This Guest Blog is written by Professional Chef Martha Morgan also known as the Allergy Dragon. She is mum to three amazing children; the oldest of which has celiac disease the youngest also has celiac disease as well as 33 severe food allergies. This led Martha to create her own You Tube channel called Allergy Dragon to share her passion for cooking delicious, gluten free , allergy friendly food! She believes that everyone deserves to have fun in the kitchen and eat delicious food no matter your diet limitations.
Welcome to The Allergy Mom Club
In 2002 with the birth of my youngest child and only girl Kara, I was over the moon. I thought to myself; my family is complete, happy, and mostly healthy. Little did I know that my little girl was going to initiate me into the allergy Mom club, and by doing so help me find out several of my “health issues” where undiagnosed food allergies, and Celiac/Coeliac Disease. Surprise! She got it from her Mama.
Our journey into the world of Food allergies started with Kara’s first reaction. She was almost nine months old when she had an anaphylaxis reaction to eating strawberries. It was terrifying, and the first time I had ever witnessed a response like that. Luckily the emergency services were quick and effective. I remember feeling helpless, and just praying that whatever they could do would work. Then started the discovery process of food allergies, the what, the why, and how to keep it from happening again.
So through elimination diets, and scratch testing, we confirm Kara’s allergy to certain foods. She was confirmed to be allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and strawberries the list was relatively daunting at first to a new allergy Mom. Who am I kidding…any food allergy diagnosis is formidable when it first gets confirmed. However, we are allergy Mom’s and Dad’s we can do this! ….Right? Yes, you can!
Growing up, Kara was always in the kitchen with me partly because I believe all kids need to learn how to cook, and know where your food comes from. I especially feel it is essential when you have an allergy Kid. She also got to learn cooking from “ the best chef in the world,” her words not mine. I am proud to say my sous-chef has become quite the cook at 16 now and makes most of her meals during the week, and sometimes she makes enough for everyone.
As positive and empowering, I have tried to make Kara growing up is tough; even tougher if you are growing up with food allergies. Kara has experienced over the years food allergy bullying, allergic reactions obviously, and having to be left out of experiences because of food. This did cause a mental strain on her, and me. I know how much anxiety it causes me as a parent, but I didn’t realize how much distress it caused Kara until we went to a counselor. So when people ask me what the one thing I didn’t think of I wish everyone knew when raising a food allergy kid is? Get a counselor. Kara does not see hers all the time, but she was priceless to us at the time she needed someone else other than Mom.
Luckily for Kara, she has had at least two friends parents that she was able to go out with and experience real childhood experiences. Such as sleepovers, amusement parks, and just being a kid. They where a massive part in Kara being able to have a safe and fun childhood. I will always be forever in their debt for taking care of her as if she was her own. I probably would not have seen the anxiety she was having if not for them. They contacted me saying she would only eat chips over the weekend they were out. In Kara’s mind, she was eating what was safe. She didn’t want to take a chance and miss out on anything they where doing with a reaction.
Kara is 16 years old, computer science major in high school, and is one strong young lady. While it is correct kids can outgrow food allergies, in Kara’s case, she only outgrew her peanut allergy. Kara still avoids eating peanuts, peanut butter but will eat things processed around peanuts now. I can’t blame her for being careful since she has 33 total confirmed food allergies now, and Celiac disease. We have not been able to eat at a restaurant for years without her reacting unless it comes from my work kitchen. Many things pre-packaged are entirely off limits, and we have to scratch cook about 85% of her food.
Since Kara has so many allergies, I won’t list or explain them all. She can’t eat garlic, ginger, tree nuts, asparagus, pork, and chocolate, to name a few. I share the chocolate allergy with Kara; we are allergic to the bean, not the sulfites, or dairy in the chocolate. Kara’s worst allergy is to fish; she is so allergic to the proteins in fish, that when it is cooking, she will react. She cannot be in the same room when it is cooking; it is hazardous for her. It limits where she can also meet people if they want to hang out, and even though she brings her food with her.
I get asked all the time, does it get better? Well yes and no is the truthful answer. You get used to food allergies, and different experiences now cause alarm. The first day of Kindergarten school problems looks small now compared to the impending first day of University, etc. So firstly I always recommend you have an Allergist for the actual testing, and possible treatments. Second, You will need a counselor for yourself, and maybe the kids. Thirdly, look at what you can eat, not what you can’t!
Kara’s a fantastic kid, and I am not just saying that because she is mine. (okay, maybe a little!) For everything, Kara has to go through daily to survive genuinely astonishing to me. She now when faced with an allergic reaction is calm, collected, and tells people what to do if she can. Kara still has great friends that look out for her, and assure her they will stab her with the EpiPen if needed. Kara is starting her first job this summer, she will be in grade 11 next school year and has such confidence in everything she does it is inspiring.