2: Grocery shopping and preparing food
There is now a lot of information about allergies and their symptoms that allergy sufferers and their families can obtain from websites, leaflets, and by talking to their doctors. Usually only the families of children with allergies know what daily life with allergies is like. In our five-part series, we interview a father in Berlin with a severely allergic child, provide insights, promote understanding, give encouragement, and reveal ways to cope in everyday life. We spoke to Christian, 41, about the challenges presented by his son Luis’ severe peanut allergy and how the family is dealing with it. The allergy was identified when he was four years old, and the boy is now nine. Together the family has taken charge of the grocery shopping and meal planning.
Grocery shopping and preparing food with a peanut allergy
For Luis, even traces of peanuts can trigger an allergic reaction. This is why he always carries two adrenalin injections, antihistamines, an asthma inhaler and cortisone tablets with him in a belt bag. He had his last severe reaction before his parents discovered he had a peanut allergy. He was still in kindergarten at the time. He now has better protection.
In order to avoid an allergic reaction, the family has to invest a lot of time in grocery shopping, even if the 14 most common allergens are clearly labelled on product packaging according to the EU food information regulation. “Allergen labelling has improved overall and we are now also familiar with the companies’ labelling strategies”, Christian explains. “For example, if all 14 allergens are listed as present in trace amounts, it means that the quality control is poor and they are putting everything on the label just in case. We don’t buy these kinds of products. On the other hand, if only certain allergens are listed, we assume that the manufacturer knows exactly what is in the product. The way we use this information has worked for us so far.”
Luis’ family has adapted its eating habits to his allergy, but unpredictable situations do occur nonetheless. “One of our friends brought over some ciabatta with a homemade spread. Luis couldn’t have it because of course it didn’t have any allergen labelling. So his little brother ate some. Our ground rule is that if we don’t know whether it’s safe, neither of the boys can eat it, only the adults.” Christian pauses. “When Luis found out that his brother had eaten the spread anyway, he burst into tears.”
Before major events such as changing schools or moving, Luis is tested for any changes to his allergy. The family prefers not to subject him to constant medical tests. “There are different schools of thought in this regard”, says Christian. “Some doctors recommend frequent testing, since allergies can disappear at some point. But others say that the tests, which intentionally expose children to peanuts, can make the allergy worse. We have chosen the middle ground.”
We thank Christian for this interview. He spoke with Matthias Colli and Johanna Rupp from ECARF.
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