L is for Lactose Intolerance

And what a fun topic this is! I bet my readership goes off the charts today! More than if I had photos of half-naked celebrities in compromising positions.

Because half-naked celebrities wander by my computer desk in the basement all the time, pausing long enough for me to find my camera and take pictures.

Back in the good old days, nobody had ever heard of lactose intolerance. In my grandmother’s words, “I like ice cream but it doesn’t like me.”  I’m one of the lucky ones to have lactose intolerance running through the family. Yay! Can I trade it for a propensity for wealth? Please?

Lactose intolerance means your body doesn’t easily digest lactose, a natural sugar in milk and dairy products. It is NOT the same as an allergy to milk. I’ve been trying to explain this to lunch room ladies and parents of Thing 2’s friends for years.

Some people, if you tell them you are lactose intolerant, expect your head to spin around and pea soup to come rocketing out of every orifice (like in the Exorcist) is you have so much as a drop of milk. Sorry to disappoint you all, but that’s not the way it works. Levels of intolerance vary from person to person, and most can consume some amount of some dairy products without ill effects.

So no, there’s no rash if Thing 2 eats a piece of cheese. Yogurt does not give her hives.

Lactose intolerance is not the equivalent of a severe peanut allergy, and that’s not going to change no matter how many times you ask me or how you rephrase the question.  One mom would ask me every single time she saw me how Thing 2 could eat ___ without getting sick, inserting a different dairy product every time. I learned to give her a half-smile and a shrug, since she obviously wasn’t hearing the explanation I’d already given her four times.

As a mom, I count myself lucky to be dealing with lactose intolerance  instead of something like a nut allergy. The worst that will happen in my house is diarrhea, which isn’t fun but isn’t likely to be fatal. I don’t have to carry an epi-pen, or worry about my child’s throat closing because some well-meaning adult gave my child a peanut M&M.

Then there are those parents whose children don’t have any allergies at all. Some of them blithely assume parents of kids with severe allergies are making a big fuss over nothing, or are making it up.

Case in point. When the girls were little, I was involved with a mom’s club. One year, I was lucky/unlucky enough to be voted president. As one of the annual parties approached (Halloween, Christmas or Easter), the woman in charge of the parties sent out an announcement about the party. She requested that nobody bring food containing peanuts.

The reaction from two of the moms in the club was tantamount to announcing we wanted all the children to consume human flesh at the party, while dressed in Nazi costumes and playing the drums.

One woman wrote an impassioned letter to the board, stating that she didn’t understand why she had to deny her child the peanut butter sandwich he ate every single day of his life for lunch just to suit someone’s paranoia.

My response was, I thought, purely practical.

First, anyone who didn’t like how the parties were run was free to volunteer for the party coordinator position at the next election. This is a lesson that has served me well ever since. It’s the “put up or shut up” principle. If you don’t like how I’m doing it, you are free to do the job yourself. Amazing how fast that shuts people up.

Second, we were talking about a two-hour party out of the span of their life. Nobody could produce proof of a medically documented need for peanut products at hourly intervals. A two-hour party, not a plan to bomb every peanut farm on the planet. Stuff your kid to the gills with peanut butter before the party. Feed him peanut butter afterward. Slather his entire body with peanut butter before he goes to bed. But going without peanut butter for two hours is not going to send him into anaphylactic shock.

Third, and most important, this was a moms club. Wasn’t the whole point to make life easier for moms, not more difficult?

From then on, the parties were peanut-free. Honestly, I don’t think the kids even noticed.

But I’ve never forgotten the mom who said her little precious should be free to consume peanuts where and when ever it suited them. In my brain, she’s filed with the moms who don’t believe in lactose intolerance. Just leave my kids alone and we’ll get along fine.

1 Comment

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One response to “L is for Lactose Intolerance

  1. Haha, I have the opposite problem, where they assume my daughter’s casein (dairy protein) allergy is lactose intolerance. Sigh. And, yes, I know several of the “My kid has the right to eat peanuts” types. Their opinion is that if your child is so allergic to something, they should not be allowed to attend school, and should instead be kept home and never go out in public. Whereas I happily spent a year sending my son to school with sunbutter sandwiches so as not to kill another person’s child.

    Random fact of the day: something like 75% of people are lactose intolerant. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. 😉

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