Food allergies are a bit of a departure from my usual content, but I think it’s incredibly valuable for us parents of neurodivergent children to broaden the scope of our awareness and knowledge, and this is a voice I really want you all to hear.
Ina Chung, M.Ed, is a former teacher, parent to a neurodivergent child as well as a parent to another child with food allergies. She is also @theasianallergymom on Instagram where she shares delicious recipes, product tips as well as captivating thoughts about being a parent advocate for her two kids’ different needs. Full disclosure, she is also my VA and a valued member of Team OT Butterfly!
What you’ll hear in this episode:
- How to find out how sensitive someone is to their allergens
- The 9 most common food allergens in the U.S.
- What parents of neurodivergent kids have in common with parents of kids with food allergies
- Ways to support a family managing food allergies
Food allergy basics
The most common allergies in the U.S.
In the United States, there are nine most common allergens: peanut, dairy, egg, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and sesame. It’s a common misconception that peanuts and nuts are the allergens that must be taken the most seriously, but any allergen has the potential to cause a severe, life-threatening reaction (anaphylaxis) to a food allergic person. Currently, for kids, egg and dairy are the most common allergens.
Sensitivity levels vary
You may have noticed people with food allergies take different levels of precautions, and it can be confusing to understand. This is because food allergies affect each individual differently. That is to say, everyone has different sensitivity levels to their allergens. Some people may have severe reactions to even invisible or trace amounts of their allergens. Some people may not. If you want to know what level of precaution you may need to take when spending time with a person with food allergies, simply asking the following questions can be extremely helpful: “Is it safe for you if I eat this sandwich while I’m sitting with you?” “What level of precaution should we take if we want your child to be safe at the birthday party?”
Advocacy, accommodations, inclusion
Parents of neurodivergent children are more than familiar with these terms. So are food allergy parents! There is so much room for mutual understanding, especially when it comes to food at school.
Parents of neurodivergent kids also may have to advocate for any number of accommodations for their children based on their neurotype. For example, access to sensory regulation tools in the classroom, preferential seating, sensory breaks, movement breaks, being excused from the clip-chart policy of the school, having access to noise-dampening headphones, asking a teacher to see your child’s dysregulation not as a choice but as an involuntary fight/flight response and to respond accordingly.
When others don’t understand, the work of advocacy can be exhausting.
Likewise, parents of kids with food allergies have to advocate for school staff to use allergy-safe practices when considering class parties, food-related crafts, handing out candy, etc. Parents often find themselves advocating for fewer food-based activities (there are so many). Accommodations are key in keeping a food allergic child safe: implementing strict hand-washing policies are absolutely vital for many kids (soap and water is best for removing allergens from hands, hand sanitizer doesn’t cut it); having advanced notice and a safe alternative when the class is having a party; education for staff about how and when to use an epinephrine auto-injector in the case of a severe allergic reaction.
When others don’t understand, the work of advocacy can be exhausting.
When a nut-free school isn’t safe for everyone
Having peanut- or nut-free schools is a controversial topic even among food allergy parents. (Some feel it isn’t fair to prioritize these allergens more than others. Some also feel that the high-profile nature of these bans feed into the misconception that peanuts and nuts are the only allergens that need to be taken seriously.)
Controversy aside, there have been and will continue to be conflicts between families managing food allergies and families of neurodivergent children when it comes to these bans. A food allergy parent may say that the presence of tree nuts in their preschool class is a dangerous risk because 4-year-olds are messy and the child with food allergies doesn’t yet know how to advocate for their own safety. On the other hand, a parent of a neurodivergent child with (for example) sensory processing disorder or ARFID may say that nut butter is the only protein their child will ever eat, and being deprived of it during the school day is also a safety issue.
There is space for both of these families to feel heard and understood, where we’re not trying to convince the other that one situation is harder or more important. Instead, families can encourage school staff to practice allergy awareness. For example, staff can learn how to mitigate risk for Javier by learning about allergy-safe practices. They can allow Mischa to eat her nut butter sandwich in a designated spot in the classroom, supervised by an adult, and then clean the area and have Mischa promptly wash her hands.
Inclusion and exclusion
As caretakers of neurodivergent children, many of us have experienced the sting of exclusion. We’ve gotten the comments about how the accommodations we provide for our children are spoiling them; we’re not preparing them for the real world. We know how isolating it can be when our friends don’t understand why we can’t go to that carnival, why that nature walk isn’t just going to be a relaxing jaunt, why a playdate is going to take hours of preparation.
We are allowed to feel that pain. It can be incredibly bitter and isolating. And when we’re ready to, we can then allow these experiences to grow our deep well of empathy for others experiencing something similar.
There can be healing in offering to others the inclusion that we so long for.
Easy ways to support food allergy families
With all of that in mind, here are some simple steps you can take to support food allergy families:
- “How can we help your child feel included?”
This very simple question speaks volumes. It communicates to a family that you desire for them to be included, and want guidance from the family about how that can be done safely. Many families that manage food allergies often come across those who make assumptions about what it takes to include a child with food allergies safely, and oftentimes these assumptions are inaccurate or incomplete. Asking this question opens the door to mutual understanding.
- Keep food in a designated area
When at a playground, children’s museum, swimming pool, waiting room, library story time, anywhere where kids are touching things, if the child must snack, it’s a good idea to keep that food in a designated area. A picnic table is a great idea, but when this is not available, simply keeping your child and their food contained in one area can be incredibly helpful. This can make clean-up much easier. And if for whatever reason cleaning up isn’t possible, having a child with food allergies avoid one small area is much more manageable than avoiding all of the Goldfish crumbs all over the floor.
