Monthly Archives: February 2015

What your kid’s treat-free Valentine’s Day means to me

IMG_3985We feel so lucky that Bubba attends an extremely supportive preschool. Before Bubba, they were not nut-free, families sent in birthday treats to school, most holidays involved food, and the school spring fair included a bake sale. They have evolved into a very allergy-aware school with a number of polices that help keep Bubba (and her many food allergic classmates) safe. The school is now nut-free and no outside treats are allowed. Including on Valentine’s Day.

I’m not sure non-allergy families really understand the positive impact of removing the traditional candy-filled valentines from the classroom. So I thought I’d share.

I would probably keep Bubba home from school on Valentine’s Day if treats were permitted. There is no way I could pretend the day would not involve extreme risk. What would people send in? Would someone forget the no-nut policy? Even if they didn’t, surely some of the treats would be unsafe. Bubba is allergic to milk, eggs, and numerous other foods besides nuts. What if kids started eating the treats in the classroom? Could my three-year-old really be expected to turn down candy out of sight of her parents? What if she snuck something? All it would take is one bite. Best case scenario, my kid would vomit, struggle to breathe, get a shot of epinephrine, have to go to the hospital, and strike fear into her parents’ hearts, her teachers’ hearts, and scare all her tiny classmates. BEST case scenario.

But let’s pretend I was feeling *lucky* and was somehow confident that my kid would not ingest a single bite of candy while at school. That kind of super-human willpower I must confess is something I do not possess as a grown woman (sugar = kryptonite). But let’s pretend.

So my daughter would exchange sweet colorful candy-filled valentines with all her favorite friends. She would know that all the food they gave her could make her very very sick. (That’s the only way this pretend game works – she has to know the danger in order to not eat the candy) Why would they do that? How do I explain that to a preschooler? She would come home and I would have to take away all the treats and valentines she got. From her friends. Would I eat them? Would her sister? Would I throw them out? Is there a scenario here that is not sad?

My kid has years ahead of her to learn that the world is not always fair. For her to learn that she will carry her own unique burdens in this life as we all do. As she gets older she can be trusted to turn down unsafe foods. And will know that we’ll always make something equally yummy for her.

But for now, especially when she is so young, I am so grateful that the lesson she is learning this Valentine’s Day is that those around her make sacrifices to keep everyone safe. To keep everyone included. Thank you, non-allergy families, for adjusting to this new reality with us. For trying your best to be understanding. And for sharing the love this Valentine’s Day.

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Book Review: Patty’s Secret

Written by Leneille Moon

Patty’s Secret: A Tale About Living with Food Allergies
is the story of a pig who is nervous to start school and tell others about her food allergies. It highlights some of the anxieties and fears children with food allergies have – how to tell others, how to be around kids eating their allergens, and how to turn down an unsafe snack or treat. Tough stuff for our little ones! The book takes a slightly more serious tone than other allergy books. When Patty knowingly takes a bite of an unsafe snack, she suffers an allergic reaction. Patty’s teacher administers her Epi-Pen and she feels better. The author leaves out the next crucial step in appropriate medical care – a trip to the hospital. However, as long as you discuss the importance of this with caregivers and your child, I think this omission is okay. The author used that post-reaction moment for Patty to be able to hear from her friends that they would not have laughed at her allergies. I think the broader message of the book – the importance of telling others about your allergies – is an important one. Patty’s Secret would be a great book for a food allergic child to share with her class. It could speak ‘for’ her, help share some of her silent fears, and open the dialogue with classmates about acceptance.

I think the book would pair greatly with FARE’s Be A Pal program which helps teach students how to keep their food allergic friends safe. Print a free Be A Pal poster here and include it with a Patty’s Secret book donation to your child’s school.

Latest Skin Testing

I’ve posted about the basics of allergy testing – why you should test, the various tests available, and their limitations. We first tested Bubba via skin prick around 6-months-old. She’s had around six skin prick tests since then, usually to try to determine if a ‘spicy mouth’ reaction to a food was an allergic reaction or just a benign toddler ‘thing’ to a strong flavor or distasteful new food. Other times it was to determine if she was allergic to other similar foods. For example, after Bubba reacted violently to sesame seeds we decide to test for a few other seeds before introducing them to her.

Before. So Chill.

Before. So Chill.

