Food allergies are scary for children and parents, not to mention, they can play havoc with a family’s budget.
A study by University of Arkansas researchers presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows that families affected by food allergies are more likely to incur financial hardship. One of the reasons is that caregivers are likely to reduce working hours or stop working outside the home altogether. There are also more costs involved for the family in medications, doctor visits and special diets for children with food allergies.
Most every day is challenging for a family coping with children who have food allergies, according to Marietta resident Erin Myers, the mother of a daughter with multiple food allergies.
“She has a list of allergies a mile long,” Myers said. “It is hard to find something for her to eat.”
This local mom has also noticed that her grocery bills are always high.
“I look for replacements for the foods she needs to grow and that she loves, but the replacements are always more expensive,” Myers said.
Her daughter, Abbryanna “Abby” Myers, 7, is allergic to many foods, including dairy. She also has been diagnosed with asthma.
“I buy soy ice cream for her and she does love that,” Myers said. “Her favorite food is salad. I have to pack her lunch every day because they won’t allow her to eat at school, for fear she will eat something she’s allergic to.”
Abby has severe allergies to eggs, beef, any product containing wheat and all milk products. A non-dairy cheese is available but it is twice as expensive as the regular American cheese slices and the child doesn’t like the taste of it.
“We carry an Epi-Pen (emergency life saving medication) and breathing machine, just in case,” her mother said. “Once she got just a tiny sip of milk and her mouth swelled up.”
The simplest things, like grocery shopping or preparing a school lunch, can be a challenge logistically as well as financially.
Renea Ball, elementary school nurse with Marietta City Schools, said she is seeing greater numbers of students with food allergies. She isn’t certain whether this is because there are more children allergic today or just more identified earlier.
“By the time I see them, most have been identified,” Ball said. “At elementary age, I like to keep an Epi-Pen locked up in my office just in case.”
But she encourages parents to teach young children to carry a fanny pack to hold their own Epi-Pen or rescue inhaler.
Lunchtime can be an issue, but is not normally, she said. Ball makes certain children who are highly allergic – particularly with a peanut allergy – wash their hands before entering the cafeteria, before they eat and after leaving the lunchroom.
“We ask students not to sit at the same table with children who are eating peanut products,” Ball said.
Cathy Cunningham’s 2-year-old daughter has a rare liver disorder called galacosemia. Not technically an allergy, but lacking in a vital enzyme, Presley Cunningham will have to follow a strict diet all her life, much like children who have an allergy.
“She cannot tolerate any milk product or byproduct of milk,” her mother said. “I have to read every food label carefully to make certain there isn’t anything in it that will hurt her.”
Exposure to a food, like any beans or milk product, will throw her into a jaundiced condition, her liver may enlarge and her entire body become septic. As a result of having so few foods she can eat, Presley eats a lot of meat.
“We call her our little carnivore,” Cathy Cunningham said.
Her parents now know what brands of cereal, bread, crackers and all other food are safe and those that are not.
“If we are going someplace else to eat, like a birthday party, I bring food for her,” she said. “She knows there are certain foods she cannot have.”
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