Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's A Bit Inconvenient For Us Too

I read this article in Newsweek online this morning - click here to read it.

The article itself didn't alarm me. I thought it was a heartfelt first-person account of a Mom learning that her child has a potentially life-threatening allergy and exploring how it feels to live that in the real world.

No what alarmed me, nay, made me literally sick with fear, complete with sweaty hands, nausea and dizzy head, were the comments that followed it. I find it hard to believe that so many people, some of them parents themselves, can take a blithe and callous approach to someone else's child's risk of death.

Because they find it inconvenient to not send peanut butter and jelly to school. Because they don't want to have to choose a nut-free treat to send to school. Because by GOD it's their RIGHT to send an Almond Joy candy bar to all the children in little Billy's class on Halloween. And peanuts on an airplane are practically an institution. For someone to tell me I cannot have my little plastic bag containing 8 peanuts is just un-American!

Did I mention Jamie is allergic to nuts?

When most people hear the word allergy they think of Claritin commercials. You know, itchy watery eyes, sneezing. Yeah it's miserable but hell it's not like you'll DIE from it.

Jamie can die from eating a nut. He can die from eating a piece of a nut. He can die if someone stored nuts in a container and then later used it to store chocolate chips and he eats one of those cross-contaminated chocolate chips.

I have heard of cases where people can have a life threatening reaction to someone eating nuts in the same room. We have not had this happen to us luckily, but if someone tells me their child can die from it I will believe them.

Because I have watched an anaphylactic reaction firsthand in my own precious child.

Anaphylaxis. Now THERE is a big scary word. When you say allergy nobody takes you seriously, so maybe we need to change the term "peanut/tree nut allergy" (or whatever food it is you or your child is allergic to) to "My child has ANAPHYLAXIS to nuts." Maybe it would make people take it seriously. Or at least not equate it with hay fever.

For the educated individual that stated that my child is far more likely to die from a swimming pool and that we "paranoid" parents don't demand everyone fills in their swimming pool - I would like to point out that while yes, statistically more children die every year in swimming pool drownings than they do from allergic reactions to food, nobody EVER throws a swimming pool in front of my child unexpectedly.

My child can unexpectedly, and probably will, encounter a tree nut in his food. That's right. It's not an if, it's a when. And it's even possible that I will do it myself. I can read every label for ingredients but I can never ever know with absolute certainty that I can trust food manufacturers every single time. Hell we can't even keep salmonella from our tomatoes and e. coli from our spinach and hepatitis from our green onions.

Who's gonna get excited if a factory worker drops a cashew or two in that cookie mix?

Anyone who may still think I am exaggerating, let me try and give you a first hand account of what I watched my son go through upon eating a bite, one bite, of a 1 inch big piece of chocolate containing one cashew.

After 5 minutes he told me he didn't feel so good. His father took him up to lie down, but he was so obviously distressed and unwell, after 5 minutes he brought him downstairs. By this time he was starting to drool and just looked sick. I'd never actually seen someone turn grey before, but Jamie was. And seconds later I noticed hives popping up on his forehead. Upon calling the pediatrician we were told to give him a teaspoon of Benadryl (which I later found out will do nothing, nada, zip to reverse an anaphylactic reaction) and call an ambulance, but he couldn't swallow the Benadryl because his throat and mouth had already begun to swell shut. In the 10 excruciatingly long minutes it took for the ambulance to arrive, he began to vomit everywhere, choking and gasping, his eyes swelled shut and his face assumed grotesque proportions.

Twenty minutes total.

And next time (and allergists assure me there will be a next time) it will happen faster and be more severe.

Now tell me you can watch that and still insist your child needs his peanut and nut containing candies, cookies and snacks at school. And you go ahead and whine to me about how terribly inconvenienced you feel about making your child a ham sandwich as opposed to peanut butter and jelly.

Just don't expect me to listen.

For more information on food allergies please visit and support:


Kelly said...

knowing how bad Jamie's allergy can be and knowing how bad my mom's allergies get with an asthma reaction, I can assure you that I'm not one to scream about my child's right to eat nuts in front of another child. Seriously.. there are many other foods out there. JP can have PB at HOME. I would also take care with treats sent to school. Personally I don't think it's a big issue to take 2 seconds when you KNOW a child has an absolute severe reaction to a food allergy. My 'inconvenience' on having to read a label or decide between purchases has NOTHING on your 'inconvenience' of praying for the ambulance to arrive quickly and praying that the medications take effect in time for Jamie.

The Burkes said...

I have heard that they are starting to require public schools and daycares to remain nut free for just that reason! Even food cooked in peanut oil can be deadly.

BrensMama said...

Our daycare won't allow any treats to be brought in with tree nuts or peanuts. I never before thought twice about a PB sandwich for Bren when he goes to school, but I will remember not to send him with one now.

I remember a story a while back about a girl who had died because her boyfriend ate a PB sandwich for lunch and had kissed her sometime in the afternoon.

Sure, PB is easy to prepare, but it's not worth another child's trauma.

Thank you for your post!