September 2, 2006

Crazy Neurotic Parents and Child Food Allergies

I recently read an online article from regarding overprotective parents of kids with food allergies.

It told an interesting story, yet I wasn't sure how to react to the following pieces of the article...

Parents who ask for more accommodation than their kids really need do a disservice, I think, by making the rest of us unsure of when we need to strictly comply. It's a form of crying wolf. Or at least that's how it has felt to me on occasion. One summer, my older son Eli, then 4, got sent home from preschool with a stern note, because the granola bar I'd given him for a snack was made at a factory that processed other products that contain tree nuts. The next day I sent Eli with a plastic baggie full of cheese crackers made by Annie's, the organic pasta company. Their factory stamped out organic macaroni and crackers, I thought—no nuts.

But the father of the boy in the class with the nut allergy wasn't so sure. He asked me to take the crackers home. I'm sure this seemed like a minor concession to him. But to me, it seemed unfair and a little ridiculous. My son and his son didn't sit at the same snack table. They'd never shared food. His son's allergy had never been triggered by airborne particles, and it was no longer particularly serious. And if I couldn't give Eli his crackers, then he wouldn't have a snack. For the second day in a row. So, there was a cost, however small, for doing as asked.

I left the crackers with Eli. They provoked no allergic reaction in his preschool classmate. When I got home that night, I checked the Annie's box. There was the telltale warning: "Produced in a facility that also manufactures products containing peanuts and tree nuts." So, what's the moral of this story—that I'm inconsiderate, or a reasonable risk-taker?

It's hard to justify potentially jeopardizing the health of someone else's child (even if it means your own kid goes a bit hungry). But it would be a lot easier to accommodate allergies graciously if I felt like I could tell the rationally neurotic parent with the extremely allergic kid from the crazy neurotic parent with the slightly allergic one. And I can't....

Now, our readers know that I am a proponent of good communication and education but not of sounding the alarm too loud regarding child food allergies. So, on that front we are in agreement.

What really threw me for a loop was the part about being a "reasonable risk taker". Risk taker? Now, that might apply if it were your own child but not someone else's. Hard to justify is an understatement. Let's see... if that child needed to cross the street alone would you just let them run out without guidance? C'mon, they may or may not get hurt. Of course you wouldn't do that.

Then the comment about getting home, seeing nuts on the snack label and saying "they provoked no allergic reaction in his preschool classmate" almost makes it sound like because he didn't react, the mother can say, "See, I told you this was going overboard." What if the child DID react? Then what would she have said?

I would feel terrible if I knowingly rolled the dice with the safety of someone else's child and lost. It's simply not worth the risk.

Posted by David at 4:54 PM | Comments (1)

April 11, 2006

Daycare Rejects Peanut Allergic Boy in San Diego

Here in Southern California there was recently another case of illegal treatment of a food allergic child. Channel 10 in San Diego reported that the day care facility, "A Brighter Future", wrote a letter to parents of a peanut-allergic child that states that they do not accept children with peanut allergy because it can't guarantee their child's safety and gave the family 12 days to find another facility.

The preschool website states, "Your child is always treated as an individual and with dignity, understanding and care. Our talented and dedicated teachers are the most important element in our programs." In the school's promotional literature, they claim the school is a "peanut free zone". Both very interesting from an evironment that doesn't admit peanut allergic children.

Now remember, according to the ADA, peanut allergic children are entitled to equal treatment and cannot be excluded on the sole basis of having severe allergies to bee stings or certain foods. Based on the law, the parents are considering a lawsuit.

I don't know what good a lawsuit would do but I do know that writing about the questionable child care practices of "A Brighter Future" school should keep some families away.

And to show our disappointment with how they treat food allergic children, feel free to provide comments to the owner, Dr. Sandra A. Edwin, via their website.

Posted by David at 7:21 PM

March 13, 2006

Playdough at Preschool

My daughter has had a wheat allergy from infancy. Long before she was born, playdough was a favorite activity in my house. Being the (overly?) careful mother that I am, we got the playdough out only when my allergic daughter was napping. She was none the wiser! Over time, her reaction to wheat began to lessen, so she also partook in this favorite pastime.

I had become pretty good at managing the wheat allergy and felt confident sending her to preschool. Her nut and egg allergies definitely got way more attention! I remembered to discuss making bird feeders with lard instead of peanut butter, not using eggshells for art projects, and choosing wheat and nut free cereals and candy for counting activities. It was very clear that my daughter would only eat food sent from home. All was good.

