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Starting grade one meant sorting through some details that weren’t an issue in kindergarten. Like eating lunch in the lunch room, navigating pizza days and making sure he’s safe on field trips.
It’s gone fairly well. The school administration has been very willing to work with me. Still, there have been a few bumps along the way. I charge ahead, trying to hit the right balance, trying to keep him safe, while managing my own anxiety, trying to make sure he feels included and making his life as normal as I can.
I spend a lot of time thinking about allergies; new recipes and ways to include him in things others take for granted. I try, try, try SO hard to work with the school in a productive and positive way; to present suggestions and solutions instead of simply voicing complaints. I read policies and take action rather than leave it all in someone else’s hand.
For example, I was feeling anxious about the lunch room. My son is allergic to dairy in all forms, eggs, tree nuts and bananas. He is, literally, surrounded by his allergens at lunch time. There are hundreds of kids in the lunchroom and four lunch supervisors. How would the lunch supervisors know what my boy is allergic to? How would they even remember that he is one of the allergy kids? Would they remember what to do if there was an emergency? How could we post his anaphylaxis plan during lunch (the gym is the lunch room)?
I came up with an allergy place mat. I emailed it to my local Staples, had it printed on ledger size paper (11 x 17) in colour, attached a copy of his Emergency Anaphylaxis Plan to the back of it, and had it laminated. It cost me less than $10.
The administration liked the idea so much they had me email them a copy so that they could make one for all the allergy kids.
See? Positive, right? Productive, right? That’s how I roll … or at least, that is my goal. (Sometimes my emotions and anxieties get in the way.)
Despite my efforts and the best intentions of the school, sometimes I feel like we fail my poor allergy boy. Like how a couple of weeks ago, every kid in the class – except my boy and another girl that’s allergic to dairy – got hot chocolate. My boy told me “Everyone had hot chocolate today.” On the inside I momentarily panic, I can feel the anxiety building inside me. “What did you have?” I ask calmly. “I had water” he tells me. And that, right there, is my heart breaking. “When we get home, can I have hot chocolate?” he asks me. “Yes, of course.” I say. Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.
A week later, I find out 5 minutes before it’s about to happen that the kids are going for a walk to some local shops as they learn about Diwali. They’re going to sample some samosas and treats. (Again: anxiety and fear creep up in me.) I try to be cool, “so, um … what about the allergy kids?” Never mind, they decide not to get the treats after all. And the allergy mum ruins the fun again.
I make phone calls, I send emails. I feel like I am begging … pleading: please, if I just knew ahead of time I could find something safe for him; a way for him to be included in the celebrations involving food – without cancelling everything.
At times this all weighs heavily on me. I get frustrated and discouraged. I just want to cry and stomp my feet and pull him out of school. But ultimately, who would suffer? My poor allergy boy.
Chin up. I tell myself. It’s all worth it. Of course it is. I do it all willingly. I would do all of it and more. What wouldn’t any parent do for the safety and happiness of their kids?
I hope that he never knows, though. The anxiety every time he tells me his doesn’t feel well or his ears are itchy (which, oddly enough, is fairly regularly). The frustration I feel when I run into roadblocks. The time spent reading, knowing allergy policies like the back of my hand; trying new recipes, testing new ingredients, searching the internet for safe recipes; talking to teachers and administration, working through the issues, smoothing over the bumps, making place mats. I hope he never knows how hard it is sometimes.
In a weird kind of way, his allergies have taught us many lessons and introduced us to different things. They are what led us to discover things like vegan orange cake (the BEST cake ever!), dairy-free ice cream cake, coconut milk (yummy, creamy coconut milk) and kettle corn.
Those pain-in-the-ass allergies are helping us teach our kids about acceptance, differences, compassion and responsibility.
The frustrating, anxiety-causing allergies are forcing me to work on my own fears of public speaking, my patience, my ability to work with people and making me tough it out when I just want to run away.
