Archive for February, 2005

Compassion for fellow anaphylaxis sufferers

Hi,

I am putting foward a plea for all parents of anaphylactic children to be compassionate and considerate towards each other.

Out of all the people on this planet, only those who have anaphylaxis or raise anaphylactic children can truly comprehend the desperation we feel, in trying to avoid exposure to allergens. It doesn’t matter whether the trigger is nuts, dairy, eggs, bees or latex,….etc. The end result is the same to the individual who is allergic. Anaphylaxis is anaphylaxis – the most severe form of allergic reaction which can be life-threatening.

As you know anyone can be allergic to anything, to any extent, it just so happens that 8 food substances make up 90% of all food allergies. Remember, everything else make up the remaining 10%. No one food is more dangerous than the next, it just depends on what an individual will react to. Most people have heard of “the nut allergy”, without understanding that the same immunological reaction can occur with dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, seafood or any other substance for that matter. Minute traces left on toys, dishcloths or even taps are enough to trigger a reaction, whatever the trigger may be. We all know this.

My mind is still spinning from our “trial” preschool last month. There was a child who was anaphylactic to peanuts, and the center banned all nut products, even down to the “may contain” statements. The parents knew what a risk nuts were to their child and sought help from every other parent at the center to protect their child, and avoid a life threatening situation. Knowing what an allergen can do to a person with anaphylaxis, knowing that Declan was attending the center, knowing that dairy would cause a life threatening episode if contact was made, those parents continued to send dairy every day.

I can understand it when people are completely oblivious to the risks. But it was a bitter disappointment to discover that someone who knows EXACTLY what we go through every time we leave our yard, shows the same ignorance. How can they expect an entire community to accommodate them, when they are not prepared to show the same courtesy to some one else. It was not nice to put a person in the very same situation they worked so desperately to avoid for themselves.

We want, need and expect others to understand, embrace and accommodate for each of our situations. We really need to show the same grace towards each other. Our kids need to know that others are afflicted with the same restrictions and we should look after them as well as ourselves.

I have always felt that it is a great opportunity for parents to teach their kids tolerance, consideration and compassion when they learn about our kids and their allergies. We have learnt along the way that only a very small percentage of people think like this, so we really need to support each other.

Please show compassion and consideration for each other, we are all going through the same thing.

Take care,
Mel

dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free easter

Hi,

Well Easter is fast approaching. The shops are filled with chocolate eggs, rabbits and ducks. For most that is wonderful. For some, it is not so good to walk past with your toddlers wanting to grab the rabbit in its bright, glittering, foil wrapper. For those who can tolerate dairy, but not nuts, this year heralds an array of products that will suit you. One company in particular has gone to great lengths to ensure its products are nut free. We always live in hope that one day we can purchase off the shelf products, that are trusted to be safe.

Easter time three years ago, we bought Declan a small bag of “Dairy Free” chocolate eggs, that had no dairy warning. He thought that was great. Five seconds after having one in his mouth, he spat it out, was making a dreadful hacking sound and was scratching at his tongue with two hands at the same time. The hives followed, all over his neck and trunk. The eggs were obviously not completely dairy free. This year the same bag carries a “May contain” statement and is branded as “Lactose Free”.

Needless to say, Declan will not touch anything chocolate-looking. Even if I make a chocolate cake, myself, with all safe ingredients, he will not touch it. We of course don’t force the issue, we neither want to traumatise or confuse him. My daughter on the other hand, would have cocoa in everything if she could.

So for Easter this year, we will have fun making our own sweets and treats to give to friends and relatives. The Easter Bunny will of course be delivering an assortment of non-food and food related easter gifts choosing from a repertoire of dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free easter treats.

Past surprises have been, egg-shaped lolly-pops, Little Golden books, home-made bunny biscuits, home-made dairy-free chocolates, plush bunnies and many other things. The kids never miss out on anything, it just requires a little imagination, some time and a lot of fun. It would be nice to have it the easy way, but I also thrive on the challenge to come up with new ideas to keep it all fresh and interesting.

If anyone has some great Easter ideas, please feel free to share them.