A small corollary to this tip: Encourage neighbors not to feed the animals. Squirrels can carry peanut shells all over the neighborhood and can create dangerous situations for curious toddlers allergic to peanuts.
- Clean up food messes
Related to the tip above, after feeding your child in a public place, the simple act of wiping down a high chair or table top with a wet wipe can be extremely helpful. Even though you’re not directly putting an allergen into another child’s mouth, simply having allergens on high-touch surfaces can be dangerous for toddlers in the everything-goes-in-the-mouth stage. Cleaning up can also prevent cross-contact (when food proteins transfer from one surface to another).
Also cleaning your child’s hands is a great idea.
Wet wipes/cloths and alcohol/disinfectant wipes are great. Liquid hand sanitizer does not remove allergens.
- Ask about dietary restrictions in an invitation and follow up
When you invite people to a birthday party or social gathering, asking your guests if there are any dietary restrictions shows that you are willing to work with families to make it a safe and inclusive event. Follow up with any families who do indicate any dietary restrictions like allergies, celiac, etc. and ask them how they can be safely included.
- Learn more about food allergies
There are many misconceptions about food allergies out there, and it’s hard to spend time actively researching a condition that doesn’t affect you personally. No judgment there. That’s why social media can be so helpful. When you follow creators who are sharing food allergy education, it’s easy to absorb information that shows up in your feed. Ina is on Instagram @theasianallergymom.
Ina also recommends foodallergy.org and kidswithfoodallergies.org.
A Kids Book About Food Allergies
Another great way to learn about food allergies is by reading Ina’s book published with A Kids Co. called A Kids Book About Food Allergies! Yes, Ina is a fellow A Kids Co. author! (See A Kids Book About Neurodiversity) Reading with your child or with your child’s class is a great way to begin the conversation so that we can create a more inclusive world for our kids with food allergies. A Kids Book About Food Allergies is available on Amazon.
- Ina Chung’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theasianallergymom
- Ina’s book: A Kids Book About Food Allergies on Amazon
- Episode transcript: https://www.theotbutterfly.com/podcast
- The OT Butterfly Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theotbutterfly
- Work with Laura: https://www.theotbutterfly.com/parentconsult
Ina Chung 0:00 Like as an Asian American woman, someone who, you know, my, with the kids that I have, I feel like having experienced exclusion in many different ways. I feel like it helps me to have that insider’s look and what it feels like. And so I feel like the people who have experienced exclusion or some of the best at offering inclusion to others, and I feel like a lot of people kind of zero in on how it feels for themselves. But if we look outward, like it gives us such an amazing insight to like, make the world a better place, you know, by including people who feels the same way feel as excluded as we do. Laura Petix 0:41 Welcome to the sensory wise solutions podcast for parents, where parents can get real actionable strategies to support kids with sensory processing disorder. I’m Laura, OT, and mom Lilyana, a sensory sensitive kid who inherited my anxiety and my love for all things Disney. Consider me your new ot mom, bestie. I know my stuff. But I also know what it’s really like in the trenches of parenting a child with sensory processing disorder. Okay, Ina Chung 1:11 mom, enough about me. Let’s try the podcast. Laura Petix 1:17 Hey, everyone, welcome to my podcast. Today’s episode is on a topic that I’ve never really tackled myself, though, it does sometimes overlap with the needs of the families that I serve. And that is food allergies. So today, I invited ina Chung, who happens to be my virtual assistant and a helper here on Team ot butterfly. But she is much more than that she is now someone that I call a friend. We have so many overlaps and similarities and alignments in the way that we think about parenting our kids. And you’re going to hear right away in the episode, the compassion that just pours out of ina anytime she talks about her kids, but just kids in general, and neurodiversity and cultural inclusivity just everything. This is a person that you are better for having in your world, even if it’s just virtually. So inna is a parent to two kids, one of whom has food allergies, and she’s going to share her story with us how she became a parent expert in this particular area of life, she’s going to share some tips of how she navigates the school days with her daughter who has food allergies. And we’re also going to talk about how this overlaps with neurodiversity, and how this can look in that community. And some very actionable steps that we uncover in the episode of how you can help other food allergy families feel safe, even if your family does not have food allergies. She also wrote a book with a kid’s code called a kid’s book about food allergies. And at the time of recording this, we’re not sure of exactly the date that will be available. But the best place for you to support Ina and to continue to find out more about her book and when it comes out is to follow her on Instagram at the Asian allergy Mom, I’m going to put a link to that below this episode. And when her book comes out, I will definitely be linking it on my socials and in my newsletter. So let’s get into the episode. Yay. Hello, Ina welcome to the podcast. I’m so excited to have you here. This is such a treat. Ina Chung 3:49 I’m so excited. It’s really an honor. Thank you so much, Laura. Yay. Laura Petix 3:53 Okay, so let’s just get started. How did you to be the Asian allergy mom on Instagram and just really learn more about food allergies from what I know you didn’t go to school for this. This is all learning sort of quote on the job as a parent to a child who has food allergies, so why don’t you share your story with us? Yeah, Ina Chung 4:18 so my daughter was diagnosed with food allergies when she was six months old. So she’s allergic to peanut and dairy and egg. And at the time, I didn’t know much about food allergies at all. I did have a friend whose son was diagnosed with food allergies a few years before my daughter. So I definitely went to her with all my questions. But a lot of what I learned is just kind of through being in the fire. You know, I when I had a question, I would ask me an allergist but there’s also great resources like the Food Allergy Research and Education website, Allergy and Asthma Network. And the place where I actually learned The most was from the swan allergist His name is Dr. Dave’s Ducasse. And he’s kind of like the rock star of pediatric allergies, which sounds so funny, but he’s amazing. And he has a podcast called