Coping with food allergies a daily struggle for York families
In her 30s, Kristin Faust said she is "just now starting to think about my own mortality."
She's raising a 10-year-old boy who's had to contemplate it his whole life.
Colin was just 2 months old when he broke out in a rash and started spitting up blood. He struggled to breathe.
Doctors drew blood to make a diagnosis. Colin is allergic, severely allergic, to milk and eggs.
Ever since, Faust has worked diligently to steer her son away from any food containing milk and eggs — which, in this culture, is a huge chunk of what's sold in the local grocery store.
That means no cheese or yogurt and nothing made with egg whites. On ingredient labels, there's no shortage of words that Faust must look for: whey, casein, curds, lactose, milk fat and rennet, to name a few.
Grocery shopping is almost always a frustrating endeavor.
"I hate when they have 'new, improved' (products). That's tough for us, any time something is new and improved," Faust, of Conewago Township, said. "We have our staples that we buy. But I have to look every single time because you can't take the risk. Things change constantly."
Owen: Stef Moyar can relate. Her 4-year-old son, Owen, can have an allergic reaction simply by breathing in peanut dust.
Just one bite of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — his first ever — revealed Owen's allergy to peanuts.
Within minutes, hives started to cover Owen's body, his Spring Garden Township mother said.
During his first year of school, the other children in Owen's classroom were required to wash their hands before entering.
At playgrounds, Moyar sanitizes the equipment before Owen can play. There's a chance another child, with peanut-butter hands, was there first.
"I probably look like a maniac, but we have to clean every surface down," she said.
"People give us the weirdest looks. We probably look like germaphobes."
Moyar said she's especially concerned about cross contamination — when a nonpeanut product comes in contact with a peanut product.
Concepts like that can be difficult for a 4-year-old to understand, she said.
Take Oreos, for example.
Since Oreos began making a peanut-butter variety of the famous cookie, none of the cookies are safe for Owen to eat.
"It's hard to explain to him at the grocery store," Moyar said.
Karter: Ben Olewiler discovered his son's peanut allergy in the same way.
Within minutes of eating his first peanut butter sandwich, Karter Olewiler began to swell.
"I mean, he swelled up probably twice the size what he was," his dad said.
By the time Karter arrived in the emergency room, his eyes had swollen shut. A rash covered most of his body.
A few years later, Karter had another close call. At a baby sitter's house, Karter jokingly swiped another kid's sandwich and put it in his mouth.
"And sure enough the allergy started coming back," Olewiler, of North Codorus Township, said.
This time, an adult immediately administered Karter's EpiPen. His rash started to subside.
"That's a pretty awesome drug," Olewiler said.
Tyler: Tyler Lieu was 6 months old when he ate some baby cereal mixed with formula.
He began vomiting and broke out in welts, his mother, Liz Lieu, said.
It happened again when Tyler was a little older. A family member accidentally gave Tyler some beef noodle soup, not realizing the noodles would trigger the allergy.
"It looked like he was sunburned from head to toe," his mother said.
Today, Tyler is a soft-spoken boy who gladly shows off the bracelet on his wrist. The bracelet carries the long list of foods that could trigger a severe reaction like the one Tyler experienced as a baby.
Tyler is acutely aware of the risk. When he was little, Tyler wouldn't even play with the plastic cheese in his toy kitchen set, Lieu said.
"He's known since he was little that it doesn't feel good to get sick," she said.
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.