Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t (how allergies shape our family)

Even though I started our home school year in mid-July (which now seems like an ETERNITY ago), I found myself drawn to an article on the Mom’s Homeroom website entitled “10 Things Your Child’s Teacher Needs to Know.”  Since I am my child’s teacher and I talk to myself all of the time, the article seemed appropriate.

But on a serious note, one of the items on the list included medical conditions and allergies and the importance of informing a teacher or any care giver about any possible problems that might arise.  Skin issues and allergies are a large part of the reason why I home school my son.  But my heart goes out to the parent who isn’t called to home school, or financially can’t swing it because of work, and yet still has to entrust her child to someone else 8 hours a day.

Last week I came across an online discussion regarding an uproar when one school district banned peanut items from the school property.  I could not believe how many parents were up in arms about their rights being infringed upon by a very small minority of parents who have children with peanut allergies.

And in all honesty, a number of years ago, I might have done some significant eye rolling myself, as my first born is a huge fan of peanut butter, and when it was difficult to get most other proteins into her, I knew I could always count on peanut butter.  I might have felt put off if someone told me that I couldn’t pack a peanut butter sandwich in her lunch.

But then my second child came along, and she developed a mild nut allergy.  But since she can sense if a nut is within 10 feet, she steers clear of anything nut related.  And as I said, her allergy is simply an inconvenience, not life threatening.

But then I had the third child.  Jensen suffers from severe atopic dermatitis which can be set off by environment, pet dander, dust mites, and food allergies (which include fish and nuts).  And as I’ve recently discovered, his allergy to nuts is on the severe side.

He’s never ingested a peanut, to my knowledge, but we’ve noticed that simply being around peanut butter will send him into a full blown atopic dermatitis flare up.  We are now extremely cautious about peanut butter in the house, and have had to make it known to Sunday School teachers and the like that he cannot be around peanuts.

On Saturday we attended a family party.  Jensen had been eating some (plain) crackers and I noticed that his lip was beginning to swell considerably.  I searched the snack table, read ingredients on the boxes, and came up with a hypothesis that he had selected one of the crackers from a plate that also contained a cheese ball which was covered in pecans.

So, he didn’t eat the actual nut, his cracker simply was close to it or may have touched it.

I keep Benadryl in my purse at all times, and I quickly gave him 2 tablets.  Then I stood and watched him closely, one hand on my keys and one foot out the door ready to whisk him off to Urgent Care (where everyone knows our name).  After 10 minutes or so, the swelling began to recede and he was back to his usual party antics.

That served as a huge wake up call for me.  Quite a while ago, the staff at Urgent Care issued us a prescription for an epi-pen which we didn’t fill.  I never considered his allergies to be severe.  Until Saturday.  Now I will be filling the prescription on Monday, and I will always be prepared.

(Disclaimer:  This is not me and my son. This woman has far too much patience to be me, and my son would have the pen pointed at his head.)

I think that unless you have a child who faces a potential life threatening allergy, it is difficult to see the world from their perspective.  Now I want to shake those people who are inconvenienced because they feel their rights are being infringed by a school district banning peanuts.

I have to be hyper-diligent about what my child eats when out of the safety of our home.  I have to also instill a sense of danger and fear in him that he cannot put anything in his mouth out in public without checking with me first.  I hate having to do that, but it could potentially save his life.

Now even on those days that I’m foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog, I have to remember that I’m grateful we’re able to home school.  And I hope to convey an urgency that we need to exercise tolerance and understanding for those families which must deal with life threatening medical conditions.

Even if it’s inconvenient.

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14 Responses to Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t (how allergies shape our family)

  • Very well written, says the woman ho is not ‘afraid of bees’, but is ‘allergic to the point of death’ around bees.

    It makes no sense (ask my own kids) unless it is happening to *you*.

    I will share this as a Must Read article. Thank you for using your words in such a great way today ☺

  • It’s been standard for a few years now here in Ontario, Canada, that no nut products are allowed in schools. Even those who were initially a bit snarly about it quickly adjusted. It really is a matter of life and death for some children, and people have accepted that. They don’t let anyone take poisonous snakes to school either. 🙂

  • Ah, the power of a nut… Not that I am suggesting that you are a nut, because if you are then I am one right along with you! Teaching our sweet boy to always stop at parties before taking something off the food plate was one of the best life skills I think we’ve ever taught him. And I feel for you. That moment when you realize the allergy is more severe than you at first thought? That is a scary moment. So, to sum up- as the parent of a boy child with a moderate nut allergy and atopic dermatitis, myself? AMEN! And yes, I meant to shout.

  • Definitely fill that epi-pen prescription today. It should be for a twin pack, which also (hopefully) contains a trainer so you can practice using an epi-pen. Hopefully Jensen won’t have a reaction again, but if he does, please consider going to the emergency room instead of Urgent Care. If he goes into anaphylactic shock, he will need more advanced care than an urgent care can provide.

    Also, you should know that an epi-pen wears off in about 15 minutes time, and at that point your child’s symptoms can be worse than when you injected him. The epi-pen was designed to buy you time to get to the hospital. So if you do ever need to use that epi-pen, make sure you then take your child to the ER. We have been living with life-threatening food allergies for 14 years (older son – peanut, younger son – dairy and egg) and it is one of the main reasons we homeschool too.

  • Keller has a level 5 peanut allergy, subject to severe risk of anaphylactic shock. We carry Epi-Pens in his backpack, my truck, and Karin’s car…basically everywhere we go. We had one huge scare a couple years ago at a neighbor’s New Years Eve party…I’ll spare you the agonizing details.

