3 Things Allergy Parents Want You to Know Monday, October 31st, 2016
We just came back from our kids’ Halloween parties at school. Now, whether or not you celebrate this holiday in your family, schools often host costume and treat parties this time of year. This year was no different in our small town.
But there are a few things that make this time of a year a little more dangerous for our family. My children have severe food allergies… as well as extreme dye sensitivities. (Which is a very real thing if you’ve never heard of it.) While birthday party days at school are always a little tricky, a holiday that is known for candy and treats makes dealing with our food allergies particularly more difficult around October 31.
So, I feel like this is a great time of year to address a few things – some things I think most allergy parents would like to say.
1.) Food allergies are more serious than you might realize.
I didn’t realize that my daughter had a peanut allergy until the third time I gave her peanut butter. The first two times she ate a little, she just seemed tired and fussy. But the third time, she broke out in a rash everywhere it touched her. Her eyes were swollen. Her lips and cheeks were red. She looked like a child who had been crying for hours.
I called the pediatrician and was instructed to give her Benadryl. We were lucky that Benadryl was all she needed that day. It could have been a much more serious reaction. She could have reacted like my son did a few months later when he tried cashew butter for the first time. That afternoon, we were lucky that the epinephrine shots and prednisone given to him at the ER were able to stop his reaction.
Our experiences aren’t unusual. One in thirteen children suffer from a life-threatening food allergy. This means you likely know a family who faces this reality. And when you look at these numbers and how they relate to a school, one in thirteen means that potentially every classroom has a child with a life-threatening allergy.
Did you know that mild food allergies can progress to anaphylaxis suddenly? Even those who have only had a mild reaction in the past can out of nowhere have a reaction that closes their airways and suffocates them in a matter of minutes?
Did you know that even a trace amount of the allergen can trigger an anaphylactic reaction? This means that a food that doesn’t contain the allergen but is processed on the same equipment as the allergen can still cause a severe reaction. Want to know where to look on the package to find out if it is safe or dangerous?
If you turn over a package you will see an allergy warning on the bottom of nearly all products. It might read “Contains” “May contain traces of” or “Processed in the same facility as” and then a list of the major food allergens included in the product.
Did you know that even if a child chews a bite of the wrong kind of food and spits it out, they can still have the same reaction as if they had eaten the entire bite?
Did you know that even if you wipe down the surface (counter, hands, plate) with water, the allergen still doesn’t go away? So if you feed your child a peanut butter sandwich and send them to play on the playground without washing their hands, that peanut butter can transfer onto anything they touch… and then onto another child’s hands. And even that trace amount can cause a life-threatening reaction. The combination of soap and water is one of the safest ways to remove an allergen from a surface. This brings me to my next point.
2.) We recognize that our child’s allergy is an inconvenience.
I remember the first time that I heard of a school banning nut products. I thought it was just another way that parents were overreacting. I thought it was ridiculous. The way that those parents would make the lives of everyone else difficult because their child had an issue was just sad. “Don’t give your kid nuts,” I thought. “Why do we have to rearrange our lives because of your kid?”
I am so ashamed of my thinking, and it shows just how uneducated I was.
Knowing what I know now, I want to say this about life with allergies. Allergy parents know that it is extra work to think about our kids. We know that it requires extra planning and consulting with us or your child’s teacher. We know that you have to go out of your way to include our child… which brings me to my next point.
3.) We appreciate the effort that you make to include our children.
We are used to bringing special snacks for our kids to birthday parties and class parties. Our kids understand why they can’t eat the same foods as everyone else. But we cannot tell you how much your concern and your effort means to us and to our kids. Knowing that you would try or ask or express a desire to include our children means more than you know. And I personally want to take a minute to say, “Thank you.” Trust me, if we could change this we would. Your effort to include us makes it all feel a little less left out.
There are entire companies who specialize in allergy friendly candy and treats. (Affil Link) The Natural Candy Store clearly labels their ingredients and divides their products by allergy-friendly categories. They boast that they have, “Absolutely NO artificial colors or dyes, NO artificial flavors, NO artificial sweeteners, NO preservatives, NO hydrogenated oils!” We ordered all of our October candy from them this year!
Also, this time of year the #TealPumpkinProject is one way homes can include allergy families. Placing a teal painted pumpkin outside of your house indicates that the house will be giving out allergy safe treats for trick-or-treaters.
Thank you for helping keep our children safe. Thank you for treating our children like your own. From one momma to another, from one friend, one woman, one desperate advocate to another… I’m asking you to please consider the seriousness of food allergies. Never offer a child food of any kind unless speaking with their parent first. If your child is eating at the park, please wipe down their hands before allowing them to play on the equipment. And please consider sharing this post. Because even if food allergies do not directly impact your family, you can share this message and play a part in saving lives and bringing awareness to others.