Parents who do not have a child with an anaphylactic allergy often complain and complain about the inconvenience of providing a nut-free environment. They ask why the whole group of children should suffer just because one child has an allergy. I’d like to share what it’s really like to live with a child who has a life-threatening allergy and suggest ways you can help these children.
My 7.5 year old son has an anaphylactic shock allergic reaction to peanuts. You also have an anaphylactic shock allergic reaction to dairy products, but peanut particles are more easily carried through the air, so while you may be in the same room as someone who eats dairy, you cannot be in the same room. room with peanuts.
When my son was only a few months old, he developed severe eczema on his face, hands, feet, and behind the knees. At one point it was so severe every time I put him to bed that he frantically smashed his hands and feet against the carpet, sheets, or blanket until they bled, just to ease the itch a bit. He was a true soldier and maintained a cheerful disposition the entire time, but I found that he was in agony, especially at night when he was trying to fall asleep.
I took him to his pediatrician, who was also a naturopath, and we tried the natural remedies of calendula cream first. No improvement. We try conventional medical remedies like steroid creams. No improvement. When he was about a year old, he had a RAST test (blood test for allergies) and it tested positive for wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, soybeans, bananas and peanuts. We had tried introducing him to solids around one year of age, but he was really resistant to eating solids and gagged until he vomited, so aside from the occasional cookies, I exclusively breastfed him. Our ped referred us to a pediatric allergy specialist.
On our first appointment, the allergy specialist laughed at the Rast results and told me that there was no way such a young child would be allergic to so many foods. He recommended that we do a skin prick test to confirm which ones were false positives and which ones were true positives. There were no false positives. I was really reacting to all the foods that tested positive on the RAST test.
I was instructed to eliminate all foods from my diet while I was still breastfeeding, so as not to give her any of the foods for which I tested positive. The doctor explained what an anaphylactic allergy was and that allergy tests indicated that he probably had an allergic anaphylaxis to peanuts and dairy. He warned me that each subsequent exposure would produce increasingly serious reactions.
Around the age of 3, my son was accidentally exposed to peanuts for the first time. His grandfather was eating peanuts the day before he joined us and did not wash his hands. Hours later we accompanied him, and Grandpa helped my son get out of the car seat and climbed the stairs with his hand. My son ran his hand over his lips and his lips immediately puffed up like little golf balls. It was a dramatic picture of what would happen if I ever ingested even a speck of peanuts. He was treated for his allergic reaction in the emergency room, and we were lucky that the peanut was not ingested. He was lucky that we knew about his allergy and were able to take the proper precautions.
When my son started public preschool at 30 months of age, they supported me 100% in providing a nut free environment. Notices were sent to parents and a nut free classroom policy was strictly enforced.
When kindergarten began at our small town public school, there was no nut-free class policy to protect children with anaphylactic allergies. It is up to me to advocate for my son and make sure his classroom is safe. I worked closely with the principal and his homeroom teacher to educate them about his allergy. They implemented routine hand washing and made sure the children did not bring nuts into the classroom.
The province of British Columbia, Canada, where we live, has an anaphylaxis protection order that requires each school board to establish and maintain policies, procedures, and staff training to ensure the safety of children at risk of anaphylaxis in schools in BC. There is also a list of resources available to teachers and students to help implement anaphylaxis safety at school.
A couple of months after my son started school, I was on the playground watching my son play, and a father I had never met was talking to me for a bit and he said “a kid in the class has a stupid allergy. to nuts and it really annoys me that I can no longer send peanut butter or granola bars at my son’s lunch. ” Another parent immediately spoke up to point out that I was the parent of the boy with the “stupid nut allergy.” I took the opportunity to educate that father and he was kind enough to apologize, but I was very surprised that someone felt so negatively being bothered by something so simple that it could potentially save my son’s life. We have no problem accommodating children with disabilities who are more visible, and no parent would complain about accommodating a child in a wheelchair, but not sending peanut butter in their child’s lunch is a problem. Actually ?! Frankly, the downside factor is a minor concern as opposed to preserving a child’s life.
Living with a child with anaphylactic allergies is not a walk in the park. Do you think it’s hard not to include peanut butter in your child’s lunch? Try to live with it on a daily basis and be 100% alert all the time. There is no such thing as just going to an event, a birthday party, or a play date for our son.
When my son wants to socialize outside of his nut-free classroom or our house, this is what he is involved in:
- Make sure it is a nut free environment. Absolutely no nuts, or anything with nuts as an ingredient. This generally involves a phone call prior to the event to notify parents.
- If nuts were eaten at the venue, or by others who attended earlier in the day, I make sure all hands are washed and the surfaces where the food was eaten are cleaned.
- Pack a lunch or snack so you have nut-free foods to eat. If food is being prepared for our son, I have to make sure that all surfaces, cutting boards, plates, knives, utensils and serving bowls are washed so there is no cross contamination. We generally choose to bring our own safe food to keep things simple.
- Make sure your child has an Epi-pen handy and make sure adults know where it is (in their backpack) and how to administer it. There are simple step-by-step instructions on the side of the Epi-pen that literally takes a few seconds to review.
- Inform adults that symptoms of anaphylaxis may include: hives or other epidermal inflammation, shortness of breath, throat tightness, feeling of choking, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea, fainting or dizziness, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, extreme anxiety, and cardiac arrest.
- Tell adults what to do in an emergency: give Epi-pen, call 911 and tell doctors it’s anaphylactic shock and call parents, in that order.
- Trust in God.
I know the idea that a child’s life is in danger is terrifying for some and slightly terrifying for others, but I firmly believe that my child needs to learn to function in the real world. We do not isolate him from other children. He knows not to accept food from others and is very good at saying firmly “no thanks, I have allergies.”
Our son knows that if we go to an event and there are crazy people present, we will have to leave, and while this can be disappointing, it has been such an important part of our life for so many years that he has learned to handle disappointment very well. well, and my husband and I make a concerted effort to make it up to him later by giving him safe treats and doing fun family activities that don’t involve allergic hypervigilance.
What is the best way to support a child with life-threatening allergies?
- Treat the child normally. Do not exclude the child or act fearful.
- Take the initiative to talk to the child’s parents and learn about the child’s allergy and the proper steps to take in an emergency. Make sure you know where your child’s Epi-pen is at all times when you are in a caregiver capacity.
- Make sure your child has safe food available and doesn’t feel left out at mealtime.
- Verify that the environment is free of nuts. Clean surfaces and have other children and parents wash their hands when they arrive.
The next time you hear a parent request a nut-free environment for their child, remember that it’s not just an inconvenience, it could be saving a life.