    It is a matter of life and death, and yes, it is hard to understand if you haven’t walked in those shoes…

  • My daughter is always frustrated with me. I refuse to send peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to school with her. Technically, our school district still allows peanut butter on their campuses. But I know there are children in our school with severe nut allergies. And I know the parents, too. I simply don’t think it necessary to endanger a child’s life needlessly when there are so many other food options for my children to pack. (and that included snack bars too. Which are hard to find without nuts!).

    Just because we don’t have severe, life threatening allergies, doesnt mean I can’t understand that other mom wanting to her child to be safe at school. I do understand, and chose to help her keep her child safe with MY choices and actions…living that Golden Rule.

  • I have 4 kids in school. This year was the first year one of them had a nut allergy in the classroom. It must not be too severe because the girl is allowed to eat in the lunchroom with other pbj sandwiches, she just sits at a different “nut free” table. If her friends have pb in their lunch they just sit at a different table. If they have a “nut free” lunch (including things produced in a factory which also produces tree/peanuts) they put a tag on their lunch box and can sit at the “nut free” table with the girl with allergies.

    I popped in to the classroom one day before school. On the table in the classroom labeled “NUT FREE ZONE” was a box of honey nut cheerios. The morning class had used them in a craft. I pointed to the box and said, “um, honey NUT cheerios?” The teacher said, “yeah, we used them in a craft…..OH NO!!!” and quickly read the ingredients (like honey NUT cheerios wouldn’t have nuts!) We wiped down the tables and chairs and moved the crafts into a neighboring classroom. No reaction from the allergic girl.

    Later that afternoon I was helping out with a cooking project down the hall. What were we making? Creamy peanut soup. I had to laugh at the irony of disinfecting one classroom from nuts while intentionally contaminating another!

    (And the soup was delicious! And the smells wafted down the hall. And blessedly the nut allergic girl was just fine with the traces in the air which really set everyone’s mind at ease because they didn’t know if her allergy was an airborne one or an ingestion one.)

  • I struggle with this issue on both sides. My son, who’s is 7, does not smell anything. It’s in turn makes him a very picky eater. Combine that with his lack of certain key hormones, and a skin condition that requires his body to use thousands of calories just maintain his skin, let alone his constant activity and you result in a boy who eats non stop, but only certain thing, but does not grow. He is always hungry, and one of the main things I use to get him full long enough to get through the school day is PB on his toast in the morning and PB sandwiches at lunch.
    My daughter, who is 5 and now in Kindergarten, is allergic to soy. Not life threating thankfully, just makes her very, very sick. (I dread the day she wants to start “trading” lunches) So I can only imagine how difficult it must be for someone who can’t be around an allergen at all. I can understand the policies and know why they are in place, but I find it frustrating to get notes home constantly about how hungry my son is and I should send in more for him to eat, (when they want him to eat it is beyond me, he doesn’t get much time for lunch)

  • I’m sorry that you live with this, too, and I really appreciate this post! Carry both Epis everywhere, teach him to ask you before eating ANYthing away from home, and talk to all of his Awana leaders, Sunday school teachers, and anyone else who may be in charge when you’re not there. Be really clear on when the Epi is warranted, that it cannot cause any harm even if used when it’s not needed (no need to fear the Epi!), how to follow up (an immediate trip to the ER in case of biphasic rxn!), and that Benedryl helps with minor rxns but DOES NOT prevent or stop anaphylaxis. Thanks for getting the word out!

  • I love your blog and I’ve been reading for a long time. But I could not remain silent and really just wanted to comment about this sentence: “But my heart goes out to the parent who isn’t called to home school, or financially can’t swing it because of work, and yet still has to entrust her child to someone else 8 hours a day.” I promise that you don’t need to feel sorry for any of us (working moms or no) who choose to send their children to public schools. The idea that we are being forced to “entrust” someone else to take care of our children is judgmental and not really true. My family chooses public school. We choose to send them to a place where they get an education from trained professionals, who enjoy their jobs and who have devoted their lives to the cause of educating other people’s families. We choose to let them be around people their own age, some of whom come from broken homes and who don’t always make good choices so that my children can learn to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the real world. I don’t want to judge you or anyone else for homeschooling — but please stop feeling sorry for those of us who don’t. We’re fine. And our kids are fine. And if sometimes they come home with some crazy influence they’ve learned from another child, well then we just take that opportunity to preach the Gospel to them.

    • I sent Rachel a personal email addressing this. I never ever want to stand in judgement about homeschooling, public schooling, or anything! I simply did not convey what was in my heart and chose the wrong words. I can absolutely see how that sounded when re-reading. I offer my most humblest apology if I offended anyone else!

  • I had a potential caterer laugh at me when I told her we wanted to avoid nuts in any foods at our wedding since we had three guests with severe allergies. Her response: “It’s only a few people out of over a hundred and we can’t make such-and-such without pecans.” Needless to say we didn’t use that caterer.

  • I agree that this is well written! I’m both a teacher of students with severe nut allergies, as well as a parent of a child with a severe peanut allergy. So, I can sit on both sides of the fence as it were. No matter what, living with any kind of life threatening allergy (or even one that greatly disturbs your life) is hard. I finally had to fess up to Grandmother that we just don’t visit her farm in Missouri any more because 3 days spent there with her indoor cat, and I’m wheezing for weeks and it weakens my immune system. She understood, but I could tell she was sad and a little put out. It’s just plain old hard.

  • Just a tip from a mom of food allergy kids… taking benadryl with a carbonated beverage helps to start it working sooner.

    Hopefully it won’t progress to anything more serious, but be aware that every exposure can be more pronounced. He will need to watch out for what “girlfriends” have eaten if he gets kissed, too.