I hope, beyond hope, that my allergy boy grows up feeling normal, loved and included. That he embraces his allergies as a unique and special part of him. That he doesn’t think of his life in terms of things he missed. And I hope that he will one day know how important the lessons are that he helped us learn.
Click on the place mat image to download the word version and make your own. Feel free to share!
On Saturday, I went to Anaphylaxis Canada’s annual conference. I came away from it with some new and interesting information, freshly reminded of how serious allergic reactions can be. I fully planned on (and still am) blogging about the conference. I spent the first half of the day thinking about what I’d write on my blog. That conference blog post, however, was pushed aside so that I could write this one.
In a strange bit of irony, the second half of my day was spent administering an EpiPen for the first time in my life, and dealing with the aftermath of an anaphylactic reaction.
First and foremost, let me say that everything is fine. My number 3, five year old son, had an allergic reaction today. He is allergic to dairy, eggs, bananas and tree nuts. He is home now and for the most part, seems relatively unscathed.
The EpiPen did what it was supposed to do. I didn’t wait until he was in respiratory distress and he was conscious and aware of what was going on at all times. The situation was serious, but under control. Paramedics arrived fairly quickly and he was transported to hospital without any trouble.
I’m not even sure what he reacted to. I suspect that he somehow ingested the cow’s milk that his sister was drinking, but I’m not sure. I saved the packaging from everything that I could remember he’d eaten today. Tomorrow I will call all the companies to see if anything he’d eaten could have been cross-contaminated or if there could have possibly been some undeclared allergens present.
Here’s what happened: we were getting ready for lunch. I had it served on plates and we were about to eat. The kids had eaten some marshmallow candies a little earlier, plus they’d had some juice and other snacks. Number 3 first started complaining about his back being itchy. Any time he says he’s itchy, I take note. I checked over his back and didn’t see anything but the slightest bit of redness. I thought it was from him scratching.
He continued to complain of itchiness and I checked his back a few times – not much was there. I checked his mouth and tongue, and it all looked normal. I thought maybe he had some dry skin. After he continued to complain, I suggested we put some cream on his back. The only cream I could find was one scented with lavender essential oil. I worried that it might irritate his skin but it was all that I could find and the itchiness was starting to drive him crazy. He had also been wheezing and coughing a little and so I gave him some ventolin.
He started complaining of his ears being itchy and I started to think that something was going on. At this point his back was quite red and I thought the cream was irritating him. I thought if he had a bath, it might settle the itching down. I really started to think that something wasn’t right so I decided to give him Benadryl just in case. I figured it couldn’t hurt and I thought it might help with whatever was making his back so itchy.
He and Sister happily climbed into the tub and I rinsed his back and tummy to get all the cream off. As I was doing this, I noticed that hives were coming out on his back. And his back was bright red in areas that he couldn’t have possibly reached and scratched. Then he said his throat was itchy. It was at this point that I knew it was an allergic reaction and I knew that it was pretty serious.
Let me pause the story for a minute to tell you what was going through my head. I know that an anaphylactic reaction is a reaction that involves two or more body systems. Anaphylactic reactions are the ones that can be deadly. Once a life threatening allergic reaction starts, there is a point of no return. There is a point at which no amount of epinephrine, steroids, or any treatment can stop a reaction. The key with anaphylaxis is to administer an EpiPen as soon as there are signs of an anaphylactic reaction. When there are anaphylactic deaths, it is usually because an EpiPen was administered too late or not at all.
At the anaphylaxis conference on the weekend I listened to a speaker talk about a study in which severe anaphylactic reactions were studied. In all the cases where there was a death, the EpiPen had either not been administered, or had been administered more than 30 minutes after the onset of symptoms. Cases where people had severe reactions and survived, all had been given the EpiPen within 30 minutes of symptoms. Another thing discussed at the conference is how common it is for people to hesitate giving the EpiPen and other reasons that administration might be delayed.