Conversations from the world of allergy. And that’s where I learned a whole lot, especially about like, new research coming out and new guidelines and recommendations because things are changing. So that’s where I learned a lot. And for the Asian allergy Mom, I’m part of all these like, Facebook groups for parents with food allergies. And you know, that can be kind of a mixed bag of information. But I realized that a lot of the food that I was cooking for my daughter was, you know, free of her allergens. And yet, a lot of people who have similar allergies were really struggling. A lot of the food that we were cooking is like Korean and Japanese food that kind of I grew up with, and I was like, oh, like, I feel like I’m kind of sitting on a goldmine. And instead of separately typing out, like recipes for every person who asks, like, why don’t I just make one place where I keep all of my information and recipes and stuff. So I created the Asian allergy mom, on Instagram. And it’s been a lot of fun. And one thing that I did not expect was that I realized that there’s a lot of people who think that Asian food is not safe for a lot of allergens, like especially like nuts. People think a Asian food is full of nuts, when it’s actually not. There’s many different kinds of Asian food, as you know, Laura. And so I’m trying to educate people about how allergy friendly Asian food can be just because it is so diverse. So that’s kind of what I do with the Asian allergy mom. And it’s kind of our story. I Laura Petix 6:50 love seeing your stories and seeing how you do show what the the jitna the general population, but a lot of MIS informed people out there are blind blanket statements using blanket statements around the Asian culture. And first of all, Asian food is like what they’re Do you know how many different Asian there are, but so there’s, there’s so there’s so many layers to unpack, of course. Of course, it’s in the similar way of parenting accounts, and talking about different parenting styles. And not all gentle parenting is this way, and not all and it always depends on the child, but at the forefront of it is there’s a lot of misunderstanding and stereotypes of different cultures and all of that. So I think now more than ever, it’s so important. So I’m so happy that you have this very niche community that is so so needed. And I I’ve been texting you a lot about all of the new foods and marinates that I’m trying and I was like, you know, what is this? I love this, how can I use this. So definitely encouraging me to to take more time, like actually cooking in the kitchen. So I really love all of your stories on that. Awesome. Thank you. Ina Chung 8:12 Um, Laura Petix 8:13 I want to talk about because so anyone who’s listening I, whenever I get a question about like food allergies as food allergies, brenly is this nutrient. I am, like the least versed on like just new nutrients stuff in general, like when I talk about picky eating, I’m just talking about how you can get your child to feel comfortable around new foods. But I get questioned about food dyes about different vitamins about more iron about food allergies, and I’m like, I really don’t know much and I don’t spend a lot of my time researching it. So I am probably the most blank canvas person to know about this. So anyone listening, these are genuine questions that I’m asking Ina. Um, so one of the things that I always get confused with or, or feel like I can’t keep track of is, there seems to be a wide variety of food allergens. And also with that, like different levels of severity with their responses, so I’m always like, is this kid the allergic kind where, like, if they breathe it, they’re gonna like, something bad’s gonna happen, or is this like, oh, no, no, like, I can sit next to you. I just can’t, like, touch it, or like, I’ll touch it, but like, My lips are gonna get swollen, but I’m fine. Like, I never like I hear food allergy. And I’m, I’m automatically frightened to just be around this person because I don’t want to be responsible for like breathing, you know, the peanut butter that I just ate an hour ago. So can you give us a little bit of education of differentiating between the different food allergens? And if there’s like, levels of severity? Hmm, yes. Ina Chung 9:53 So that’s a great question. And I think that you’re coming across something that a lot of people are confused about, like some people say If I can eat it, but only a little bit, and some people say like, I can’t even touch it or be near it. And so I think that, like sensitivity levels are different for every single person. And so there are people who can eat trace amounts, like invisible amounts, and be okay. But there are a lot of people who cannot. There are people who can touch their allergens with their fingers. And some people who can get like really serious reactions just from touching an allergen, or something that has touched their allergens. So like, if there was a pizza on the table, in some of the cheese dripped off, and it was just wiped with a napkin. And some people touch it, like it’s possible that they could react just from that. So I think the best thing to do is ask somebody how sensitive they are like, Is this okay? So because it’s just so different for everybody. And there are there is such a thing as airborne allergens. I think it’s not as common, but it’s definitely there. So yeah, just asking, like, Is this safe? Like, is this environment safe for you, I think could be really helpful for our food allergic people. And yeah, and the most popular food allergens not popular, I’m sorry, the most common? Yeah, states. In the US, there’s nine that are the most common. And those are peanut, dairy, egg, tree nuts, and wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and sesame. So those are the top nine. But at the same time, like I think there’s been recordings of over 200 things that people have had allergic reactions to so you know, any food really can be an allergen. So you would just have to, to ask and, and learn from that person’s experience. Laura Petix 11:51 And so those families, were those people that know I’m allergic to soy or dairy. The level of severity? Or what do those get told to you by the pediatrician or the test? Does it like, register as like, you’re 100%? Like, don’t even be around this? Or is it like a trial and error like oops, like, how that become identified? Ina Chung 12:19 That is another great question. I think a lot of new food allergy families don’t even know the answer to that question, either. So the tests, there’s like blood and skin tests, there actually, like 50 to 60% are false positives. And I think there are also false negatives. And I think what the number can show you and your listeners can check these answers with, like expert allergists because I’m not an expert. I’ve just learned a lot. But the numbers don’t really tell you how severe and allergy can be. I think that’s a big misconception. So if