We’re delighted to share our latest conversation with mom, blogger, and food allergy advocate Kelly Rudnicki in this edition of People with SoL, our periodic feature showcasing folks who commit their time and energy to helping others navigate health issues and live healthier, happier lives.
Sunrich Naturals: You have four children and one of your sons has multiple food allergies. How did you and your family cope in the beginning? How did you educate yourself about cooking and grocery shopping for a child with multiple food allergies?
Rudnicki: I have five children – Chloe, 12; John, 9; Matthew, 7; David, 6; and Michael, 2 1/2. My son John has severe food allergies to dairy, peanut, tree nut, peas and legumes. He outgrew his egg allergy at age 3. He was diagnosed with food allergy and asthma at age one, and it was a terrifying life change at first. I had never heard of food allergies nor did I know of anyone with allergies. Prior to John’s diagnosis, we ate out all the time without a care in the world…pizza, ice cream, you name it. But life changed, and all that mattered at that point was to keep my son safe and alive. When John was diagnosed in 2003, labels were complicated to read as there was no Food Labeling Act in effect then. You literally had to learn all the code names for hidden allergens and ready each ingredient, line item by line item. It was hard to shop at the store. In fact, I remember going to Whole Foods for the first time with a grocery list in hand of what to avoid and what to buy, and it was extremely overwhelming. I remember feeling so lost.
Sunrich Naturals: How did you find out he had multiple allergies? What should other parents be on the lookout for in terms of symptoms or reactions?
Rudnicki: John had a severe allergic reaction to a Gerber Veggie Cheese Wheel when he was 8 months old. The snack was coated in cheese powder and he got violently ill. We were lucky and able to stop the reaction with an antihistamine. John was officially diagnosed with severe allergies and asthma around age one. Every allergic reaction is slightly different. But generally a child will show physical symptoms such as hives, vomiting, dizziness, increased heart rate, etc.
Sunrich Naturals: Why did you decide to start your blog?
Rudnicki: When my son was first diagnosed, I felt so alone. I didn’t know anyone else who had a child with food allergies. It was a great way for me to share my feelings and connect with other moms like me.
Sunrich Naturals: What advice or tips do you have for other parents who have a child with multiple food allergies?
Rudnicki: Educate yourself and arm yourself with the right resources. Go to www.foodallergy.org for everything you need in terms of how to read labels, how to identify symptoms of an allergic reaction, and even find allergy friendly recipes. Never be afraid to fight for your child’s inclusion and safety in their classroom. My son’s allergies have changed our family’s life but in positive ways as well. We eat together at home more often, cook at home more often, and it’s brought us closer together.