One final thought that was going through my mind was this: Number 3 had had an anaphylactic reaction once before. He was about two and he’d eaten a handful of banana. He experienced wheezing, sneezing, vomiting and hives. He ended up being okay and it wasn’t until after the fact that we’d realized that it was an anaphylactic reaction and that we should have administered the EpiPen. Mr. FamilyNature and I said that if he ever had a reaction like that again, we would give the EpiPen, without a doubt. We knew that we’d dodged a bullet that day and we were not going to make the same mistake again.
So back to today, I called Mr. FN and told him what was happening. I blurted out that it was two body systems and that I was going to call 911. Mr. FN said he was on his way home. Now even at this point, after all this going through my head, and knowing that I should give the EpiPen, I hesitated. I called 911 first.
Naturally the 911 operator told me I had to give the EpiPen. She said, “Based on what you’ve told me, you have to give him the EpiPen NOW.” She was great; very calm and patient but her voice was firm. I tried to keep my composure as I ran to get an EpiPen out of my purse.
I told Number 3 that I had to give him the EpiPen. I was trying my very best to be calm and strong but I had tears in my eyes and I knew he could hear my voice cracking. He starting whimpering quietly and asked “is it going to hurt?” I told him that it would hurt for a minute but that he needed the medicine.
I put him in my lap and gave him the pen. He screamed. Sister screamed. I was trying to keep it together and keep everyone calm. I held him and rubbed his thigh and told him over and over again that I was sorry. He cried and cried.
After a few minutes the paramedics arrived. By this time the hives were going down (man, that EpiPen works fast!) and he and Sister had calmed down a bit. The paramedics were wonderful; they came in and assessed the situation quickly. He was a bit wheezy but was okay. He was still really scared, shivering (still naked with a towel wrapped around him from the bath) and his leg was sore from the EpiPen.
Mr. FN arrived home a few minutes later and he rode in the ambulance with Number 3 to the hospital.
At the hospital, he was assessed and then kept for about 5 hours. Everyone who talked to Mr. FN told him that we did the right thing. The EpiPen was the right thing to do.
They gave my little boy pediapred (a steroid) and a long-lasting antihistamine. He was released with a prescription for a 4 day course of pediapred and instructions to watch him carefully.
He’s in bed now. We’re all a little shaken, but we’re okay. Stay tuned for more on this and my thoughts on the Anaphylaxis Conference.
Special thanks to everyone who has called, emailed or facebooked me. Your thoughts and kind words mean a lot. xoxo
My three – almost four – year old started school this September. Son-S is allergic to dairy, eggs, bananas and tree nuts. The school takes his allergies very seriously; at the beginning of the school year we sat down to work out a plan for Son-S. Despite the fact that I made clear that I did not expect the school to ban all of Son-S’s allergens in the classroom, the school had decided to do so. In addition to his allergens there are several other ones in the class. Parents have been asked not to send any foods that contain the following: dairy, eggs, bananas, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, sesame, flaxseed, kiwi, chicken and bacon.
Part of me wants to run up to the school staff and give everyone a big squeezy hug for taking these allergies so seriously. It really is a crapshoot with schools it seems; some schools are very lax about allergies; sometimes they just don’t seem to get it. So, on the one hand I’m very grateful. On the other hand, I’m not sure this is the way to go. Here’s why I think food bans aren’t necessarily in the everyone’s best interests.
Bans can be Very Limiting
Take for example, my son’s class; the following foods have been banned: dairy, eggs, bananas, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, sesame, flaxseed, kiwi, chicken and bacon. That’s quite a list, isn’t it? It doesn’t leave much except fruits and vegetables and plain bread or crackers. Now I should point out, that this is just a 2 ½ hour program, so we’re just talking about a morning snack here but still, kids can be picky eaters so some families might find this tricky.
Food Bans are Difficult to Enforce
Food Bans are not an easy thing. How does one enforce a food ban? Will someone be checking kids’ snacks? How will anyone know if crackers contain dairy or eggs? How will anyone know if there are ground sesame seeds or flaxseed in bread? Reading labels and avoiding allergens is a challenge even for seasoned allergy parents – I know we’ve made mistakes before. I don’t know if it’s reasonable to expect all parents to be able to do this and there is no real way to enforce it. A reliable food ban is virtually impossible.
