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Ask The Allergy Chef: A Little Won't Hurt

Ask The Allergy Chef: Child’s Allergist Says “A Little Won’t Hurt” I Have Doubts

    Hi. Our child’s allergist recently told me that “a little won’t hurt” and it would be OK to feed them food they’re allergic to (low numbers). Something in my gut is telling me this is a bad idea. Thoughts?

    This is a great question, and it’s one that creates so much anger within me. First, find a new doctor, and be sure to tell them why you’re leaving. Encouraging someone to feed known allergens to a child is akin to experimenting on them without fully informed consent.

    No two people are the same. It’s entirely possible that this line of thinking has worked with other patients in the past. However, in my opinion, it’s grossly irresponsible, as the doctor can’t predict what will happen.

    Continued exposure can cause more severe reactions in the future. It’s not uncommon for people to go from “mild reactions” to full blown anaphylaxis over the course of many exposures. I’ve personally had some allergies go from contact and ingestion only to adding an airborne reaction. And here’s the thing, I wasn’t eating the foods for that to happen. Just cooking with them was enough to trigger this change over time.

    Let me give you another example. I had a mom come to me for help many years ago. She gave me the rundown of what was going on. Turns out, her child was failing to thrive and refusing to eat. Want to know what they fed the child? Food the child was allergic to. I asked why, and the mom told me, “the doctor said it was OK”.

    In that case, neither parent had a food allergy, so they had no point of reference for the pain they were causing their child. They didn’t know that not every allergy reaction is quick, obvious, severe, and possibly anaphylaxis. These parents had no idea that food could be causing a myriad of symptoms such as GI distress, ENT pain, headaches, and so on.

    Since the child was too young to communicate all of this, they did the only thing they could- try to protect themself from the pain-causing food by not eating. What that also leads to is ongoing food fear. Think about this as an adult for a moment. If every plate of food caused you harm, would you have a positive relationship with food? Even if it wasn’t every plate, but “plates at random” you’re then playing an awful game of Russian Roulette, and who wants to do that at meal time? I know I wouldn’t, and I suspect a child wouldn’t want to either.

    Some people really struggle with this because they view doctors as end-all-be-alls because of their credentials. Doctors are unique in that they’ve seen a lot of different patients, and have a good idea of how a medical situation might turn out. Know who else is unique? Your child. Just because a doctor has seen many patients with a similar diagnosis doesn’t mean the doctor is as in tune with your child as you are. The doctor will spend a very, very small fraction of time with them compared to how much time you spend with your child. It’s important to remember that YOU are in charge and you are the best advocate for your child. Doctors work for you. Hire and fire as you see fit.

    I suppose all of that was my long winded answer and the bottom line is that I’ll never condone doing this to a child. NEVER. Children deserve to have fully informed consent. At the end of the day, that food can cause them great pain and harm. Depending on the age of the child, they may not be able to communicate this with you. I personally wouldn’t be OK with someone doing this to me, and I think most everyone else feels the same way. Would you knowingly eat rat poison? I wouldn’t. Known allergens are a form of poison for the person allergic.

    I’m glad your mom gut alerted you and that you didn’t follow this doctor’s suggestion. That is our role as parents when working with a doctor. They advise, we take it into consideration. You probably saved your kiddo from a lot of pain.

    If you’re stuck in a food rut in terms of WHAT ingredients to use, RAISE has the Master Food List. It’s more than 600 ingredients across many categories that you can cook and bake with. You might also like this article for parents, and this one for kids with restricted diets.

    You got this!
    ~The Allergy Chef

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