Danielle Mikulak, mom to allergy warrior Olivia Reese, shares her daughter's story and her family's experience with food allergies in this week's #OhhMoments!
"My name is Danielle and I am the mom of a little allergy warrior named Olivia Reese. At 8 months old, Olivia had her first bite of peanut butter which resulted in an anaphylaxis response. After having both blood and skin tests done, it was confirmed Olivia has an allergy to peanuts, all tree nuts, eggs, dairy and wheat.
Her diagnosis ran shock waves through our entire family. We had never known anyone that had such severe allergies and were completely in the dark with how to handle our new diets. Since, I am still breastfeeding, we were advised to eliminate these foods from not only her diet, but mine as well. It was quite the adjustment only made easier but companies like Ohh! Foods who has provided my family with a safe and inclusive snack.
Our lives have completely changed since finding out about Olivia’s life threatening food allergies. I went from being a very carefree, relaxed momma to one filled with anxiety and fear. As a family, we always put a lot of weight in going out to eat. Every birthday, family event or gathering were spent at restaurants. I found comfort in food out with my family to eat.
When we found out about Olivia’s allergies, what once brought me comfort, now filled me with anxiety. I now check the menu before we even go to a restaurant. Not only to see what their allergy policy is, but also to see if I need to be afraid of cross contamination. I check to see if nuts are served in any other dishes and if so, I make sure to bring my special wipes to clean the table and chairs that she may come in contact with. We have to be super careful when we order food to be sure it doesn’t contain any of her allergens. This transition from food being a source of comfort to a source of anxiety happened over night and is one that has changed our lives.
Food allergies have also impacted the lives of our family and friends. Being that Olivia is so small, we have to be extra careful with her being around other kids. We have to 'helicopter' around play dates to be sure no peanut protein from anyone that may have just had peanuts gets on Olivia. Most kids Olivia’s age eat peanut butter as one of their main food groups in a day! It makes it really hard to have play dates over other’s homes or have anyone babysit because of the risk that their may be peanut residue somewhere.
When we have attended different libraries or gyms for children and I mention that Olivia has these food allergies, 9/10 times the employee will tell me not to worry about it, that they clean every couple weeks and that they barely have nuts on the premises. We know they mean well but meaning well won’t protect my child from an anaphylactic experience. It makes us feel very brushed off as parents and tends to deter us from attending group activities that won’t provide a safe atmosphere.
We are lucky to have family and friend that take Olivia’s allergy seriously but of course, it took some educating and a lot of time to get everyone on the same page regarding her allergy plan. We have had a few experiences that have made us feel very isolated from the people we love and the outside world. We know this is no ones fault and just the nature of having a child with life threatening allergies - but that very fact is something we hope to help change in our society moving forward.
Thanks to brands like Ohh! Foods we are so hopeful looking toward the future. Inclusive snacking is something we hold near and dear to our hearts. It is so important for Olivia to have safe, healthy and fun options to snack on. I look forward to her starting school and being able to bring her safe snacks with her. I hope that her friends will reach for these inclusive snacks too - how can you not with how delicious they are! I hope that as time goes on, companies lean away from making children's snacks so reliant on flavors like chocolate and peanut butter and move more towards other flavors that are safe for all.
When we first entered the world of food allergies, I was shocked to see how others reacted to it. For the most part, people don't believe the severity of Olivia’s allergy. They don’t worry or take it as serious as it should be taken and I believe this is due to a lack of knowledge. I remember one afternoon watching 'Peter Rabbit' with my daughter only to be disgusted that the main character used another's’ allergy to black berries against them. In this children’s movie, the characters made a joke about hurting another using what they are allergic too. A few months later I saw a billboard for the new 'Grinch' movie joking about putting gluten in someone’s smoothie to make them upset. What these media moguls don’t understand is that by making light of such a serious subject they unwittingly give permission for kids to laugh and make light of food allergies themselves.
I believe if the public truly understood what a risk these kids were in being around these different types of food, they would take more precaution in restaurants, on airplanes and in the public in general.
I hope moving forward, we as a community are able to raise awareness for life threatening food allergies and are able to make every child feel safe, included and full." - Danielle Mikulak
Follow Danielle and her daughter Olivia's journey on Danielle's blog, https://justkeeppatching.com/