there is a diagnosed food allergy, any reaction has a chance of being very severe or mild. They are unpredictable. And so we always have to be prepared for a severe reaction with, you know, epinephrine or EpiPen. And so it is kind of trial and error. And so a lot of new food allergy families try to be as careful as possible. Because we just don’t know, I think there are tests like that are coming out that do tests like tolerance levels, or things like that. So but I’m not really well versed on that yet. So it is kind of trial and error, which can be scary for families. Laura Petix 13:37 That is really scary. And I I know some of this can start as early as like breastfeeding, right when some kids are become very sensitive to what the mother eats and then gets passed through the breast milk. Are all of those nine most common allergens, something that you would see early on in infancy? Or is there like you typically because I remember within her first year there were like start feeding start giving her eggs, specifically, like they were like giving me things specifically to introduce to her early within her first year. I remember something like that. And I was like, why is this like a nutrient thing? And they’re like, no to help, like, expose her to something so that she is not allergic or I think I misunderstood it. But my I guess what I’m asking is are are all of those nine allergens, just those common ones. Can you see those as early as like breastfeeding age, like infant infant before? Or is it like they have to, like, consume it directly. To fight it out? Do you know? Ina Chung 14:41 I think that it depends again on the child and the mother. So for my daughter, she didn’t react to her allergens through the breast milk, but I’ve heard that it does happen. And so you know, you would want to get like guidance from an allergist all about that. And then when As an introduction, when we’re like feeding our kids solids, the, the guidance has changed, like dramatically over the past like five or 10 years, where people were told to hold off on common allergens until the kids are older like peanut especially. But there was a study that came out. It’s called a leaf study where they realized like early introduction is actually it can be preventative. And so I think that’s what your doctor was do that for kids who are at risk of developing food allergies, so like kids who have like severe eczema, things like that, but even I feel like this is kind of wider guidance for most babies now to introduce and incorporate allergens early on, so that it can have some preventative power. Laura Petix 15:50 Yeah, but and so now hearing that stated, I feel like this is the same. It can be misunderstood. Just like, you know, if you do these, if you do these parenting approaches, your child’s development will be better if you do this, and so that it places a lot of the like, oh, did I cause this? I didn’t, I didn’t feed my kid eggs. I didn’t feed my campus early on. So did I. So it’s that that message? I feel like there’s there’s already so much. So Ina Chung 16:24 I know. And then one thing that I heard from that expert allergist that I was talking about Dr. stickiness, something he said like really sticks with me. He said, like even if we tried, we probably couldn’t cause our children to have food allergies. And so why do we blame ourselves when our kids do develop them? And so I think that there are preventative measures that we can try to take, but it’s not one to one, like, I don’t think it’s 100 or anything. So I think we just do the best we can. And like even some kids aren’t ready for solids at the age that people are recommending, like, I think four to six months. And so you just kind of have to work within, you know, like the confines of like what your family is doing. So it’s it’s tough and stuff. Laura Petix 17:12 Oh, I as an as a person with anxiety like daily and the amount of things, intrusive thoughts that I have. I can only imagine how parents feel with this with this kind of diagnosis with food allergies. I am curious how if this at all, intersects with neurodiversity. I know you have a unique perspective, you have one neurodivergent child and one neurotypical child and your neurotypical child is the one that has food allergies. So I’m curious as a parent to multiple kids and have very different needs. How you see this intersect in your daily life as a parent. And if you happen to know just from anecdotal just from being part of communities. Do you notice there’s a lot of neurodivergent kids who also have food allergies? Or is it kind of they’re kind of just separate things and coincidences within that population? Ina Chung 18:18 Yeah, so I, I mean, I’m not a researcher. But I haven’t seen any research coming out about the intersection of like, neuro diversity or neuro divergence and allergies. But I do know a lot of kids, I’m connecting with a lot of families who do see both in their families. But I mean, it’s just both are getting really common these days. And so that’s my read on it, that they’re both just becoming more and more common to see in families these days. But the intersect that I do see that I experience as a parent to one child with food allergies and one autistic child, that the overlap for me is just how my life is filled with thoughts about you know, accommodations, advocacy, for inclusion and safety. And for a food allergic person, those mean different things than for a neurodivergent person, but they’re both just as important. And so in my family, we talk a lot about individual differences. How someone you know, my son gets to eat this, but my daughter can’t. My son has a hard time with this, but my daughter doesn’t. And so for parents of neurodivergent kids, parents of kids with food allergies, I feel like a lot of us experience grief, you know, for the life that we thought our kids could have although now you know, we’re realizing that they can have a different wonderful life you know, that maybe not the same as what we imagined but I feel like the the through line here is the experience sense of exclusion that a lot of families feel families with neurodivergent kids, kids with food allergies. And my message to your listeners would be like, like, I wanted to validate how difficult that exclusion can feel it’s can be really heartbreaking. And when our families are ready to move through it, I think that our well of empathy can really grow, you know, and that there’s a lot of healing that can come when we offer to someone else, the inclusion that we long for. And so that’s kind of where I lead are the families that I’m that I talked to, about, because there’s a lot of ways to get stuck in our grief and feeling isolated and feeling excluded. But then when we turn it around, and we include another family, when you show inclusion, it can be really healing for us. So that’s kind of my like, my whole thing these days. Laura Petix 21:05 Oh, Ina, I love that. And that’s, that, I’ve