Have you ever met a paranoid mother? I mean really paranoid, certifiably paranoid, meshuge paranoid?

Well, I did. Growing up in my community in Ottawa, I was acquainted with “Karen.” She told everyone that her son had “life-threatening” allergies to a mile-long list of foods. Karen followed her son everywhere, like an overanxious and overeager puppy.

I can still see her smearing Benadryl lotion on her son’s arms at a birthday party because he was exposed to eggs from the birthday cake. Although the child did not actually eat the cake, she was Have you ever met a paranoid mother?worried that the contaminants from the eggs were airborne and might give him hives. At the time, I tried picturing airborne egg contaminants flying around and killing people. I never took her seriously.

Karen would not allow her son into any facility that did not take his allergies seriously. By seriously, I mean “top of the list, de-sanitize everything serious” so that her child would be “safe.” Watching the school or camp bend over backwards to accommodate this little boy and his allergies, I would think unkindly to myself: “Why does Karen insist on imposing her son’s needs on everyone, everywhere? Is our world really so unsafe?”

Karen also told everyone that she had a child with disabilities, and I would think: “What? Allergies are disabilities?”

I was both judge and jury to Karen. I figured that because she was an older first-time mother, she needed to ease up a bit. I was even slightly concerned for the mental health of her child.

Well, that was then! I was already a mother of two children myself, but then my precious third child was born. From the moment he entered this world, he began scratching himself.

At three months he figured out how to use one leg to rub behind the other leg, and by 12 months we had to sew socks onto the sleeves of his pajamas because he would scratch himself until he bled.

Our poor baby was suffering from terrible eczema, and we knew it was time to see an allergist. Imagine my utter shock when our son tested positive for food allergies. He was not only anaphylactic (extremely sensitive allergic reaction) to a host of foods, but he needed to be in a fish-free environment, as his body would not be able to deal with airborne smells (yes, airborne!) or touch and cross-contamination.

I now had one EpiPen and a bottle of liquid Benadryl banging around in my purse at all times, and a whole lot of “practice” EpiPens that I used for training everyone that could conceivably come in contact with my baby.

I probably should have called Karen to apologize profusely to her, but I was too embarrassed. I definitely had a different opinion about the “paranoid mom” that I remembered. In fact, I was now her!

When my son was a baby, it was relatively easy for me to have complete control over him. I knew where he was at all times and what he was eating. I felt secure knowing that my house was free of all his allergens and that his medications were always nearby.

However, as he got older and started having playdates, birthday parties and outings to preschool and synagogue, I would lie in bed at night, conjuring up the most nightmarish visions, entire scenarios where everything that could go wrong does. I felt helplessly out of control. I would wake up sweating, anxious to push my morbid thoughts away. I would look over at my husband and know that while he also has his anxieties about our son’s I felt helplessly out of controlallergies, he can still sleep at night.

My husband is convinced that our son is more sensitive and compassionate as a result of his food allergies. I’m not so sure. I see a regular, rambunctious (and sometimes difficult) 3-year-old boy, and I want it to stay that way.

Very often my little boy wakes me in middle of the night, asking for a drink of water. As I watch him gulp it down, I send up a prayer to heaven. “Please G‑d, watch over my little one. Let all the people who care for him appreciate the severity of his allergies, and let him grow to be as carefree as any other child his age.

“Please help our community to understand the life-and-death stakes of being a child with anaphylactic food allergies. Help them to understand that a severely allergic child can die without his meds.

“Please G‑d, bless all the people who care for my son, and bless their efforts to help him grow up feeling loved, protected and safe.”