How do you refer to your child’s allergy in conversation?
If you say “anaphylactic to nuts”, the person may not know what you mean. “Allergic” (when talking to the uninitiated) runs the risk of sounding like your child might just come out in a bit of a rash. Likewise, “severely allergic” still sounds like your child might come out in a bit of a rash, but with the added implication that you are one of those neurotic mothers who calls a sniffle the flu.
I don’t particularly care about sounding neurotic given the circumstances and my pat phrase is “my little boy is severely allergic to nuts”. If I’m asked further, I explain about his anaphylactic reaction at 20 months and spell on the intensive care ward.
In the main, people have been very understanding. However, there has been the odd maddening moment. From the indignant “But it’s homemade!” (doesn’t really solve the problem…) to a fellow diner’s suggestion of “Could he just have a chip?” (when a restaurant said they couldn’t provide a nut free meal). It can feel a bit like that Royle Family sketch where nana suggests Anthony’s vegetarian girlfriend could have some wafer thin ham. Except the wafer thin ham isn’t life threatening.
I’ve also had a fair few anxious moments where my son (D) has been around other children with potentially dangerous food. Toddlers snatch food from each other. D isn’t yet of an age where he comprehends that eating something might make him ill. He sees a biscuit and just thinks “Biscuit! Biscuit!”. Ditto for cake. A toddler stood next to D and holding a nutty snack may as well be holding a loaded gun. Sounds melodramatic, but it’s true.
Hopefully, as awareness of peanut allergies and anaphylaxis increases generally, understanding of the severity of the condition will spread. In the meantime, I know I just need to keep explaining the situation to others … together with policing D’s food snatching attempts!