Fearing food | Anaphylaxis allergy life, appreciating our school’s extra effort for safety

There’s something you may not know about me unless your child is friends with my youngest child.  I am the parent of a child who suffers from anaphylactic food allergies. It’s not just the usual food suspect either – peanuts. For my child you can also throw allergy-momtree nuts and milk into the severe/life-threatening equation.

We were lucky to discover the severe allergies early – at six months old – and luckily did not discover them after feeding her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was an accidental discovery, though. I’d had a handful of peanuts on a crazy busy day of parenting four kids under the age of six and then I touched my baby’s arm without washing my hands. Her arm immediately became covered with huge hives.

We were in the allergist’s office three days later scratch testing our six-month old’s back with every allergen imaginable. Within two minutes of the test her entire back was filled with huge welts and the doctor was pumping Bendryl into her mouth as she cried.

Diagnosis: no peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, shellfish. 

So began my life as a food allergy parent. A life of reading every food label, instructing every person who watched or touched her to always wash their hands after eating, making sure her very young siblings understood how serious this was. Playdates took on a different structure. Birthday parties we would send along her own dessert and meal if needed. Every school year starts with a 504 plan. Peanut-free lunch tables became her mid-day school reality. EpiPens and Benadryl still go everywhere with her.

It was hard at first. Now it’s just normal life. She’s always known she is different when it comes to food. She always asks about ingredients or reads labels. She knows if her throat gets scratchy to find the Benadryl or Zyrtec. There is always risk. We can’t wipe every door handle or keyboard she touches. We try our best to balance keeping her safe and not making her stand out as the kid who inconveniences everyone else.

It’s a balancing act. We are lucky. Her friends know. Their parents know. Everyone works to accommodate her without ever making us feel like it is a hardship or making her feel different. Her schools have always watched out for her – the nurses, the front office ladies, teachers.

Allergies are our normal, but we fully realize they are not everyone else’s normal.  We know we cannot expect every environment to change for our daughter – nor can we put her in an allergen-free bubble.

Once in awhile, though, something happens.  A school takes an extra step… like the Mount Si Freshman Campus did today. Will it eliminate the risk for our anaphylactic child?  No – nothing ever fully will – but the extra effort and gesture does mean a lot to parents like us who live with worry each day over a simple thing – food. Food that could take our child’s life.

So thank you Principal Newell and the Mount Si High School Freshman Campus. Know your gesture was recognized and appreciated.

Dear Parents/Guardians:

We felt that all parents would like to be aware that there are several students in our school with a severe life-threatening food allergy to peanuts and tree nuts (anaphylaxis). This includes any food that contains peanuts/nuts in it. This is a medical condition that causes a severe reaction to specific foods and can result in death within minutes.   All of our staff have been made aware of this situation and have been instructed in the correct procedures regarding anaphylaxis.

Prevention of course is the best approach. Although this may or may not affect your child’s class directly, we want to inform you so that you may choose to send foods with your child to school that are free from peanuts or nut products. In a school setting, cross-contamination is the greatest risk for this type of allergy. Trace (1/1000th of a peanut) amounts of peanuts/nuts can be left on gym equipment, computer keyboards, pencils, door handles, etc.

Please, if you can avoid peanut based foods, we would greatly appreciate it

Sincerely,

Vernie Newell

Associate Principal

Mount Si High School Freshman Campus

 

[***  Good news/Bad News: our daughter outgrew her soy allergy, but as she aged her allergy blood tests revealed increasing sensitivity to peanuts. When she was five years old we were told that they do not expect her to ever outgrown the severe peanut allergy. By 12, tests revealed milk would also most likely never be a dietary option. ***]

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