Melissa Scheichl started her blog “The Allergy Mom” in 2010, as she raised two children with severe allergies. When she first started the website, she had no idea whether anyone was going to read it. “I was amazed over the years by how many people actually read our story and said they were really thankful to know that there was someone else going through the same thing,” Scheichl said.
When Scheichl’s first son Andrew was born, she suspected he had allergies. “He had a lot of mucus and he was having difficulty breathing,” she said. After months of sleepless nights, Scheichl asked a doctor about testing for allergies. “My doctor was a little bit surprised that I was requesting it because at the time they didn’t think babies that young could test positive,” Scheichl said. “She allowed us to go see a pediatric allergist, who said that was the first baby she had ever tested. She did all the skin pricks, and these raging hives started popping up for different allergens: environmental, dust, and dog dander. He was six months old by the time we took him to see the allergist, and she was amazed.”
When her daughter Kate was born, she also showed symptoms of allergies. “At nine months old, she was diagnosed with food allergies,” Scheichl said. “That was something altogether new. We were assuming it was environmental. We were ripping the carpets out of our house to figure out the cause. It ended up being that I was nursing her, and she was being exposed to foods.”
Parenting kids with allergies
For Scheichl, raising two children with severe allergies added extra stress to her early parenting years. “You take for granted how you eat, and all of a sudden you’re forced to read every word on every food label and be hyper-conscious of foods,” Scheichl said. “It also trickles into your skincare products, your cleaning products, anything that’s touching your skin.” As well as the practical changes, Scheichl hadn’t expected the emotional toll. “You have grief because you realize your child isn’t going to have a ‘normal’ life,” she said. “You don’t really know how to feed your child, and at the time I was nursing so I didn’t even know how to feed myself. I didn’t know what was safe to eat.”
Holidays were particularly difficult. “Things like Easter and Halloween and Christmas,” Scheichl said. “I’ll never forget when Kate was two and she said, ‘I can’t wait for the Easter bunny to come and bring me a chocolate bunny.’ I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, how is that going to happen?’”
The road ahead
Many brands now cater specifically to allergen-free food consumers, “even companies that aren’t specifically for food allergies but do the due diligence of writing ‘may contain…’” Scheichl said.
Scheichl makes a lot of food from scratch, and she shares recipes on her blog. “I’ve had to learn how to make things I probably wouldn’t have made otherwise, like samosas and wontons,” she said.
The challenges of parenting changed for Scheichl as her children grew up. “My daughter is starting high school next year, so I’ve gone through a lot of stages,” she said. “Now she’s going to be a teenager and wanting more independence,” Scheichl said. “They get more embarrassed as they get older. They don’t want to be different.”
Sharing her story at theallergymom.com and hearing from other parents has helped Scheichl through the confusion and concern. “What has been amazing is how many people have read it, not just parents of children with allergies but a lot of businesses and brands that are wanting to cater to this population because it is so prevalent,” she said. “I would have loved to have a resource like The Allergy Mom website when my daughter was first diagnosed.”