This is a guest post.
When Elizabeth asked me to write a guest post for her site, I knew immediately that I had to write about raising a kid with food allergies. Seeing that her son Nick has an allergy to eggs (which I’m really hoping he outgrows!), I figured a lot of her readers were probably dealing with food allergies themselves or knew somebody with them.
My oldest son Jason has allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and seeds. To say, “it’s challenging” is an understatement. It may’ve been scarier when he was younger, mainly because everything was so new and he couldn’t really articulate any internal reactions he might have been having at the time. But now that he’s older, he’s more independent and we’re a lot more hands off. And that, to me, is loads scarier.
There’s a chance Jason can outgrow some of his allergies (he actually passed a “peanut challenge” years ago, but it’s since re-manifested itself.), but at this age, I wouldn’t count on it.
Avoiding mixed nuts or a sesame seed bagel is fairly easy to do. Even non-allergy folks will “get” that, or at least totally understand the second you say something. But unfortunately, there are allergens hiding everywhere. Even just having lunch in the school cafeteria can prove deadly.
You’d be surprised at how many things are easily overlooked that could cause an allergic reaction. What am I talking about? Well, read on and learn about the 10 Worst Things Allergy Parents Have to Worry About:
The School Bus
For years, my wife drove Jason to school, as we didn’t feel he’d be safe on the bus. Yes, he carries an Epipen with him in case of a reaction, but he’s still too young to really know how to administer it himself. And there is no way a bus driver can handle driving the bus, watching kids be crazy and then notice one little kid having an allergic reaction. As for that “no food” policy on the bus? Yeah, like that’s enforced. Not to mention the fact that something like peanut butter could easily stick to a kid’s shirt or hands from lunch, and then get transferred to a school bus seat when they sit down.
Soap, Shampoos and Creams
In recent years, many cosmetic companies started using shea butter in their products. I don’t know what it does or why they use it, other than the fact that it’s real cheap. So what’s the problem? Shea butter comes from the shea nut. That means Jason needs to avoid anything with shea butter in it. So every time we go anywhere, before he washes his hands, we have to check to make sure the soap is safe. Same goes for many shampoos, conditioners, hand creams, etc.
This one’s something you probably never think about. We can certainly do our best to teach Jason to stay away from foods he’s allergic too, but what happens when he’s a teenager filled with raging hormones and finds himself sitting in a tree with a girl K-I-S-S-I-N-G? She has to be 1000% aware of his food allergies and make sure she hasn’t eaten anything that he could be allergic to. Like kissing a girl for the first time isn’t scary enough.
Morta whatsa? Yeah, I hadn’t heard of this deli meat either until recent years. It’s basically a big pork sausage, only unhealthy. (Hah!) It usually has cubes of pork fat and pistachio nuts in it, and is sliced and served at many deli counters. That means it’s sliced on the same machines as regular deli meats like turkey, roast beef, etc.
I know, I know. How many times have you used the excuse, “But I’m allergic to school” to try to get out of doing your homework? Thing is, even teachers don’t always have allergies in the forefront of their minds. If they’re not careful, they could be sitting at home grading papers while they drink some hazelnut coffee and eat a handful of mixed nuts. Without even thinking about it, traces of powder could get right onto Jason’s paper as she grades it.
Airplanes aren’t the only place peanut-allergy folks need to be on guard. Baseball games are notorious for having peanuts. You’ll find peanut shells everywhere! If you’re allergic to peanuts, you’ll have a real tough time finding a safe seat. Thankfully, in recent years, many major league teams are setting up “peanut-controlled zones” for select games throughout the year.
The scariest part of an allergy (other than the reaction itself)? Sometimes it can take as long as four hours for a reaction to occur! So your kid could eat something in the morning and not react to it until a few hours into his school day. That’s why we try to be extra cautious and not give Jason anything new first thing in the morning or right before he goes to bed.
Water Fountains and Bottles
It’s really sad and scary when a basic thing like a water fountain can turn into a death trap. We’ve taught Jason not to drink from a water fountain or anyone else’s water bottle. Ever. Who knows what else the last kid who drank from it was eating. Plus, kids share water bottles all the time, so we need to make sure that Jason has his water bottle on him always and doesn’t put it down for a second. Otherwise some other nut-eating kid could grab his water by mistake and take a sip.
Science and Art Projects
Again, you need to constantly be in touch with your kid’s teachers to remind them of all the allergens. You just can’t even imagine the scenarios that come up. Like having a pet in the classroom. What’s wrong with that? Well, when you feed the pet seeds and nuts, that’s something to be concerned about. Or when you do a science experiment with nuts or seeds or create an art project that uses seeds for decorating.
Mustard and Almond Butter
It may seem like common sense, but again, if you don’t have allergies on your mind 24/7, you can easily overlook some obvious foods. Take mustard for example. Great on a hot dog, right? (Please don’t tell me you’re one of those people that likes ketchup on your dog instead…) What’s mustard made from? Yeah, mustard seeds. So no good for Jason. When you hear “Almond Butter” you may only be concentrating on the “butter” part of the name and forget that it’s made right from almonds. Just be extra vigilant and read ingredients in everything, no matter how farfetched it may seem.
Have you come across allergens in an odd place?
Andrew Kardon is one of those lovable daddy bloggers who, thankfully, doesn’t blog about diapers since his kids have long since outgrown them. Follow his parenting adventures over at Mommy’s Busy, Go Ask Daddy.