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I’ve really been wanting to write this post, but I’ve been putting it off for awhile.  What I write below could easily give way to complaining or showing frustration that would NOT be helpful to my son or others who suffer with food allergies.  Please forgive me if any of what I write does this, because that is not my intention.  I have a few reasons for sharing this information: First and foremost, I want to keep my son safe.  If anyone reading this does something different that could save his life, then I feel satisfied as a mother.  Secondly, if any information I give can help another individual, then by all means, please read on!

Have you ever considered what it’s like to have food allergies?  Here are some things you can do to help those who have them:

For Everyone:

  1. Be understanding.  If you knew that someone baked poison into a batch of brownies, would you let your kid eat them?  Would you even let them near that pan?  It’s a little extreme, but this is reality for people with food allergies.  Some food allergies can be fatal, and it’s a scary thing to mess around with.
  2.  Ask questions.  I can’t tell you about the gratitude I felt when I took Caleb to a new church nursery while we were on vacation.  I gave the worker information about his allergies, gave her the snack he was to eat, and right away she asked questions she didn’t know the answers to and took me seriously.  I was more than happy to answer any questions she had, and I felt completely confident leaving him in her care.  When I came back to pick him up, she had taken care of all his (special) needs.  Not everyone has been this great about it.
  3. Practice good hygiene.  A simple thing as washing your hands or brushing your teeth can prevent a reaction.  Even though many food allergens have to be ingested, some can cause reactions just on contact.    I heard a news story a few years back about a teenage girl who died because her boyfriend  kissed her.  She was allergic to peanuts and didn’t know he had eaten a peanut candy bar an hour earlier.
  4. If you have kids, teach them about allergies and what to do if they have a friend with it.  As we all know, being different can be very isolating.

For Friends: I have to admit that before I had Caleb, I was a pretty clueless and crummy friend, to say the least.  I hope now I’m doing a better job!

  1. Be thoughtful.  Do you know someone who has a dairy allergy or sensitivity?  Don’t invite them over for dinner and then make something with milk in it or serve ice cream for dessert.  I’ve made this mistake before, unfortunately.  Now I’ve been on the other side of it (when I was nursing), and it stinks to be left out of something good.
  2. Care enough to be flexible.  I’ve been lucky that my friends have asked if it was okay for them to feed their child (fill in the blank) around Caleb.  It’s nice to know they are aware and don’t want to make me feel uncomfortable about having my kid around theirs.  Plus, I appreciate that they care about his safety too.  Thanks, Lauren, you’re always really good about this!!!
  3. Bring safe foods to potlucks.  I’m not saying don’t bring a casserole or pb cookies to a potluck, but if you do make something, consider making it a simple dish where all the ingredients are obvious.  (Or, if you’re extra motivated, provide a recipe!)  My mom once had an allergic reaction because of eating some chili.  She thought it was a safe choice, but found out later there was peanut butter in it!  This may not be the time to bring your family’s “secret ingredient” recipe, unless you are prepared to share it.  I now love potlucks where people bring fresh veggie or fruit salads, because I can tell what’s in them and know if it’s safe/not safe for Caleb to eat it.

Epi Pen (image from http://www.store.gomed-tech.com)

For Child Care Workers:  I completely understand the difficulty of being a care-taker and having to deal with something like a food allergy.  I was a teacher for 5 years and had several children who had Epi Pens because of food or other allergies (like bee stings!).  I even had two students one year who were type I diabetics (the type you are born with), which poses a whole other set of food issues.  Now that I am a mother, I understand both sides, and the tension that exists there.  Had I known better, here is what I would have done EVERY TIME a child with special needs was in my care.

