Paul Crowley is the father of two boys: a 10-year-old with food allergies and an 8-year-old with none. While he does his best to maintain a relatively normal life for his family, they inevitably had to make changes after the diagnosis — things like asking a lot of questions before outings, birthday parties and sleepovers. Still, in an effort to not restrict his son’s activities too much, he and his wife assess the actual risks involved, and then take reasonable precautions based on that risk. It’s a rule that has served them well so far. His son has had no accidental ingestion of peanuts since he was diagnosed at 18 months.
AllergyBites: What foods are your child allergic to?
Paul Crowley: Peanuts and soy protein.
AB: Can you describe the first time you realized (or suspected) your son had a food allergy?
PC: We got a call from his daycare provider who gave him peanut butter for the first time when he was 18 months old. She said he had a rash after eating it and we should come pick him up. He seemed ‘ok,’ but I took him to a walk-in just to see if anything was obviously wrong, and she sent us home. I put him down for his afternoon nap and started googling food allergies and symptoms to look for. I noticed something strange on the baby monitor, so I checked on him and he had thrown up, so I called 911.
AB: Has your child ever experienced an anaphylactic reaction? If yes, what happened?
PC: Yes – one each time we found out about each allergen. Both were different, but definitely multi-system reactions.
AB: After the diagnosis, what did your grieving process look like? Do you feel that you’re in the “acceptance” phase now?
PC: I’m not sure I ever grieved. I’m pretty good at accepting things that I can’t control and moving on, so I’m certainly in an acceptance phase.
AB: What are your biggest challenges as the dad of a food-allergic kid?
PC: I think one of the biggest challenges is determining ‘how cautious is too cautious?’ Are BBQs really a potential source of soy/peanut? Do we really need to cook all his food in tin foil to keep it off a grill (as an example)? Do his friends’ parents ‘get it’? Do we trust other people to feed him? And if not, does this restrict him in an overly negative way? Are peanuts at a baseball game a risk? I’m all for keeping him safe – but I’m not okay with suggesting that there’s risk when there isn’t. I don’t want to scare him when there’s nothing to be scared of.
AB: How has your child dealt with his food allergies?
PC: He’s pretty easy going, but he has said on a number of occasions that he wishes he wasn’t allergic to things. Despite our best efforts to be calm around him, I see that he has some anxiety about certain things (which probably stems from us).
AB: How often did you eat out before the food allergy diagnosis? How often have you eaten out since?
PC: It’s so long ago… I can’t remember. For sure, since the soy protein allergy, we eat out less, maybe once a month because allergy guides don’t distinguish soy protein from other forms of soy that don’t have the protein in them.
AB: Where are your go-to SAFE eating spots in Toronto and beyond?
PC: We feel comfortable at East Side Marios, Boston Pizza, Little Caesars, Il Fornello, KB (restaurant in Whitby), Subway (although they have soy protein in their chicken, so I haven’t quite wrapped my head around why we’re okay with this — if they had peanuts in a cookie, we would avoid it), Wendy’s (but he doesn’t really like Wendy’s other than the Frosties).
AB: Can you tell me why these spots makes you feel safe?
PC: I think this generally applies to all of them: They seem to know what they’re talking about when we ask questions, and generally don’t have peanuts on the menu. We avoid the allergens when we order, and we’ve never had any issues. KB uses a lot of fresh food, so they don’t have soy protein infused “chicken,” and they don’t have any peanuts on the menu.
AB: What are some fun facts about your food-allergic kiddo?
PC: Hmmm, he’s 10 and loves animals, but he’s allergic to cats and dogs. 😦 He loves reading, plays baseball and curling, and has a fairly large ‘collection’ of jokes he likes to tell (bad jokes – although that’s not entirely fair – they were funny the first 100 times he told them.). He climbs the CN tower stairs each April and raises money for the WWF. He’s a pretty empathetic kid, and will keep a piece of dirt (as an example) if someone gave it to him because they thought he might like it.
AB: Why did you decide to join the Top 10 Challenge as a volunteer?
PC: Thought it might be interesting. Would be good to raise awareness of food allergies.
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
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