Friday, August 30, 2013

Food Allergy Focus

This link is making its way around Facebook today:

Girl Dies from Peanut Allergy, Last Words are "I'm sorry."

In fact, I had a friend text me the link the other night.  At that point, I posted a status update along the lines of, "Trust me when I say that no parent of a child with a nut allergy needs to be sent links about children who die from a nut allergy."  We know what can happen.  We live with the knowledge every day of our lives.  We know it when our children are with us and especially when they aren't.  We know it whenever they put something we haven't cooked into their mouths.  

I can't tell you what a relief it is to go to a party or a cookout hosted by another family that has a nut-allergic child.  It's like a weight is taken off my shoulders because I know that they aren't going to serve anything that has nuts in it.  It's not that I expect the entire world to go nut-free.  I like pistachios and walnuts and pecans.  I get it.  But at the same time, I feel like people don't take food allergies seriously.  

I was watching a rerun of The Big Bang Theory last night.  Howard was trying to keep Leonard occupied so he wouldn't see them setting up the big surprise birthday party they were throwing for him.  In order to delay Leonard, Howard intentionally ate a granola bar with peanuts in it so he'd have an allergic reaction and have to get seen at the ER.  Now, I realize that TBBT is a sitcom and they play for laughs and it's not real.  But it wasn't funny.  No one with a life threatening allergy would intentionally eat that allergen!!  And it makes people think that if a nut-allergic person eats a nut then they just get a little itchy or a little swollen and then later they're fine.  It doesn't work that way.  Sometimes that person isn't fine.  And sometimes, they die!  And sometimes, that person is a child.

More easily read food labels are great.  They're very helpful.  But I've come to realize that the most difficult obstacle to overcome with food allergies are actually people.  I know that if people don't have a kid with food allergies in their lives, then they don't think about it.  I certainly didn't until we found out about Missy's allergy.  But I hope that some day people, even those who don't have food allergies in their lives will learn and think about them and about the consequences.  

I hope they'll think about whether or not a lunchtime PB&J or Nutella sandwich is worth another child's life.  I hope they think about what can happen when they give their child peanut butter crackers or a granola bar at the playground.  That peanut butter protein gets on a child's hand.  Then it can get transferred (far more easily than you'd think) to the surface or a slide, swing, or climbing structure.  That protein can then easily be transferred to the hands of a child who has an allergy.  And the next time that child puts his or her fingers in his or her mouth (and it will happen eventually) or eats something, that protein can end up being ingested by the one person who specifically should not have it.  As careful as I can be with my own child, as cautious as I can be with what my child eats, it can all be undone by another parent giving their child a granola bar.

Missy understands that sometimes when she goes to a party, she can't have the cake.  She understands that the trail mix everyone else sees as a healthy snack is deadly to her.  Right now, there's nothing I can do about that.  And I'm not saying that we should rid the world of all allergies.  That would be impossible.  And I once knew of a boy who was allergic to apples.  Are we really going to tell people they can't eat apples?  Hardly.  I'm only asking that people think before sending their child to school with a major allergen.  

Save the PB&J for the weekends.  Teach children to wash their hands thoroughly after eating ANYTHING.  And hand sanitizer just doesn't cut it.  The proteins are still there after sanitizer.  And for the love of Pete, don't bring nuts to a playground.  It's just not worth it.  Bring an orange or a plum or cheese its.  But whatever it is, just THINK.  Consider if your snack or lunch is worth a life. I can tell you for a fact that it's not.  My child is worth way more than a granola bar or a rice krispy treat.

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