never heard you talk about it like that. But that is 110% exactly who you are and how I see you show up in every single community that I see you in and mine included. You always I mean, it’s one thing to like, lead with compassion. And I think we all have, you know, we have gotten so good parents moms have gotten so good at holding space for others. And, and, and validating and saying, like, I know, this is really hard and all of that. But you always have this extra magic touch of like, it just feels extra authentic from you. And I can see it now is this really this personal mission of yours to maybe be the first person which I have, I’ve seen other families come back and reply to you that you are doing this, but to be that first person that’s like, let me take you under my wing and show you what it feels like to be included. And then it’s just like, pass it down the line, right? Like, it’s, I can’t I cannot put into words enough, but you are 110% authentically, exactly what you just think you did. And I think like, Ina Chung 22:17 what, thank you so much. And I think that like as an Asian American woman, someone who you know, my, with the kids that I have, I feel like having experienced exclusion in many different ways. I feel like it helps me to have that insider’s look and what it feels like. And so I feel like the people who have experienced exclusion are some of the best at offering inclusion to others. And I feel like a lot of people kind of zero in on how it feels for themselves. But if we look outward, like it gives us such an amazing insight to like, make the world a better place, you know, by including people who feel the same way feel as excluded as we do. Laura Petix 23:01 So I hear a lot of similarities with almost the burden of responsibility as the parent to a neurodivergent child as the parent to food allergy child to always be the one in public and community settings to advocate for our kids. These are the accommodations, I mean, these are the things if they don’t have these accommodations, it’s really hard for us here. And we’re never going to stop doing that. And it gets exhausting to constantly have to do that. But we can’t expect where we can’t expect people to, you know, read our minds, and there’s so many different food allergens. So it makes sense that you specifically have to be very specific with a list of things that can and cannot be, but for families who like myself, who don’t have kids with food allergies, and we have the privilege of just going out into the world taking whatever food I want to Disneyland to the mall. What are some ways that we can take some of that burden off of other families around us? If we don’t know, you know, what, who’s around us? And what could be dangerous for them? What are some ways that you would like to see non food allergy families support a food allergy community? Ina Chung 24:15 Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think it’s a great question simply because you’re asking it, I think a lot of people assume that they know what it takes to keep a kid with food allergy safe. And a lot of the times those assumptions can be inaccurate or incomplete. So even just asking that question, like how can we be supportive of your family? How can we make this environment safe for you? Or even just like saying, we want to make sure that your child feels included? Like how can we do that? And so I think even just those questions are so impactful, because it shows that like, you know, the person who’s asking is basically saying like, I don’t know, and you’re the expert. I want to learn you No. And it can be incredibly powerful. There are so many families who come to me saying like, you know, this happened, somebody just asked this one question and I’m frying. And it can be, it can mean the world. And so I think even just asking the question, because it is so different for everybody, like we talked about. So those questions can be incredibly powerful. Laura Petix 25:20 Yeah, and I am going to be very honest and very real with when my daughter was in preschool, and they make rules about not bringing peanut foods to the certain classroom. And I’m going to be honest, I was frustrated, because I said, like, 90% of the foods that she will eat has peanut butter. And you know, at that time, at that time, when she was like two, like it was like peanut butter, crackers, peanut butter and jelly. She loves like peanut butter, Reese’s things. And like, as a family who did not have a child with food allergy, G and didn’t have the education. I was like, oh, like it felt like it was unfair to me. And that was a real thing at that time. Obviously, I still I didn’t know about it, then I still don’t know enough about it now. But I was so within my own world of like, well, my daughter won’t, it doesn’t have a large variety of food. So her needs need to be met. And, you know, is it is sitting at a different table, something that’s enough, but then I’m like, Well, you know, that gets tricky to preschool kids, probably because they’re they’re touching literally everything, it’s probably the scariest environment, I think because you can’t control their little their fingers and what they touch and what they put on their face. But knowing about it now, I you know, I think about like, again, because food allergies are so new to me. The ones that I think about the most is a peanut because I feel like that’s the one that I see in the media and movies the most was like, there’s peanuts, and then they like blow up their face, like really swollen or like, is an anaphylactic, the one where you can’t breathe. So I always think about that. And that’s where I’m like, Okay, if you’re going to eat your peanut butter jelly sandwich, it has to be in the car or in your stroller, and then wash hands. Whereas before, I would be like, if a parent is bringing their child that has food allergies, they’re probably protecting their child and I don’t need to worry about it. Like that’s, that’s genuinely what my thought process was. Yeah. Um, so I think even so I guess my question is, would you expect, like as a food allergy parent? If I work if you go to public places, like parks, children’s museums, anywhere where people can bring their own food, but you don’t necessarily they’re not going to go up to you and ask your child specific allergens, right? What is your general expectation as a food allergy mom? Like? Do you go into these places? And like, survey the room? And say, like, I have to sit in this area? Or do you then assume? No, this is a public spot. People know not to do XYZ? Like what is your thought process on that when you go into public spaces? Yeah, even not even ordering from a restaurant cuz I do want to talk about that. But just going to a park and sitting down at a bench and eating lunch. Ina Chung 28:30 So I want to rewind a little bit because we talked about the word anaphylaxis. And I think it’s a common one common whispers misconception that anaphylaxis has