It seems like food allergies are much more common now.
I don’t remember having to worry about bringing in a treat for my class and I don’t think any of my friends or family members were allergic to anything.
Marshella Bouser of West Bloomfield had a similar mindset. It wasn’t until her oldest daughter, Lena, who was 11 months at the time, had an allergic reaction that she and her husband learned the seriousness of food allergens.
An allergy scare
“It was actually the first time that I had given her table food,” says Bouser. “We were at a restaurant and I gave her mashed potatoes with some kind of gravy on it.”
She didn’t think anything of it until she heard her 11-month-old clearing her throat on the way home.
“When I got home, she was fine, so I put her in bed,” she says. “About five to ten minutes later, she was screaming at the top of her lungs.”
When she called her daughter’s doctor, he told her it sounded like an allergic reaction and to just give her Benadryl.
The couple assumed their daughter was allergic to mushrooms, since the gravy on the mashed potatoes had mushrooms in it. When they tried peanut butter a while later, they found she had a similar reaction.
By the time she was three years old, Lena was allergic to seven things, her mom explains. So, when her sister Nia came along, Bouser and her husband were adamant about getting her tested and wouldn’t try peanut butter and eggs.
“And it’s a good thing I didn’t,” she says.
Lena, now 8, is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, wheat, milk and sunflower. She used to be allergic to coconut but has since grown out of that. Nia, age 2, is allergic to peanuts, sesame and egg.
With so many allergens, the Bousers had to learn how to learn how to keep their girls safe around food – and how to educate people who were around their children.
“When Lena was in daycare preschool at around three or four, I started making her bracelets (with her allergies on them) and at the end of the day, it always ended up in her backpack,” says Bouser. “So, since she loves accessories, I started making hair bows and putting the allergy tag on the hair bow.”
In March 2019, after seeing that other children could benefit from similar accessories, she launched her business, Lena’s Allergy Movement & Beyond.
“The bows range from $20-$22 and are all customizable with up to 45 characters on the allergy tag,” she says. “I have the design and then they can change the colors on it.”
The bows also come with a personalized bow bag to keep their hair bow in. You can customize your bow or other item on her website, which offers bracelets for boys and girls, barrettes, bags and hair bows. She says she will eventually add more items, such as T-shirts and bow ties.
On top of selling allergy alert wear, Bouser promotes awareness about childhood allergies on her social media.
“I started providing information about allergy awareness because honestly, I didn’t even realize food allergies were a thing,” she says. “It’s something that a lot of parents go through with their kids and that’s why I decided to create L.A.M. & Beyond.”
Tips for parents of kids with allergies
- Always bring snacks your child can eat. You never know if the birthday party your child is going to will have something in them that he/she cannot eat.
- Get your child tested for allergies early. The test may be super itchy and painful for your child, but it doesn’t take too long and at least you will know what they are allergic to.
- Talk to your child’s school. Some schools are peanut-free, but some are not. It’s important for everyone to be on the same page.
- Teach your child (when they are old enough) to read ingredients themselves and to know exactly what they are allergic to.
- Bring an EpiPen with you everywhere. You never know when your child will have an allergic reaction.
- Make sure your child’s school/daycare/babysitter has an EpiPen and Benadryl on hand, just in case.