Today we tested Bubba for some of her known allergens, either because they hadn’t been skin tested in years, or because they had only been tested via blood. Also, we tested for a few unlikely outliers for the reasons described above. Allergy testing is a necessary evil. But I can tell you there are better ways to spend an afternoon.

Bubba was a champ. At least compared to me who needed to cry to Hubs about it at the end of the day (whilst drinking a glass of chardonnay). She was tested for 22 foods plus 2 controls. So 24 pricks. On her tiny. Little. Back. She laid on her belly. I had a movie playing on the iPad. I pressed my face into hers and held her arms. I’m not sure I needed to. Bubba laid still. She didn’t thrash. But she did. Scream. Her. Bloody. Heart. Out. I almost wished she had fought. Because her bravery just breaks my heart more.

So I am drinking chardonnay. Because it is very hard to separate yourself as a Mama from your Littles when they are in pain.

Tree nuts upper left, peanut mid-back, milk barely noticeable upper-right.

Tree nuts upper left, peanut mid-back, milk barely noticeable upper-right.

This hurts me to look at.

This hurts me to look at.

While we waited for Bubba’s skin to react she watched her movie, hollered about being SO SCRATCHY I NEED TO TEAR MY SKIN OFF, and I blowed on her skin and murmured at her. Mind you Bubba is fully over it now. I’m pretty sure she was over it by the time we were back in the car and she was eating her chocolate lollipop. But I am still trying to sort through the results. She tested Class IV (the highest) for peanut, cashew, hazelnut, pistachio, walnut, sesame seed, crab, clam, milk, and kiwi. She tested Class II for pecan, shrimp, oyster, scallops, lobster, and pineapple. Negative for celery, fennel, anise, and coriander (paranoid allergy-mom seed-suspicions). I don’t feel like there should be any shockers here, but I was a bit shaken nonetheless. In particular because Bubba has had anaphylactic reactions to milk multiple times and her milk wheal (hive) was barely noticeable next to her tree nut and peanut wheals. Bubba has never been exposed to tree nuts or peanuts. So I guess I came out of testing more scared for the future.

*It is important to note that skin prick testing has a low false negative, but high false positive results. It also provides no predictive ability on the likelihood of anaphylaxis.

Product Profile – Twigtale Custom (Allergy) Book

Twigtale is a company specializing in personalized books for children to help them with transitions, improve their sense of identity, cope with loss, or understand something about themselves. Like allergies! How cool, right?

Twig Tale Allergy Book

Twig Tale Allergy Book

There are tons of pre-scripted books. You simply personalize the book by adding your child’s name, pictures, and relevant details. The food allergy book is just the right mix of education and fun.

If you utilize one of the pre-formatted books, the language is carefully crafted, sweet, perfectly child-appropriate and makes completing a book take all of 30 minutes. Unless of course your digital pictures are a sea of thousands of unorganized pictures (ahem), in which case it could take a few more minutes.

For Bubba, the language of the allergy book didn’t quite fit her unique profile (read – way too many allergies). I emailed Twig Tale customer service to ask what I could do and got a phone call that night. They were so sweet! We decided one of the blank templates would be our best bet. I simply copied most of the allergy book language but tweaked it as appropriate. Bubba loves her book. It shares so many of the special things about her, but also helps her understand what we need to do to keep her safe. We included a couple pictures of her with hives, of her epinephrine, and of unsafe foods. It can be complicated to teach a young child about all the different variations of unsafe foods. The most important thing, at this age, is for Bubba to know that only Mommy and Daddy know what foods are safe. But we feel that it’s important for her to start learning what all different kinds of unsafe foods look like. Most of the rest of the pictures are just adorable, silly, Bubba-being-Bubba pictures. Because it’s also important for her to know her allergies are just one special thing about her.

The books are $20 with another $5.50 in shipping costs. BUT there is a 15% off special through 2/15/15. Code: HEART15.

Product Profile – SunButter On-The-Go

While many allergy families are grateful for the increasing number of schools that are nut-free, it can be frustrating for non-allergy families to adjust. What is safe to bring to school these days? Peanut butter has long been loved for it’s convenience, affordability, and kid-friendly flavor. May I be so bold as to say SunButter, especially with it’s new travel-friendly packaging might just fit the bill? We love it and I know lots of non-allergic kids who do too. It’s peanut, tree-nut, dairy, egg, sesame and gluten free. Yippeee!