to only do with breathing, when actually, it’s about like two systems body systems being affected by the reaction. So like, full body hives and vomiting, that would be considered this life threatening, right? Or like, swelling. And I don’t know, like, the, you know, just two different systems being affected would be called anaphylaxis. So But to answer your question, so like when we go to like a children’s museum, and I see kids eating food, and they’re kind of all around. So my daughter in particular is not affected by like contact reactions. And so it’s a lot easier for me, whereas there are many families whose kids can, you know, react to us from touch. And so I think the approach from our two different families would be very different. For me, there hasn’t been a situation where we have to, like leave somewhere because of allergens around but there are families who do for me, when I see that allergens are present, we just make sure that my daughter is washing her hands, not putting her hands in her mouth. If we just need to do a quick wipe down with our baby wipes and we’ll do that as well. We’re like, if there’s like a surface that is, you know, has like you dried you over and on it or something, I’ll just wipe it down. So it really depends on the situation. It depends on the family. So yeah, that’s kind of my answer is depends on. Laura Petix 30:16 I think that’s a really actionable thing that I haven’t even considered to, like, I wiped down places before we eat just because I’m, like, germaphobe about those things. But also, I never consider like wiping down after we eat, which is something that’s non food allergy kids could do if you want to be helpful, right? So is there a rule about like, it has to be like, Clorox or it has to be soap or something that best removes that. Is there like a certain life that you always carry around? That would be easy to have? Ina Chung 30:51 Yeah, that’s a great question. And so like, washing hands with soap and water is the best thing. Hand Sanitizer doesn’t do it. It just proteins around. So something that is like, white faced, like bait like our Costco baby wipes has been sufficient for us. Yeah. Okay, Laura Petix 31:09 so not even like Clorox or Lysol wipes. It I just me baby wipes. Ina Chung 31:14 Yes. Because it has like soap in it. And actually, like the wiping motion, I believe, kind of like, helps to remove the allergen. Like, people should check me on that on. Like, you know, like better? Yes. But yeah, so baby wipes like cleaning the area would be wonderful. Also, just keeping the food in one area is even super helpful. So when kids are eating, you know, food on playground structures, like, let’s go to the table, let’s have our snack here. When we’re done, we’ll wipe our hands. And then we’ll go back to the plate structure. So that is really helpful. And I’ll also add that this whole situation with like not free schools, there have been instances where families with food allergies have come up against neurodivergent families for whom like, there’s a kid who only can eat feel like the only protein that this kid can have is peanut butter, you know, and so that is a safety issue for this child. And with like picky eating, and like sensory processing, there can be legitimate reasons why we might need to break this rule or like amend this rule. And so I’m seeing a lot of interesting conversations happening between the Food Allergy community and the neurodivergent community. And there is definitely a middle ground to be reached, because research actually is showing that more food allergy reactions are happening at nut free, or peanut free schools, because there’s this sense of false security, because not a lot of families know how to read the labels, or sometimes something slips in. And so they’re not checking as much sometimes. And so a great middle ground is just encouraging Allergy Awareness, which means like, you know, really understanding what the risk is when there’s an allergy present, and how to mitigate that risk for someone who has food allergic. And so in a situation where there’s like a kid in a class, who must have few nuts, and a child in that same class who cannot be near peanuts, you know, you can separate them, you can have, like, you know, strict hand washing and cleaning procedures in place, so that both kids can essentially be safe. So that’s something that I wanted to add. Laura Petix 33:39 I think that’s really important, because I’m sure that comes up a lot. Sort of like, you know, my daughter is not a standard quote, picky eater, but we were limited and what I was able to send her to school with that was like, not a heat up food, which she also wouldn’t eat. Right. So very limited. So that’s very helpful. I remember when she was a toddler, we used to have those like, disposable plate mats that you would take, that would probably like be a really, really good one for some families to to just minimize. Yeah, um, okay, so you’ve mentioned your daughter, you know, you you say you help her not touch her face. She’s five, is that right? Ina Chung 34:16 She’s five. Laura Petix 34:19 How early? And how did you start educating her about ways to keep her body safe around others and food? Yes. Ina Chung 34:28 So we started like, so she was diagnosed as six months. And basically starting then I started the education. Because, you know, we’re told as parents to like narrate the world around us, to our babies, and it helps with their speech development and all that. And so I just use that advice to infuse that allergy safety information that’s age appropriate for her. So like at the grocery store, you know, I’m holding her and I’m just looking at a label and I’ll say, Oh, this has you know, egg It has your allergy, this won’t be easy for you, let’s find something else. So we talk about safe and unsafe at the, you know, when their kids are really young. And so as she just grew up, we kind of like leveled up the the terminology for her talking about, you know, this might give you an allergic reaction and might send you to the hospital. So we have to make sure you know, so we just infuse it in our everyday language. And now my son is like reading labels for her. It’s tough. It’s so cute. Yeah. Laura Petix 35:33 Is she able to identify her allergens by looking at food and like no inherently like that has egg in it? Ina Chung 35:44 Right. So that’s something that she’s really good at. And I think one thing that helped her was that we eat her allergens at home. So like, I’ll make scrambled eggs, I’ll make, you know, pasta, I’ll put cheese on top or whatever. But I’ll always make sure I mean, I don’t try to make her feel bad. So I’ll give her like an amazing substitute. And so she from a young age, she, you know, kids asked, like, can I eat that? Can I like, I’ll try to grab what you’re eating. But we made sure that she never grabs, but she always asks, Is that safe for me. And that helps her to know that there are many things out there that