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Thursday, December 20, 2012

A little rant about food allergies

*Rant warning. Sleep-deprived, crabby Mommy rant warning. Not directed at anyone in particular, just EVERYONE in general. I'm really crabby today.*
Food allergies are not a joke. They are not a matter of preferential dietary restriction and they are not an attempt to get attention. If someone tells you they or their child are allergic to something, THEY MEAN IT. If they tell you they are allergic to it, THEY ARE ALLERGIC TO IT. That means they can't eat it, can't eat anything that has that ingredient or its derivatives in it, can't eat anything that has touched that food, and probably shouldn't even eat off of a surface that has had that food on it unless it has been thoroughly cleaned. It does not MATTER what, if any, previous reactions they've had to that food. It does not MATTER if they've never had an anaphylactic reaction. It's really not even your business if they have or have not had a serious reaction to that food and the parent does not need to justify to you why you need to follow their instructions about food allergy safety with their child. The fact of the matter is that at any given point, they COULD have a serious reaction.

Even "mild" reactions can be extremely unpleasant for the person. Think of it this way. Remember the last time you got a mosquito bite and how much it itched and how annoying it was? Or the last time you got a stomach virus and couldn't stop vomiting or had painful stomach cramps and diarrhea and how miserable that felt? THOSE are symptoms of allergic reactions for some people. Itchy rashes, eczema, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme gassiness, sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, hives, and swelling are all potential symptoms of allergic reactions to foods, not to mention airway constriction, heart rate depression, and organ failure. If you had a bad cold and your child didn't, would you wipe your nose and then use the same Kleenex to wipe your child's nose? Of course not, because you KNOW they will probably get sick. When you don't take a child's food allergies seriously, you are willingly subjecting them to any or all of those miserable symptoms, and possibly even putting them at risk for their FIRST serious reaction. So who CARES if the child does not have an anaphylactic reaction to something, if they have an allergy to a food, DON'T EXPOSE THEM TO IT. You do NOT want to watch a small child have an anaphylactic reaction and be hauled off to the hospital in an ambulance (or worse) because you didn't take their parents seriously when they told you about their child's allergies.
If you do not know what to look for, you can do a quick YouTube search and find all kinds of horrifying videos of people having anaphylactic reactions. This video explains the physiology of anaphylactic reactions. It's worth the 3 minutes.

*deep breath* I have had a frustrating week. There are many contributing factors, but today, the lack of acknowledgement of Raya's food allergies is at the top of that list. Having the home health company screw up our order again is coming in a close 2nd. Last time I ordered 3 Bard leg bags, they sent 3 pairs of diabetic socks. This time, instead of 3 Bard leg bags, they sent 20 "Open Urethral Trays With Red Rubber Catheter". I can't even comment anymore on that because "ridiculous" just doesn't even begin to describe it. I will admit that I laughed when I opened the box they sent last month and found socks in it instead of catheter bags, but it's not funny anymore. They also delivered her a different pump on Monday but neglected to call first to make sure I would be home to sign for it, so my friend who was babysitting had to sign for it and didn't know what to look for before accepting the pump. The one they brought had a COMPLETELY dead battery, which screwed up her feed schedule for the rest of the night because it had literally no battery charge and had to be plugged in, and you can't tether a 3 year old to the wall for 2 hours. Although at times I'd like to... kidding. sort of. 

But yeah, back to the food allergy thing. My rant is not directed at anyone in particular, but I just feel like food allergies in general are not taken as seriously as they should be. Unfortunately it often seems to be those who are close to the child who don't realize the importance of being careful. Heck, I will admit that I've made food-related mistakes with both of my kids who have food allergies. I've heard way too many stories from friends about their kids going to school and being given foods they're allergic to to play with as part of classroom activities, or parents not being made aware of the foods that their child is exposed to in the classroom (daily or for special occasions), or just plain not listening when the parent warns them about food allergies. This is simply not okay. Children, especially young children, do not usually comprehend their own food allergies. Even if a child knows he or she is allergic to something, they may not know that the thing they're allergic to is in the food being offered to them. A lot of kids actually CRAVE what they're allergic to and do not comprehend what will happen to them if they eat it. Exposure goes beyond simply eating the allergen. Some people have allergies so severe that airborne particles of that allergen can trigger severe reactions. Cross-contamination of toys or other surfaces can pose serious risks to those with severe allergies. Adults have a responsibility to protect children from food allergies, especially when they are in a position of authority over that child, whether it is babysitter, respite provider, school teacher, church teacher, or even just a gathering of family or friends where food is involved. If you know you have a nephew or niece that's allergic to nuts and you're in charge of providing the dessert, make something without nuts. If you're the preschool teacher and you want to do a fine motor activity, don't let the kid with celiac disease put Froot Loops on a string or let them play with Play-Doh. (yes, Play-Doh has gluten in it.) Give them something that doesn't have what they're allergic to in it or ask their parent to provide something, and scrub the heck out of the table and everybody's hands when they're done so they don't react to traces of the food on the table later. If you're not sure about something, ASK! As a parent, I do not expect the entire world to conform to my child's individual needs. However, I DO expect that at the very least, the environments he or she is compelled to be in are made safe for him/her, even if it means that others in those small environments have to make small sacrifices in order to ensure that savety. Understand that just because an individual has never had an anaphylactic reaction does not mean that the next exposure will not trigger one, so just don't risk it. This extends to other food-related conditions as well, such as celiac disease and eosinophilic disorders. Both are autoimmune diseases in which exposure to triggers will cause pain and suffering and neither should be taken lightly. Watch this video and you'll get it.

And if that doesn't do it for you, watch this story about a 7 year old boy who almost died because someone did not honor the "peanut-free classroom" rule in his class and sent in a snack that was not nut-free.

If someone tells you their child is allergic to something, BELIEVE THEM. Honor their requests regarding safety around food. Don't knowingly allow their child to be exposed to known food allergens and don't be complacent about checking ingredients. As the second video said, complacency can kill.


  1. Play dough also has milk in it (cream of tarter and some Crayola products like colored pencils crayons ect have soy nuts and other allergins in them. I just have to say that this is exactly how I feel with Blakes allergies. I try not to snap at people but its like they dont get it and its frustrating bc Blake he will eat anything and everything and the puke and nasty diapers that follow only phase him in the moment and some people don't get that. With an EoE kid you dont always see the results for days either and by then the parents are the only ones that see it. P.s. I'm SO TEMPTED to copy this rant and send it to a few choice people and then sign my name to it! Good thing i feel nice today.

    1. I once had someone tell me that I really wasn't allergic to cashews, and that she would give me some on the sly just to see. Made me mad, and it scared me.

  2. Cream of tartar is not milk related -- it is actually a winemaking byproduct. Of course, anything can be cross-contaminated with other things, but it's not inherently a dairy product. (My kid is severely reactive to dairy...among other things Cream of tartar is not a problem, either for our doc (who approved it as dairy free) or in real life (he tolerates it).)

    People scare me. I've heard a LOT of bad stories. I've read a lot of "we survived anaphylaxis" stories. People who don't take it seriously deserved to be beaten with (gluten-free) noodles until they do.

    My sanity saver -- Kids with Food Allergies Foundation. The parents there get it, because they live it.


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