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  • Gayle Rigione, Allergy Force

'Can Do' Thinking Saves our Easter Tradition

We saw a lot of meal 'instant replays' before our son turned two. If we connected the dots at the time we would have realized we were dealing with a food allergy. But we did not. It wasn't until our son threw up Haagen-Dazs ice cream twice in a matter of days that we thought "possible food allergy?" and found an allergist in a hurry.


We left that appointment with a long list of suspected allergens (later confirmed by the blood tests) and an epinephrine prescription. Our son was diagnosed with allergies, not only to eggs, but to peanuts, shrimp, soy, tree nuts and peas at 22 months.


That was the beginning of our food allergy journey.


What we have learned over our many years of allergic living, is that when you manage food allergies, you may not be able to live life exactly the way you imagined it, but you definitely can live a rich and full life filled with possibility.

 
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After our son's food allergy diagnosis, we banished eggs (as well as his other allergens) from our home — no more Saturday morning omelets, no more baking with eggs, no more store bought anything with any egg ingredients. We were in full out 'avoid to protect' mode.


With one exception.


For Easter I would buy a couple cartons of eggs to boil and dye.


"Why?" you might ask, especially with the risk of an severe allergic reaction if our son ingested the tiniest particle.


Because coloring Easter eggs was an important family tradition we grew up with in our families.


Because we felt we could make it safe for our son if we took some extra steps, and stayed mindful and watchful during the activity.


Because we wanted all three of our children to experience the same fun we had as kids coloring eggs for the Easter Bunny.


What works for one family may not be appropriate for another because every family's allergy profile, allergen sensitivities, and reaction history are different. Perhaps, if our son had already experienced an anaphylactic reaction to eggs with an ER visit, we might have made a different call. However, he was well into his teens before he ever had a run-in with anaphylaxis (after a restaurant outing.)


I'm sharing here how we were able to keep a family tradition we loved alive when our son's food allergy profile — from the outside looking in, with 2022 FA knowledge — might have suggested otherwise.


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We usually colored the eggs the Saturday before Easter at our kitchen table. Our son wore an apron, rubber gloves, and used a wire egg holder to dunk the eggs. We made sure his unprotected skin never touched the eggs, and as soon as we were done, we relieved him of his apron and gloves and had him scrub with soap and water. The beautiful eggs were carefully stored away in the fridge.


For our family, the days following Easter were so NOT full of egg salad sandwiches, cobb salads topped off with hard boiled eggs, and deviled eggs. We gifted our eggs asap to cousins, the babysitter, our neighbors.


For our family, coloring Easter eggs was about making memories together. It was about channeling effort to find a practical workaround to keep our son safe and included. It was about finding the 'Can' versus accepting the 'Cannot'. It was about NOT letting food allergies win.


Thinking broadly, our tradition could just as easily have morphed to painting eggs made of Styrofoam or wood, or making and decorating egg-shaped cookies or candies. Together. All family-friendly. All fun.


I believe that all of us — as food allergy moms and dads — have the ingenuity to figure out workarounds to food allergy obstacles, one small step at a time, while still respecting our kids' allergy profiles, sensitivities and reaction history.


We can improve our chances for success by:


1. Being as informed as we can be about all things food allergy.


The more you know about food allergy and your loved one's allergen sensitivities, the better equipped you are to assess risks and dream up strategies. Knowledge is power, or in this case, power to find {small?} freedoms...Learn.


2. Thinking flexibly and picking our battles.


It's not always about getting through the wall that blocks your path. It's about finding peace where you're at. If you can, find the ladder you need to get over the wall, find a shovel to dig under it, or lace up your sneakers and go the long way around. And if all else fails, then consider the wall your canvas and paint a masterpiece called 'my life'...Bounce. Adapt.


3. Going the distance.


Accept that solutions may require an extra step or two (or even three) and be willing to go that distance...Persevere.



"Let go of the past and the 'what-might-have-been's'. Dream of what could be and focus on making it happen."

—Jessica Vosk, Broadway’s Wicked Star (with severe food allergies)


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From our family to yours, we're wishing you a Happy {& safe} Easter and Passover. We're hoping you're inspired to tap your creativity to keep your holiday traditions alive and well for your family, even with food allergies.


 
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About the Author: Gayle Rigione is CEO of Allergy Force, the food allergy app. She’s also an allergy mom. She’s lived the heart stopping moments when her son ate the wrong thing, second guessed reactions and raced to the ER. These experiences inspire her to create tech tools for people with food allergies. Whatever you do, do it with a full heart. Audentes Fortuna Iuvat


Get the food allergy app for Apple OR Android


Credits: Thanks to Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash, the Rigione Family, and Easter Coloring Pages from sheknows.com.



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