Thursday, May 8, 2008

Allergies...((sigh))...

I got an email this morning from a friend who "runs" our moppets program that is the childrens portion of our Mothers of Preschoolers program. Yesterday morning we had a steering committee breakfast to celebrate our year-end in MOPS. We left the children at the church with wonderful caregivers while we went for a child-free meal and fellowship! While eating my carefree breakfast, Nate got hold of someone else's snack...and wouldn't you know, it "could contain traces of peanuts" This scared the workers...but Nate was unscathed with no reaction whatsoever. The following is my reply to Robin's email of concern and asking for advice about how to go forward with kids with allergies in mind for moppets next year. Robin also has been in charge of the children's portion of our local CBS (community Bible study) and she shared with me that it's CBS's national policy to only serve crackers (saltines or graham) with water to kids attending CBS. So, here's my response...
You know...I haven't thought much more about the snack...praised the Lord and moved on ; )

Thank you for being thoughtful on the subject! I think in particular, his age/developmental stage is difficult...he's going to pick up whatever's available. We are already teaching him to say "no peanut for Nate, no egg for Nate"...and teaching not to ever touch food or other's sippy cups or anything on anyone else's plate but you know it'll be a while before he really gets it.
Theoretically if he drank from a cup/touched a plate that has an allergen anywhere on it, he could have a reaction from cross contamination. If someone is serving a mixture of something "safe" with something that's not...I don't allow him to have anything because I don't know for sure if they touched the peanut butter crackers before they touched the goldfish....again, cross contamination could have occurred. The knife used to make a PB&J sandwich for anyone at our house always gets dipped in the jelly first....ALWAYS or the jelly gets contaminated and has to be thrown out.

The two most common attitudes I see in regards to his allergies are folks who are afraid to feed him anything...and folks who think that anything is okay as long as it's not an actual peanut or an egg. I fell into the same category before being educated. It was hard and overwhelming at first, but AFTER lots of label reading, we've found things that work for him...I've got it down to a science including even the particular brand names he can have. Rold Gold pretzels are great (for now) but not Snyder's and definitely not generic.

With the increasing number of kids with allergies...it's hard for groups where kids gather to come up with a solution. Even schools are battling what to do...peanut butter free areas in the cafeteria vs. peanut butter free period. On allergy websites with forums there are just as many moms w/kids with multiple allergies deciding to homeschool for safety as there are moms who are angry that they can no longer pack a cheap but good source of protein PB&J sandwich for their own (sometimes picky-won't-eat-anything-else-if-they-are-starving) kids' lunch box.

Sometimes I feel like the food police! When a mom got out a snack for another child yesterday morning...it was a hodge podge of stuff that I immediately knew was a potential problem....it's a hard battle..."you can't feed your child cause it might kill mine..." and I had planned to bring a snack that was safe for Nate, and left home without it. He did have a serving of Cheetos in his bag...I told him and more importantly had told Emily. But, the key is not just bringing a snack for him, but bringing enough for everyone so that he's not got the potential of grabbing someone else's food. Unfortunately...I haven't found a "animal cracker/cookie" yet that is safe. He can never eat anything from a bakery.

So to address your ultimate question, here are some safe things for a kid with a peanut/egg allergy to suggest for next year and it's imperitive to remember that brand names are very important!
Peppridge Farm Goldfish are safe (unless you've got a child with milk allergy...Nate's is mild enough he can tolerate these)
Cheese-itz (milk would be an issue)
Keebler Graham Crackers and their new "bees" are safe (wheat allergy would be only problem)
Teddy Grahams in all their shapes/sizes (they've done some superhero shapes etc) are safe (again wheat allergy...)
Malt-o-meal Tootie Fruitie cereal or Fruit Loops or Apple Cinnamon O's
Cheerios
Juice/Fruit/cheese is never a problem for a kid with a peanut or egg allergy...so I tell everyone who cares for Nate, when in doubt go with natural foods vs. processed. Just not very practical as it's hard to serve these things in a group setting and storing them for later wouldn't be possible.

Another thought to consider: might be prudent to only allow moms w/kids w/multiple allergies (wheat, soy, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs...the biggies) to pack their own snacks...anything they bring would be safe for anyone.

Soo...the good news is...God is protecting him. When I first found out about his allergies, a friend from our church with an older son who experiences almost the identical allergies called me and let me know she was an available resource to me. What a blessing, an encouragement that she had kept him alive to the ripe age of 11...there was hope for me! My first question was "How do you do it? How do you keep him safe?" Her answer, which is burned in my brain, "I pray every single day for God's protection".
That's the ultimate message for me, I can't keep him safe 100% of the time, I cannot control his environment or the things in it 100% of the time. God's plan for him doesn't include a bubble or coccoon, much to my dismay. As much as I love my children and want only the best for them, I cannot keep them away from all people with harmful intentions, the world with all it's un-Christ-like messages, poor choices, speeding cars, drunk drivers, bullies, planes that crash, the risk of loving someone completely, failure, drugs, alcohol, rock-and-roll (haha)...ultimately I cannot keep sin or the consequences of it (which includes sickness and death) from them... I am not in control...but God is and his plan for Nate and our family included his having allergies and a part of that includes being a support and encouragement to other Moms who are facing this same issue.


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