  1. Be kind.  It is not the parents or the child’s fault they have an allergy.  It just is.  Complaining about how much harder this will make your job doesn’t help anyone.  Do the very best you can.  Teachers and care-givers who do this on a regular basis will be blessed.  I know this because every time I’ve seen a teacher go out of their way, I try to return the gratitude I feel for their kindness.  At the very least I offer up a prayer on their behalf that special blessings will come to them because of their care for my or someone else’s kid.
  2. Follow the parent’s instructions as closely as possible.  If a parent asks for special consideration, it’s not because they are controlling and anal.  They simply want to keep their kid alive and well.  Unfortunately, I know many moms of allergic kids who don’t attend church, public school, or other functions because they’ve had a bad experience or are fearful that their wishes won’t be respected or followed.  I know a mom whose kid had an Epi Pen, and he started school this year.  The teacher refused to keep the Epi Pen in class or administer it should a need arise.  That teacher basically said she wouldn’t help the kid if he was dying.  My guess is that this was the first time she encountered the situation and was scared about it.  I can relate.  Luckily, for the child’s sake, he got a new teacher.
  3. If anything happens, tell the parent!!!  I am so grateful to be able to tell this story: The church I attend is pretty great about accommodating for my son.  However, one Sunday morning, the worker gave him a bite of coffee cake.  She realized her mistake immediately, took away the food, and watched him for a reaction.  As soon as I saw her to pick up Caleb, she told me about it.  She could have easily not said anything, because when I picked him up he was fine-no reaction.  However, her telling me did three things: 1. Allowed me to keep this nugget of information to share with Caleb’s doctor when he is ready to test again (crossing my fingers he outgrows some), 2. Allowed me to watch him and know what the problem was if he developed a reaction later on, which can sometime happen, and 3. Helps me to trust her MORE, because she shared her mistake with me, apologized, and tried to make it right.
  4. Pay closer attention and step in.  This is where the rubber meets the road, and where it becomes more difficult.  If possible, keep an extra eye out for a kid with allergies, mostly around snack and lunchtime.  Kids can be cruel and unintentionally hurtful.  A mom I just met told me that her son (allergic to peanuts) was taunted at the lunch table with a pb cookie, and another kid threatened to wipe his pb sandwich on him.  This scares me just thinking about it, not to mention how scared the mom and her kid were!  An adult can really help a situation like this.

For Restaurants:

  1. Provide an ingredient list of the foods you serve.  That means ingredients of the bread from your hamburger, not just that it has mayo, lettuce and tomatoes on it.  I’m happy to say that Baskin Robbins, Firehouse Subs and Chick Fil Aget more of my business because they provide their nutrition information on their website!  Thanks guys!!!

    I love Chick Fil A! (Too bad Caleb only gets to enjoy the fries.)

  2. If you are a server, please be clear with your cook and table about food ingredients when they ask.  In my experience, Kirby Lane’s servers have always done a great job at this.  Not everyone has, which means I am uncomfortable feeding it to my son, and therefore, order less.  More food for us = more $$$ for you!

Whew!  While this list is quite extensive (as are my stories), even doing just one or two of these things can really make a difference.  Just reading this post, in fact, will be a benefit to someone, even if it’s only me and my family.  So, thank you for reading!

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I’ve been thinking about posting for awhile.  The problem is that I don’t feel I have anything of importance to say, or anything funny, or interesting.  So, here’s what’s been happening this summer.

A special day

Caleb and I have been hanging out alot this summer (what else is new?), and I’ve been navigating this whole food allergy thing.  I have to say that having a kid with allergies isn’t too bad when I’m at home, but it can get difficult when we go anywhere.   As of now, we know he is allergic to dairy, eggs and peanuts.  There are two things I am extremely thankful for in all this:

1. Caleb is an extremely good eater.  He’ll eat pretty much anything I give him, and he eats ALOT.  No wonder my grocery bill keeps going up.

2. His allergies could be a lot worse.  I am so thankful he can have wheat and soy (which is in practically everything.)  I joined a community for people in Austin with food allergies and it’s been really helpful, even though I’m just a “virtual” participant at this point.

A few weeks ago we took a trip to Colorado for a family reunion.  We had fun; it was great to see family, and Caleb had a blast with his cousins.  Plus, he pretty much perfected his walking skills, so now I am running after him everywhere. 🙂

During a hike in Estes

The other big thing we did this summer was update our kitchen.  We were lucky my sister was here to help, because painting cabinets is a BIG project.  I was not very nice that week, but, like Matt says, “Aren’t you glad you got it done?”  Yes, yes I am.   And glad that I’ll never have to do it again.  I think it turned out pretty well, especially because this update was budget-friendly.

Before-ugly tile

After-pretty tile!

Matt even installed some inexpensive under-mount cabinet lighting, which is nice when I am trying to cook.  The last phase is to lay tile (see big rip on the existing laminate?), so as soon as I choose a color, we’ll start that project.  Someday in the future, when one of our appliances croaks (and we have more $$), we’ll probably do something a little nicer, but until that day, we’re working with what we’ve got.

Well, that sums up what I’ve been doing.  I hope you are staying cooler than we are! 🙂  I love Texas except in July and August!