Dairy is poison to my son

As parents we are educated, even when we are still pregnant, to put all hazardous products out of reach of our children. In the kitchen, laundry, bathroom, garage, anywhere there may be toxic substances, you will not find them within the reach of little kids. Everyone has the same basic primal instinct to protect the life of your offspring. We all “get it” at some basic level. To my son, dairy is poison. We treat this liquid with the same respect as we treat any other “poison”. Poison is poison as far as I am concerned, no matter what form it comes in.

Even though we are constantly surrounded by people who can not process that food allergies are a real and dangerous threat to the safety of our children, I still get upset, sometimes, when people complain about needing to be considerate of others. At our preschool, no foods are banned, parents are allowed to bring along whatever they like, knowing exactly what it can do to my son. They make the choice to put him at risk everyday, probably without a thought. The preschool has decided to stop kids from eating cheese dips at morning tea, when they sit on mats in close proximity to each other. They can however, eat them at lunch when they are at tables and a greater distance away from each other. To me, this is a pretty good compromise. The kids still get to eat their “cheese” and Declan is not at such a high risk.

There has been a complaint that someone’s child likes to eat nothing but cheese at morning tea. Well…. my child likes to breathe!

It is not an evenly weighted argument as far as I am concerned.

People can be ignorant about all sorts of things, but a basic level of safety for children is one all parents should be united on.

Poison is poison no matter what form it takes.

I’d like to hear how others deal with such situations, if you are willing to share your stories.

Take care,
Mel

Hooray!!

Wow, what a difference a few days make. Gone are the stomach pains, the constant, low-grade headache and the frown that was permanently stamped on my forehead. Now that Declan is in the care that he deserves, I can breathe again. With wonderful teachers, and some old familiar faces he is in preschool heaven.

The centre has not banned any of the offending allergens, and we have never asked them to. Lets face it, when dairy is the allergen, it is unrealistic to expect a policy banning all milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, calcium enriched breads, calcium enriched juice, cakes, biscuits…….etc, etc, etc. While it would be an ideal situation, we would prefer him to learn how to deal with his food allergies, whilst under great supervision, before he enters the big world of school next year. We want him to be as prepared as possible, to live his own life with confidence and a great ability to assess situations, when he is not under constant supervision next year.

It is not easy for us to “let go” of the control, but we can not control every situation for him in the future.

As a result of this preschool change, and a new found confidence, I was able to take my daughter to her first playgroup. She too has food allergies, but thankfully not as severe. She loved it. As always they had morning tea and we stayed for that, just to see their routine. Ordinarily in such situations, we would leave before the food came out, or immediately after. But, Bianca leapt straight for the water table where other kids had started playing with food on their hands, which swiftly contaminated the water. Consequently, she ended up with a few hives on her face. Needless to say, next week, they are adopting a new routine of washing their hands straight after eating – all on their own accord, before I had a chance to suggest it myself. It is such a treat to come across people willing to understand, and be flexible, to keep our kids safe.

Hooray!!

Preschool switch eve

Well, it is the night before Declan starts at his “old” kindy, this time for preschool. I can’t believe how comfortable I am feeling. Of course, I always have the issue of wondering if his teachers are going to be as vigilent as we are, considering he is just one child out of 25. I don’t think that will ever change. But, after the dramas of trying a new preschool, with different teachers, we really appreciate how great it was last year. It really has given us perspective.

The teachers understand the importance of keeping the offending allergens away from him, and because milk is the main concern for us, it is no easy feat. They also care enough about him as an individual to not want him to come to any harm. How delightful. People like this should be treated with the respect they deserve. I always made it a priority to show them, and tell them how grateful I was that he reached little milestones, safely, throughout the year- first day, first week completed, first term completed.

Declan formed a really close bond last year, with his teachers, and is really excited to be going back. He felt really alienated over these last few weeks, and it was starting to knock his confidence a little. I think kids who have to deal with this need every bit of confidence they can muster. Fortunately, we know (now) he is in a good environment for emotional growth and development.

Wow! How good does it feel to be in a positive frame of mind? It sure beats the lows of the last few weeks. As I always do – touch wood.

Until next time,
Mel