are not safe. So she knows that yogurt is typically made with dairy. She knows that you know what dairy cheese looks like in a ham and cheese sandwich. And, and so, you know, when she’s out and eating, and she sees someone eating an ice cream bar. She’ll know. Like, she’ll sometimes say to me, can you ask that kid to wash their hands after they finish that. And it’s amazing. Her self advocacy skills are amazing. And so that really puts me at ease when she’s not with me like when she’s at school, because she knows how to identify, she knows that she never assumes that something is safe for her. And so that gives me a lot of comfort. Laura Petix 37:04 I can imagine that the school day probably has some of the most anxiety provoking moments as a parent where you have you don’t have eyes on them. And even the teacher doesn’t have eyes on them. 24/7 And I remember seeing your story the other day of you walking into her classroom, and you saw like another classmate like talking and like, like slobbering yogurt into the air like, oh, and so how, how has this, so she’s good at she’ll, when she’s with you, she’ll say, can you help? Can you ask that kid to wipe their hands? But what if you’re not there? And how has this impacted her? Like friendships, if at all? Did she talk about that with you? What is her general? What is her level of comfort with advocating with peers without you there? Ina Chung 37:53 Yeah, I think with peers, it’s a different issue because like, some kids just don’t really get it. So with that situation with the yogurt, I happened to be in the cafeteria with my daughter when this girl across the table was spewing yogurt. And it wasn’t my daughter wasn’t close enough to be affected. But she didn’t really want to say anything to that friend. And so I actually asked her to, like clean her mouth, and she refused. And so my daughter said to me, I need to stay away from her today. And she wasn’t a close friend anyway. So but I was like, that’s, that’s exactly what you need to do. That’s great. Yeah, when it comes to advocating for herself with adults, she’s great, I think because she knows what adults will do for her, especially the adults in her life like her teachers and her educators in the lunchroom and things like that. So that’s kind of where we’re at. One policy we have for her that’s in her 504 plan at school is that she has like what she calls her exes. So it’s a circle table. So she can’t really sit at the edge anywhere. But we want to have a buffer. So she has an X on the side and an X on the side so that no one sits directly next to her. And so that was working for a while. But now she’s coming to me saying that she can’t sit next to her friends sometimes because there isn’t enough room at their table for her exes. And so it’s really like, it’s heartbreaking. And so that’s why I kind of went into that cafeteria that day just to kind of suss out what everything was looking like if we can get rid of the axes. And that’s what I saw the yoga situation. What I also saw her response, which actually gave me a lot of confidence. Yeah, and I think we are going to move to get rid of the axis so that she can sit with her friends. You know, Laura Petix 39:51 that probably means so much to her just that you give her back that autonomy like some sense of control and to who she gets to sit with. And this is where I can see, you know, if my neurodivergent daughter also have food allergies. And for anyone listening who has a neurodivergent kid with food allergies, this can be really layered and very tricky with the like, you know, my daughter is like so emotionally sensitive to who she sits next one who she doesn’t sit next to. And then any, you know, difficulty with picky eating, or the anxiety like I told my daughter one thing, and then she remembers it forever. And then it’s a new rule like it’s, and then it makes life so paralyzing to do anything. So it’s so I can only imagine how this layer is for other families, like Ina Chung 40:39 me a story of their kid who is autistic and non speaking. And he’s not really advocate for himself in situations like that. So, yeah, I definitely recognize how complicated and how difficult that can be. Laura Petix 40:53 And this is why it’s again, it’s it’s so important, especially for school aged kids to understand what food allergies are. And so you have written a book with a kid’s coat, a kid’s book about food allergies, and I am so excited for that to come out at the time of this episode being published. We’re not sure if it’ll be out yet. But you please share with us? What’s inside this book, who it’s for who it was intended for? I think I know the answer, but I want to hear it shortly it and then we will, if it’s available, we’ll put the link in the profile. Otherwise, just follow Ina, which her link is below as well. And then I will also share it to my newsletter once it’s fully out. But please tell us about it. Ina Chung 41:41 Yes, so I’m so excited. It’s my first book ever. And kids book about food allergies. And it’s all about inclusion. It’s about educating kids about their own food allergies, educating kids without food allergies, about food allergies. We’re dispelling myths, and we’re talking about actions that kids can take to help their classmates and their friends to feel safe and to be safe. So yeah, it’s, I’m really excited about it. Because I feel like there’s a lot of food allergy books out there. And this one is just very, it’s very straightforward as a kid’s co books are. And so I’m really excited to put it out there in the world. Laura Petix 42:27 It’s so it’s going to be so great. Are you going to be able to read it to your daughter’s class or her school? I think you’d Ina Chung 42:33 be sure that I can do that. Yeah. Laura Petix 42:35 That’s the thing I love about a kid’s co books is because they’re, they they sort of emulate social stories. As they’re written. They’re very similar to social stories. And so that felt very familiar. And very, like you said, straightforward. It’s not your typical kid’s book. But it talks about some very, very important thing. So I’m so excited for that. Yes, um, before we leave, I would love if we could leave families who have food allergy kids, or anyone else in their family, some tips, because we’re approaching the holidays. With that comes a lot of gatherings, around food, potlucks, things like that. I saw you share a story recently about how you manage that internally with your brother for like around Thanksgiving. So whether you want to share that story specifically, or just a list of like straightforward tips for food allergy families to feel empowered to be able to go to the family functions, like how do you encourage families to advocate around? Yeah, for Ina Chung 43:42 sure. So I think the the key thing is advanced planning, and to talk to whoever’s involved with the planning of whatever event, whether it’s a potluck or school event, to start the conversation as early as possible, because