Dear Fellow Mum,
I first heard about you a few days ago when I came across a news story about how you fed your toddler a peanut butter and jelly sandwich inside a Target shopping cart. I'll admit that my initial reactions to the story were shock, anger, and dismay. Approximately 15 million people in the United States alone have food allergies. Of those, 5.9 million are children. In other words, 1 out of every 13 kids is diagnosed with a food allergy every year.
As the mum of a 7-year-old with a life-threatening peanut allergy, I couldn't help but wonder what I would say if I ever had the opportunity to speak with you directly. I read that you weren't too thrilled about being "lectured" by another shopper about why the sandwich was such an issue. While you may never even read this, there are things I really want you to know and understand. I don't want to "lecture" you, too; I just want to talk — mum to mum — because we've all made mistakes.
I don't judge you. I merely want to let you know what it's like for us allergy mums so that we can all be more careful going forward.
I don't know a mum who hasn't packed a pursefull of snacks to keep their toddler's tantrums at bay. I get it. I really do. And I don't have any issues with a parent feeding their child a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (they're delicious, after all). But please, from one worried mother to another, think of all the other delicious snacks that don't include peanut butter. Or, if you do have a PB&J, please feed it to your child at a table instead. I know you were probably pressed for time, but it could have quite literally killed the next child to sit there.
You said you wiped down the cart before you left (thank you!), but as a fellow mum, I know how hard it can be to thoroughly clean something when you're holding a squirming 4-year-old. Just one tiny missed spot can cost a child their life. According to research studies, peanut protein can remain on a surface for 110 days without proper cleaning procedures. Was all the residue gone afterwards? If the answer is yes, thank you, and awesome job, mama. But, if there was even a tiny nagging doubt in your mind, maybe next time you can save the sandwich until you get in the car.
Did you know that simply inhaling or touching trace amounts of peanut residue could cause a child to have an allergic reaction? Before I became an allergy mum, I had no idea that peanuts could cause an allergic reaction without ingestion. I, like you, never thought about these tiny and seemingly insignificant details. When you don't have to worry about allergies, you just don't think about these things. You don't have to experience firsthand what it's like to watch your child struggle to breathe or vomit uncontrollably in a hospital while suffering from an anaphylactic reaction. That's why I don't judge you. I merely want to let you know what it's like for us allergy mums so that we can all be more careful going forward.
I truly don't blame you for making a mistake. Of course you didn't mean any harm. What I do hope, for my sake and the sake of anyone who has ever loved a child with food allergies, is that you learned from it. Like you, we all just want our children to live long, happy, and healthy lives. We want them to thrive, rather than feel afraid every time they set foot outside the door, regardless of how diligent they are about avoiding their allergens or carrying an EpiPen.
But we need your help. I don't judge you, just like I hope you don't judge me. We're mothers, and we're all in this together. So, instead of talking down to each other about these issues, I hope we can continue to talk to each other. I'm sure you would have a valuable parenting lesson to teach me, too. And I'm always all ears.
An Allergy Mum
Editor's Note: This piece was written by a POPSUGAR contributor. Interested in joining our POPSUGAR Voices network of contributors from around the globe? Click here.