed asking the gredients on the food that they were being served even from me. Yes, even I made mistake sometimes. If my kids are in someone else house and not sure about certain ingredients, I told them to call before they eat anything.

5. Tell them They are not Strange
My Kimi has asked me whether she is a different because of her food allergy. Because of her allergy, her skin got irritated very easily. Kimi's skin would get so itchy that she would tear her skin off. It was a very tough period of time not only for her but also for me. I used to spend 20 minutes every morning and evening to put bandage on her hands, arms and legs so that she could not reach her open scar and to scratch them. I put long pants and sleeves shirt on her on hot summer day. Kids and adult would ask her why she got hurt so often; and I got fair amount of questioning stares from people when I was out with Kimi. I told Kimi all the time that she is not strange and everyone is unique in her/his own way. I told Kimi not to be afraid to explain to people what happen to her skin and arms if people ask. I told her she is just a normal kid and should act like a kid; a little bit of boo boo should not affect her ability to play at the playground with other kids. It is not healthy to make your kid to feel different because they cannot eat certain food or do certain activities. Educate them and keep telling them they are not strange is important. Provide as much love and attention you could possibly gift.

6. Cook Food that can Share as Family
Mealtime could be challeging in my household but it's not impossible. Instead of cooking different things for different members in the family. I tried to find recipe that would cater for the entire family and you will realized that it is actually not that difficult once you get into habit of it. For example, I will have beef stew; and instead of flour for the thickening agent, I will use corn starch. I will cook meatloaf and instead of egg for binding the meat together, I will use egg substitute. If I cook chicken as the potein for dinner, I would also make lamb for Kimi since she is allergic to chicken and she loves lamb chop. Every meal, I would cook starch and vegetables that everyone could have and share as family. I try not to cook a separate meal for Kimi and/or my husband because of their unique dietary needs. We are family and we are in it together.

There are a lot of resources and support group out there for people living with allergy so we are not alone. To me, just keep an open mind and deal with it one day at a time and be thankful that my family are happy and living a healthy life.

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