We don’t often talk about allergies and asthma in our homeschool circles, but we should. Having this conversation can help families to feel more comfortable. Especially with the common goal of keeping all our children safe.
Allergy and asthma families think about life a little differently. Each family has a unique story and often faces challenges that other families never even think about.
Homeschooling has many benefits for asthma and allergy families! We can avoid or limit allergy and asthma triggers in our homes, go to appointments, and take recovery days as needed. Sometimes our biggest homeschool challenge is avoiding allergy and asthma triggers away from home.
Our Allergy Story
We knew our children could have allergies and asthma because that is part of our family history. My husband had asthma as a child and is allergic to fish. I have asthma and seasonal allergies.
My first daughter is allergic to amoxicillin (penicillin), sesame, and more recently dogs, cats, grasses, weeds, pollens, mold, and dust. She is currently receiving weekly allergy injections and doing better than this time last year.
When my second daughter was a newborn, I went dairy free because that seemed to help with her upset tummy/colic (nursing). As we started to introduce foods at six months, she clamped her little mouth shut and refused baby yogurt and yogurt bites. These were favorites of my first daughter.
Thinking she just disliked them, I wasn’t too worried. She happily ate rice cereal and pureed fruits and vegetables.
Then one day, Grandma came over. Grandma was so excited when she was able to feed her a little container of baby yogurt! The excitement was short lived. Within the next ten minutes, we moved from excited to fearful.
Redness appeared around her mouth and anywhere the yogurt touched her skin. Hives were everywhere! We called our Doctor and followed her instructions, which included seeing an allergist asap.
The allergist did some testing, confirmed the milk allergy, and began to educate us. Our daughter needed to carry an epi-pen and practice strict avoidance of milk.
Meeting the Challenges
The first few months after her diagnosis were challenging.
- Learning to read labels on everything for hidden dairy.
- Learning to cook & bake without dairy.
- Packing safe foods and snacks anytime we left the house.
- Staying with her at all times (nursery, Sunday School, library story-time, playground)
- Remembering to always take the epi-pen, anti-itch cream, and Benadryl.
- Using allergy alert tags and stickers. Here are some free printable tags for you.
- Asking people to wash their hands (especially after eating dairy foods)
- Managing the stress & fear we felt about food.
- Very rarely eating out. It was just too much work and stress!
- Explaining and educating everyone we spent time with.
We had to make some new family rules:
- Do not leave the house without:
- Anti-itch cream
- A safe snack
- Allergic child doesn’t eat anything without parental permission
- Absolutely no snacks if the epi-pen isn’t present (back to rule 1).
Five years later, this is just how we live. We plan ahead and we stay safe. Avoiding allergens, managing asthma, and doing what is best for our children. Thankfully, our daughter recently passed a food challenge. We are now trying some dairy products. This is going well so far.
5 Ways You Can Support Families with Allergies & Asthma
We have a wonderful opportunity in our homeschool communities to support one another. I am so thankful for those who came to me at our homeschool co-op and said, “How can I help? What would make this day easier for you?”
- Always ask about allergies and asthma. Make it part of the conversation! Not knowing can lead to an emergency situation.
- Learn what triggers asthma and allergies (smoke, fragrances, pollen, pets, dust, foods, and more). The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America is a great place to start.
- Do not give or make special food or snacks for an allergic child. While it is so kind of you to offer, it is too easy to misread a label or have cross contamination.
This happens often, here are just a few of our experiences:
- Dairy free pizza cut or served with the utensil just used on regular pizza.
- Food cut with the knife just used to spread butter.
- Hostess declares food is safe because she made it without milk and butter. Husband asks what makes it creamy? Oh, that’s cream of something soup in casserole. Oops!
- Top of safe rolls are buttered as they come out of the oven.
- Child is offered goldfish crackers.
- Let parents know if an activity will include snacks. If I know the library is serving buttered popcorn at story-time, I can bring safe popcorn. Or choose to skip this activity if it will be unsafe for my child.
- Wash hands after you eat or handle allergens. If severely allergic, food residue (even airborne) can cause an allergic reaction.
The biggest struggle is not with allergies or asthma, but with fear. We try to hide it. We try to face it. It keeps coming back!
Allergies, asthma, parenting, homeschooling, teaching, meal planning, cleaning, public speaking, driving, blogging, and social media—all of these bring new fears.
For me, fear is a daily battle. I must remind myself that fear is not from my heavenly Father. Don’t be paralyzed by it.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
Here’s a little music encouragement: Fear is a Liar by Zach Williams.
When you meet a homeschool mom, allergy mom, asthma mom, any mom - be kind. You don’t know what she is struggling with and keeping hidden inside. Chances are pretty good she is fighting fear too.
Don't forget to download your free printable tags!
More posts in the series:
Join us all month as we tackle the tough stuff! Sign up for the newsletter and I’ll send you a weekly email with all the great content from homeschool moms all over the world.