• Michelle Isban

An Unexpected Allergen Encounter

A food allergy mom reminds us that, as food allergy families, we need to stay vigilant as we go about our day-to-day. Allergens can pop up in the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected ways — whether it's the discarded PBJ sandwich at the park, or the cheese crackers littering a sidewalk. Learn how one mom turned a surprise allergen encounter into a teachable moment...

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Last night, as we walked to dinner, there were cheese crackers all over the floor. As my 9-year-old daughter walked by, the crackers crunched under her sneaker. Just then she stopped to tie her shoe.

My heart sank.


My daughter is severely allergic to dairy (as well as to eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame and shellfish.) She’s had numerous reactions from accidental exposure to dairy, so you can see my cause for alarm. Her allergies are ever present in my mind.


I didn’t want to make my daughter nervous, so I calmly explained to her that she had just stepped on one of her allergens and that I wanted her to wash her hands since she had touched her shoe.


Before I became an allergy mom, I had never given a second thought to food being on the ground, except that it’s dirty. I walked over to the restaurant owner and let him know and he immediately understood. He quickly swept up the cracker debris and threw it in the trash can that stood only 3 feet away from the discarded bits.


My daughter went to wash her hands and I breathed a sigh of relief.


The need for constant vigilance to identify risks and quickly connect the dots to keep your child safe is draining at times. You always worry that you’ll miss something important and that a “miss” could harm your child. But it’s what you do when you’re an allergy mom. You stay vigilant. You connect dots. You try to keep your worries in check. The more you do it, the more it becomes automatic, like breathing.


When these unexpected things happen, I try to point them out to my daughter and calmly share my concerns so she takes note. My hope is that by doing this over time, she will be well prepared to keep herself safe in the future. She won’t always be 9 and be with me.


Please parents, if you or your child spill food on a sidewalk, or the floor of a restaurant, try to clean it up if you can. It could be someone else’s allergen and could make them sick if they touch it.


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“Being mindful of the impact of your actions on others is human kindness.”

—Michelle Isban




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About the Author: Michelle Isban, mother of two, was a special education teacher for over 12 years in NYC. She is intimately familiar — both as a mom and personally — with the challenges of life with food allergies. Her youngest has multiple anaphylactic food allergies and Michelle is severely allergic to tree nuts and manages OAS. Michelle has co-chaired walks for FARE to raise awareness and fundraise. She served as Community Events Director for End Allergies Together (EAT). Now, through her work as @allergymomwithamission, Michelle continues to dedicate herself to educating and supporting the entire food allergy community.



Credits: Thank you Michelle Isban for use of the image with permission

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