I’m Aaron, Elizabeth Goldenberg’s son, and I am fourteen years old. It’s Take Your Kids To Work Day for all grade 9 students, and I was asked to give my perspective about my younger brother’s allergies. I don’t have any allergies at all, and neither do my parents.
When I was 6 years old and my brother was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with a severe allergy to peanuts, almonds, and cashews. We were told to avoid all tree nuts because they’re cross-reactive and usually cross-contaminated. For the last eight years, all of us stopped eating peanuts and all tree nuts (even in trace amounts) to keep my brother safe. Although I’m allowed to eat nuts when out of the house, I just don’t feel comfortable doing that. At most, I eat traces of nuts when he’s not with me, like ice cream from an ice cream parlor. As soon as I get home, I wash my hands and brush my teeth when I’ve eaten trace amounts. Happily, Jacob has never been exposed to his allergen and has been reaction free since diagnosis, so we seem to be doing well with our precautions.
Jacob also needs to always have two Epipens within reach. His allergist told us that, and it’s very good advice. My mom started a company that sells the best Epipen belt she could find, and my brother wears his all day. He never complains about it and has never been teased about it. He has had some problems at school though when parents send in food for the class to share. His class mates seem to have no problem remembering his allergies, but their parents seem to have trouble keeping this in mind.
The allergy has had both positive and negative impact on our family. The allergy has limited our ability to eat freely, and has drastically restricted where and what we can eat. We have to make a lot of things ourselves (which is sometimes a good thing) and read all labels on packaged food. Sometimes something will come home and I’m excited to eat it, but when my mom calls the manufacturer, we find out that in fact it has traces of nuts. It would be better if this information always appeared on the label, since I’m sometimes disappointed.
When we eat in restaurants, we have to call them in advance to find out if they can make safe food. Often when we get there, they seem less confident, and then my brother doesn’t feel safe and we all get tense. It seems a lot of servers are ignorant about allergies, and I bet they’re losing hundreds, if not thousands of customers because of it.
Besides restricting eating, the allergy has also restricted travel. We don’t travel far, and I’d like to, but we would need to protect my brother on a plane or train to make sure he’s not exposed to nuts. Some places are just too far for us to drive there. We also have to be sure he has safe food with him and that there are safe places to eat along the way and once we get where we’re going. I watch my friends and their families take off for trips on short notice, and that’s just not possible for us. We seem to travel to the same places over and over, which are nice, but they’re getting boring.
The allergy has affected me slightly because I know what eating freely is like. There are some foods I loved that I never have now, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It’s obviously worth it to change my diet to keep my brother safe, but it would be nice to be able to again eat whatever I want.
Overall, we are eating healthier than before, and we are 1000 times more aware of allergies than before he was diagnosed. My mother’s business has allowed us to connect with many more people locally, and around the world. They give helpful tips for my brother’s allergy, and she also provides tips for their troubles as well. It does feel good to be a part of that.
Taking into consideration all of the effects the allergy has had on us, overall it has turned out to be a positive. We were able to turn it into something good, and help others with similar problems at the same time. It has opened our eyes in many ways, and has changed our lives significantly.
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