My Life as a Food Allergy Dad

Hello, Food Allergy Dads! 

When my wife, the founder of the Food Allergy Institute, asked me to write about what it was like to be an allergy dad, I thought, what in the world would I talk about? Then I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of my experiences or, dare I say, “feelings” when our allergy warrior has an allergic reaction or, to a less dramatic extent, only prefers to tell his mom when he is not feeling well.  This may be because your spouse handles most medical appointments or because she runs a successful company specializing in teaching people and companies how to thrive with food allergies.  It doesn’t matter what the reason is; know it is entirely normal. So, now that we have that out of the way, here is some other situation where I might put your mind at ease, based on my past experiences or screw-ups.

Dad fishing with two sons off a dock.

Guilt

You may feel guilty that your spouse handles most of the doctor’s appointments or takes the lead on medial related decisions, but there are ways to make you feel more a part of your child’s medical team.

  • Ask for a post-doctors visit download. Now, I would not do this right when they walk through the door after sitting in traffic for an hour, but sometime in the next 24 hours, ask your partner what they discussed with the doctor and the next steps.  This will help you feel included, and more importantly, it will show your child and partner that you are interested in being a part of the care team.
  • Show up to the appointment when you can.  This will allow you to experience all the things your child and partner go through during these appointments.  Many of them are incredibly stressful, and you will not fully understand them until you experience them firsthand. For example, going to a food challenge to test if your child would have an allergic reaction.  This is only one of the many different stressful appointments that your child and partner have to experience regularly, and it would be beneficial for you to understand it. 
  • There are other ways you can show up. Ask your parenting partner what they need from you. It is different for every family and there is no way to read minds. Trust me I have tried!

Lack of Confidence

There will be times, especially initially, where you will feel like you just do not know enough to provide care.  Again this is entirely normal, but it is up to you to learn what foods your kids can and cannot eat, what an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis looks like, and how to react.  The piece of advice that I can give is to fake it until you make it.  Meaning, be confident even though you might not be.  When your child has an allergic reaction, they are scared, and they need to know you are calm and know what to do.  I will be honest with you, there have been times when I have doubted myself when my son was beginning to go into anaphylaxis and asked for my wife to come in and confirm what I was seeing.  I hope everyone understands that this was a mistake on my part. 

When a reaction begins, it is imperative that you react quickly and not hesitate, which will allow the situation to worsen.  Even if you doubt yourself, always give an epi immediately.  Even if you are not 100% sure, it will not harm them.  They will be wired for hours, but they will be fine.

Ask Questions

I know you have heard this before, but I will say it again.  There is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to your child’s health.  Most of us are not health care professionals, so swallow your pride and fear of sounding stupid and ask.  The more knowledgeable you are, the better care and support you can provide to your child and spouse. Remember, the question you do not ask could be the difference in the life or death of your child.  I know that is a serious thought to rest on your shoulders, but we all can agree that our child is far more important than protecting our pride.

So there you have it—a few of my thoughts, advice, and examples of my mistakes from one allergy dad to another.  Remember to show love, support, and grace to your allergy child and partner, for the stress and life or death decisions that they deal with daily are something that most parents will never truly understand.

Ask for Help

It’s hard enough to be a parent to any child, add a life-threatening chronic illness, and, well, you know… Call the professionals, as a parenting team take the Ultimate Guide to Finding your AllerTribe, or contact us with all your questions at [email protected].

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