Then I got the call from the school that my daughter’s arms and hands were covered in hives and she was miserable. We quickly determined that it was the playdough she was playing with. Our preschool makes their own playdough, both to save money and because it’s more pliable for the kids. Upon further discussion, I realized that it was basically wheat flour, salt and water. Apparently, not the best combination for my daughter!

I brought her home from school and gave her Benadryl and a bath. She was fine. She learned not to play with the playdough at school. And I learned that no matter how many precautions we take, life happens. So I learn from it. And hopefully, by passing the information along, other people can learn from it too!

Posted by Ann Marie at 11:18 AM | Comments (2)

February 26, 2006

Who knew I’d be talking to a preschooler about kissing!

I am well aware of the talk that I will need to have with my girls as they approach the pre-teen years about kissing boys. And since they have food allergies (most scarily, nuts and peanuts), I really need to stress the safety issue as well. But it never occurred to me to have that talk with my preschooler!

You see, I was talking to some preschool parents and they informed me that their kids recently started “licking tongues” with the other children as a kind of game. Of course, the teachers would stop this immediately if they saw it, but even the best teachers can’t supervise every activity every minute on a playground full of children!

My first reaction to this new game was, “Gross! Think of the germs being passed.” Then a bit of panic set in, and I thought, “Oh, my gosh! This could send my kid to the ER (or worse)!” I was especially on edge because of the recent stories about a teenager dying from kissing her boyfriend who had eaten peanut butter. I have, of course, talked with all of my children about the practice of licking tongues! We will keep this game out of our family for now. I just wonder what else I should be teaching my children that I’m not even aware of. We can only teach what we know so I will continue to educate myself and thank God for my children’s safety everyday. And I know, in the not-so-distant future, I will be discussing the birds, the bees and food allergies!

Posted by Ann Marie at 5:39 PM

February 10, 2006

Can't join em? Start your own school

I read this article and thought, "We'll I guess if you can't join 'em, start your own."

A recent Harvard study is showing the majority of child food allergy reactions occur during school hours. So what are schools doing to make it more safe?

Some experts believe schools need to be much more prepared for allergy incidents. In fact the problem is so bad some parents have taken matters into their own hands. If you cant get the school to work with you, should you start your OWN school? In the case of 3 year old Ben Andres, who sufferers from multiple food allergies, that's what his parents did.

"Ben is allergic to wheat, egg whites and peanuts. We have to make sure that he does not get exposed to those at any time," said Craig. At home the Andrews can control what Ben eats and keep him safe. But outside all bets are off. "Anything could happen," said Christie. "He could accidentally eat a piece of bread or a peanut and have a serious allergic reaction."

So, his parents created a safe school for Ben.

"We do not allow any outside food sources into the building," said Laura Shulte. Shulte designed the St. Stephen Early Childhood program in south St. Louis as a safe haven for allergic children because of her own son's experience.

At St. Stephen, no foods known to trigger allergic reactions are allowed. All the common food allergens are banned and diligent hand washing is required. Some schools tend to work with parents and train the school nurse and teachers on emergency procedures. Another classic strategy for safety is creation of "peanut free" tables because of how common and serious most peanut allergies are.

Although the new food labeling law, that requires that common allergens be clearly identified, should make it easier for parents of children with food allergies, education is still the key.

Posted by David at 7:07 AM

November 18, 2005

Infant and Toddler Food Allergies - the early years

Our 3rd child exhibited signs of food allergies very early. I remember many a night walking back and forth with her in my arms, trying to calm her down. She was showing signs of eczema. At that time, I was unfamiliar with any type of food allergy. It wasn’t until she was a toddler did we finally get her tested for food allergies and, boy did she ever have child food allergies… nuts, wheat, barley, beef and eggs (and some other I don’t remember now).

Many new parents will experiment and try to introduce table foods to expand their child’s diet. But according to Samuel Grubman of St. Vincent’s Hospital in a recent article on
infant food allergies, if given before the age of one, some foods can cause serious, even fatal reactions.

“The first sign of allergy usually in infants is eczema, which is a dry, itchy, scaly skin condition the hallmarks are really itching and dryness and redness of the skin. You can develop more severe manifestations all the way to anaphylaxis, which could include wheezing, cardiovascular collapse.”

“There are certain foods that are not recommended for the first year of life, eggs are not recommended, shell fish, fish, nuts, peanuts are not recommended until after the first year of life, specifically after the age of two,” cautioned Dr. Grubman. Citrus fruits, strawberries and chocolate should all be avoided.

If you or your spouse suffer from allergies (especially food allergies) or your other kids are allergic you should definitely avoid the most common food allergy foods, such as nuts, shell fish and eggs.

As always, we recommend you consult with your trusted allergist before introducing your child to any new foods.

Posted by David at 11:38 AM | Comments (1)