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August 28, 2008

Food Allergies in Jr. High

I've spent more than 10 years teaching my daughter about her food allergies. I always tell people she is very responsible about what she eats. She carries snacks with her knowing that she may end up some place hungry without a safe food option. I've taught her how to teach others about her food allergies. I've tried to model being safe but not over the top. So when it was time to go to Jr. High, I was pleased but not surprised that my daughter wanted to take matters into her own hands.

Before school started, I went with her to meet the school nurse. We did our usual talk about food allergies and Epi-Pens. Then my daughter suggested that she write a letter to her teachers to introduce herself. With so many new kids entering the school, how would her teachers remember her? How would they know that she has food allergies? So my daughter typed a letter, including a current picture of herself. Then on the first day of school, she introduced herself and handed each teacher a letter. The teachers gave positive feedback. She will still tell her friends, both old and new, about her food allergies and that she always has an Epi-Pen with her. But I still need an adult to be aware of the situation. For my daughter, this is another step in the direction of complete independence with managing her food allergies. For me, it's a time to see some pay off of all of our hard work over the years.

Below is the letter my daughter wrote. Feel free to use it as is, use parts of it, or just give the idea to your child and let them create their own. As FAAN always says, we're all in this together!

Dear Teachers,

My name is Elizabeth and I am allergic to nuts. If I eat anything with peanuts or nut products in it, my throat could close and I could stop breathing. I know this sounds serious, but I'm extremely responsible and I carry medicine around with me everywhere. The medicine is called epinephrine, or an Epi-Pen. To administer the medication, you must remove the gray cap, inject it into my thigh, and then hold it in for ten seconds. The Epi-Pen will start to take effect instantly. After you give me the Epi-Pen, call 911. If you forget these instructions, they are on the Epi-Pen.

All of my friends are aware of my allergy, and I carry an Epi-Pen in my backpack at all times. There is also one in the health office. Thank you for helping to keep me safe!


Posted by Ann Marie at 1:35 PM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2008

Epi-Pens and School Field Trips

Since I know I will not be able to go on every field trip during the school year, I’ve started doing something which I find valuable as my child gets older. Our school has a form which authorizes the student to carry medication and/or self medicate while at school. Although my child is too young to give herself the Epi-Pen, I have the physician complete the form anyway. This allows my daughter to carry her Epi-Pens from home to school on field trip days. It serves several purposes. First, the teacher doesn’t have to remember to bring along the Epi-Pens from school; which conveniently guarantees that the teacher will not forget to replace the Epi-Pens in the classroom after the field trip. I also know that my child will for sure have two Epi-Pens available in case of an emergency, and I don't have to rely on the teacher to remember to bring both Epi-Pens from school (since one is in the classroom and the other is in the office). It also frees me up from having to meet the teacher the morning of the field trip to hand over the Epi-Pens. If I was available that morning, I would probably be going on the field trip!!

Those of you with small children are probably thinking that I’m nuts. It’s true; to me this works well only as my child gets older. I would not trust a younger child to carry Epi-Pens without adult supervision. I trust my own child because she’s grown up with the Epi-Pen and understands that it is not a toy. I don’t however trust all of the other kids. Also, the older my child gets, the more parents I get to know in her classes. That means there is usually at least one parent going on the field trip whom I’ve already educated about food allergies. So I feel comfortable sending in the Epi-Pen without meeting the parent face to face. Also, since the teacher obviously goes along on the outing, there are at least two people who could respond in case of an emergency.

This works well for us and minimizes my stress over school field trips. It also stops my urge of calling my child in sick the morning of the field trip because it's just easier than figuring out the flow of the day! I'm sure we've all been there... : )

Posted by Ann Marie at 2:31 PM | Comments (0)

August 1, 2008

Jr. High and Letting Go

It’s interesting how children grow up and parents learn to let go. I’m sure most parents have strong feelings on this topic. My most recent thoughts revolve around food allergies and Jr. High. Have you done this yet? Or does it seem so far off in the future that you tell your brain to conserve its energy and you’ll worry about those thoughts when the time comes? Well, my time caught up with me…

My oldest is starting Jr. High next month, which means a new school, new staff and added independence. Gone are the days of meeting with the teacher and nurse before the school year begins to create a safe environment; a place where my child can learn and grow and have fun without thinking too much about her food allergies. No more are the days of having an educated adult in my daughter’s immediate environment, a person who not only understands the severity of food allergies, but who also has a picture of my daughter in a neat little binder with bold red letters: food allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, wheat (yes, they even understand that, as far as the food allergy world is concerned, peanuts are in fact different than tree nuts).

And so my learning to let go continues…I must think outside of my perfect little elementary school box to create a safe environment for my ever-more-autonomous daughter. I will still meet the staff, school nurse included, before school begins, I will still educate the staff until I feel comfortable, I will still review with my daughter the food allergy management plan, I will still keep all lines of communication open and nurture my relationships with the school staff as the year goes on. And then I send her into the world of Jr. High, me with a little less control and her, with a little more independence.

Do I trust her? Yes! Is she educated enough to make her own decisions about what food she puts in her mouth? Yes! Is she responsible enough to carry her own Epi-Pen? Yes! Is she mature enough to react quickly in an emergency situation? Well, is she? Yes, I’ve taught her everything I know. Yes, she can talk me through every kind of scenario I can throw at her. But the question still nags, is she mature enough to react quickly in an emergency situation?

Am I mature enough to react quickly in an emergency situation?

And so my learning to let go continues...

Posted by Ann Marie at 3:02 PM | Comments (0)