I wish YOU would take my child peanut allergy seriously.
I Wish You Would Take My Child's Peanut Allergy Seriously
When my daughter was a year old, she suffered a serious allergic reaction to peanut butter.
The reaction was a surprise because we had given her small tastes of peanut butter before that, and she was fine.
But that Saturday morning during breakfast, she licked a tiny bit of peanut butter off of my finger, and right before my eyes, her face started swelling, and she broke out in hives all over her body. Luckily, my husband was home to help, and we rushed her to the clinic. She did not go into anaphylactic shock, but by the time we arrived, she was wheezing.
The doctor gave her medication to stop the reaction, and she didn't need to go to the hospital. A blood test two days later confirmed that it was a peanut allergy, and she was given a prescription for an EpiPen.
Keep her away from peanuts, our pediatrician said, and carry that EpiPen at all times. Forever. People rarely outgrow a peanut allergy, and it is one of the most immediate and life-threatening food allergies.
It may sound like simple enough prescriptive advice, but as my husband and I have discovered, avoiding peanuts is not so easy.
We adopted the phrase "Peanuts Are Poison" in our household because that's exactly how our child's immune system recognizes and attacks any food that contains peanuts.
Now two-and-a-half years old, our daughter has not had an allergic reaction since that day, but only because my husband and I are vigilant every single day about what foods she comes into contact with, which is no easy feat when a kid is out there in the real world, confronted with seemingly harmless food.
Because she doesn't go to daycare or attend any activities without us, it hasn't been so bad, and most parents are accommodating. For example, I take her to weekly open gym, and we parents chat often about allergies; during snack time, everyone is careful to keep potentially harmful food away from other children. I bring a bag of gluten-free, peanut allergy safe rice cakes everywhere with me for just such times.
However, recently, while attending story time at our library, I encountered a parent who was indifferent to my daughter's allergy. We were all at a craft table together when one of the moms pulled out some peanut butter crackers for her son. When I asked if they were peanut butter (even though I could smell it immediately), she nodded but kept opening the package.
I politely explained that we have to avoid peanut butter because my daughter has a severe allergy, and because the kids were sharing the crayons, glue, and other craft decorations, it could be problematic.
She didn't say anything to me in response, and she gave him the crackers anyway.
Although I was fuming on the inside, I did not confront the mom because as the parent of a daughter who has a life-threatening allergy, my first instinct was to remove my child from the danger as quickly as possible. I packed up our stuff and went to another part of the library.
I didn't see the mom again that morning, and I don't regret not pushing her on the issue: Securing my daughter's safety was my priority. I see this mom on a regular basis and if the situation comes up again, I definitely will be firm - yet kind - when I explain again just how dangerous it is to allow her son to eat peanut butter crackers around a child with severe allergies, no matter how half-heartedly she may try to keep him from touching things.
And I really didn't mind moving to another table. I'm happy to do whatever it takes to keep my child healthy and alive. This mom also could have offered to move or given her son a different snack. But it's unacceptable that she did not acknowledge the allergy.
When our daughter starts school, we will have to be even more vigilant. Because food allergies are on the rise, schools administrators and teachers are more aware of the dangers presented by certain foods and take measures to prevent direct or cross-contaminated contact. Many schools have "peanut free" zones and prohibit children from bringing homemade food.
I've heard parents complain about their kids not being able to bring peanut butter sandwiches to school. This is a small sacrifice to make to avoid endangering a child with an allergy to peanuts.
It's crucial that we have these "peanut free" zones in all schools and child care centers. Kids like to share food, and they aren't always great at washing their hands, so there is plenty of opportunity for a child with a peanut allergy to come into contact with any sort of peanut product. The reaction occurs swiftly after exposure and can be fatal in less than 15 minutes.
And after last week's encounter at the library, I believe peanuts should be banned from any public place where groups of children gather for an organized activity.
As the parent of a child with an allergy to peanuts, I worry every single day that my daughter could die from ingesting a peanut product. She is not expected to outgrow this allergy, so we will live our lives on high alert.
A little bit of awareness from other people will help alleviate some of that fear.
How do you deal with people who don't take your child's peanut allergy seriously?
Do you take other children's allergies serious?