that gives you that buffer, in case things need to be changed in case plans needed to be altered. And also, I think it gives you an opportunity to know if your family is not going to be accommodated, because that does happen sometimes. And then you need time to come up with alternative ideas. And so I feel like advanced planning is the name of the game, as well as being super specific about what you need to be safe for yourself or for your child. Because a lot of times we food allergy families assume somehow that other people will know kind of what we’re thinking. But a lot of times like you’re feeling you’re shaking your head. No, we don’t. And so I feel like we need to be specific not just about what we need, but why because, you know, I’ve people might say like after we have dessert and the kids are done with their whatever. Let’s have the kids all wash their hands. But if we don’t explain why then it’s hard for whoever’s hosting to kind of have that buy in And, but if we explain like, oh, it’s because if the that dessert food gets on the couch or gets on the table and the baby licks the table or touches the table and then looks their hand, they can have a reaction. So I think specificity plus, the explanation y can really help get buy in from the people that are involved in the planning. Laura Petix 45:23 And so if you notice the host, or someone else who’s bringing it, there’s just like, almost being combative with you or saying, well, like, well, your kids not going to eat the food anyway. That just that, I guess, goes back on you to say like, either you’re not going or you leave early, or you don’t come during dinner or, or I would imagine, it’s like, we block off the kitchen and living room and my kid is literally only going to be in the backyard or like something right like that, you have to have very physical boundaries around certain things, Ina Chung 45:57 right. And a lot of families are okay, just like bringing their own food for their child. A lot of families don’t really want other people cooking for their child, because it does take a lot of effort to read every label and prevent constant contact with like their allergens in the kitchen. So it really depends. And that’s why that lead time is so important to kind of figure out like, what do I really need to do in this situation? Because it’s gonna again, it’s gonna be different for every family. Yeah. Laura Petix 46:23 And I liked that. That Are you the one who shared that Tipperary, I saw it on another one, I might have seen this on another real about just a picky eater and bringing their safe food to the potluck, but the parent who brings your child’s food, you also provide that for everyone. So it’s like, it’s a meal that’s at the main table as well. And not just your one child’s like say food and their like little bowl. Right. So then. Yeah, I think Ina Chung 46:51 ice cream, and I just like reading it for everybody that everybody’s enjoying it, that kind of thing. So it can, it can really help our kids to feel included. Laura Petix 46:58 Oh, okay. I think that’s great. That’s a great tip. So as we’re ending here, I would love maybe this is the same answer. But they’re two separate questions, but maybe they’re the same. What’s something that you wish other people whether it’s parents or teachers, just the general population? What’s something you wish they knew about food allergies? And what is something you wish other kids knew about food allergies specifically? Ina Chung 47:25 So this is going to be oddly specific. Okay, I love it. Yeah, I think food allergy families would really want this to be like shared widely. So like, like we mentioned before, a lot of attention is given to like peanut allergies. But again, I want people to know that any allergen can cause a life threatening reaction, so they should all be taken seriously. Also, I don’t know how the term gluten free got conflated with allergy friendly, like so many times, I’ve said to somebody like, Oh, these are my daughter’s allergens, peanut, dairy and egg. And then they respond by saying, Here’s a gluten free muffin, this should be for her. And I’m like, I don’t think I don’t think that works. And so gluten free, again, is for people who are celiac, or allergic to wheat, possibly. But it can include any number of allergens. And so it’s not synonymous with vegan. Laura Petix 48:25 What about the word vegan though? Like if, if your daughter was like, I’m a egg and dairy? Yeah, allergic? Yeah. If someone says, Here’s a vegan muffin, Does that satisfy all of those requirements, I still have to look through the ingredients, Ina Chung 48:40 I would still look through the ingredients because a lot of times like vegan, non dairy, dairy free stuff that’s like marketed on the front can still have some dairy ingredients. Yeah. So it’s always like, there’s a, like a hashtag, every label every time we have to remove everything. So those more turns and can kind of feel a little fuzzy. But to answer your second question about kids, what I want kids to know, I think that, and I feel like the families of neurodivergent kids kind of already do this. But I just really want to emphasize that like teaching the kids teaching our kids the importance and value of inclusion, I think is so valuable and so important, because it will stay with them their entire lives, and it will just create, like a better place for our kids. And I think it’s really important. So I think talking about that explicitly, can be really helpful. Laura Petix 49:40 I agree. That is a theme for for every single family out there. Don’t just talk about the things that affect your child. Talk about the things that they might see in their classroom, and I guarantee there is at least one if not more kids within their circle that has a food allergy. Absolutely ABS Hmm. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I love love, love your compassion for these families. You are such a light in my community. I love to have you in my corner people don’t know who’s listening. Ina is my virtual assistant but she also is just this like wonderful mentor to families. And so she’s in my boot camp community and she helps families navigate this she is she’s wonderful. So please go give her a follow at the Asian V. Ina Chung 50:31 V. Laura Petix 50:33 Okay, there we go. The allergy Asian Mom, I’ll put the link to that. Follow her and definitely grab her book. Even if your child does not have food allergies, I would actually say especially if they don’t buy it, ask your libraries to pick it up. Read it at your kids schools, and let’s help educate other people. So thank you. Thank you for helping us learn more. Ina Chung 50:55 Thank you. Bye. Laura Petix 51:01 If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider rating it and leaving a review which helps other parents find me as well. Want to learn more from me. I share tons more over on Instagram at the OT butterfly. See you next time. Transcribed by https://otter.ai