They Can Create a False Sense of Security
Food bans can lead to a false sense of security. Since all of the allergens are banned, people let their guards down; they think that they don’t have to worry about food allergies anymore. Wrong. As a parent of an anaphylactic kid, what I think is most important for people to know is how to recognize and treat an anaphylaxis emergency. I think these lose a sense of urgency when allergic foods are banned.
No Anaphylaxis/Allergy Organization Thinks Food Bans are a Good idea
Try to find one Ananphylaxis/Allergy Organization that supports food bans – you won’t be able to (and let me know if you do). I’ve never seen or heard of any organization that suggests or supports food bans. The Anaphylaxis Campaign sums it up nicely:
“Some schools choose to enforce ‘nut bans’, where it is forbidden for any pupil to bring the problem food to school. However, without wishing to undermine the good intentions of any school taking this approach, The Anaphylaxis Campaign believes there are several pitfalls in this approach. It would be impossible to provide an absolute nut-free guarantee so the danger is that allergic children may be led into a false sense of security. There is a strong case for arguing that food-allergic children will gain a better awareness of their allergies, and learn avoidance strategies, if they move in an environment where allergens may turn up unexpectedly.”
See what other organizations have to say:
- Anaphylaxis Canada
- Allergy/Asthma Information Association
- The Ausralasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy
- Allergy Safe Communities
- Allergy New Zealand
When Son-S was at Nursery School, they had the same approach – they banned all the allergens. There were at least a few parents who did not like this. I overheard once, and heard ‘through the grapevine’ about others who couldn’t wait for Son-S to ‘graduate’ from nursery school so that food could go back to “the way it was”. It is a really crappy feeling knowing that people can’t wait until your kid is gone so that they don’t have to deal with their allergies anymore.
Recognizing and Treating Anaphylaxis is Key
While prevention and avoidance strategies are very important, being able to recognize and treat an anaphylactic reaction are essential. Anaphylaxis is treatable and deaths are preventable. Nobody can guarantee an “allergen-free” environment therefore we must work to educate our communities so that in the event of an emergency action can be taken and lives can be saved.
Last week I took Son-S to the allergist. The allergist did a skin test for his usually allergens: dairy, eggs, bananas, walnuts, and pecans, plus she also tested for dust and some moulds. The following day I took Son-S to have blood drawn so that a CAP RAST allergy test could be done. He’s never had a CAP RAST test done so I’m very curious to see what his IgE levels are.
As far as Son-S’s egg allergy goes, he’s never had a severe reaction. He has tolerated a bit of egg in baked goods before but we thought that it might be causing some eczema so we had been avoiding it altogether. Since the chances of outgrowing an egg allergy are pretty good (our allergist told us that 80-90 % grow out of it) and he’s never had a severe reaction to egg, we’ve been told to slowly introduce egg into his diet.
Eggs in baked goods are the way to start introducing them because (a) one egg in a batch of cookies isn’t very much egg – not like having a fried egg and (b) because when an egg is cooked one of the two allergic components is considerably modified by heat such that it can be tolerated by some people.
So the day after Son-S had his skin test, the same day I took him for the blood test, I baked cookies with an egg. I made Peanut Butter cookies, much like the ones I tried to make here, but this time I used an egg (and the cookies turned out much better!). It is the recipe straight of the back of the Kraft Peanut Butter jar:
- 1 cup peanut butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 egg
Mix until well-blended. Roll into 24 balls, press down with a fork. Bake 15 minutes in oven preheated to 325° on an ungreased baking sheet.
I made a couple of small cookies and Son-S was dying to try them. He watched me make them so he knew there was an egg in them; which I realize now probably wasn’t the best idea. Anyway, he had a small cookie and seemed perfectly fine. He had another little piece of a cookie a little while later. He seemed fine.
Later that afternoon we went up to the hospital so that they could draw blood for the CAP RAST test. Just before we left Son-S started complaining of a sore tummy. Uh oh. I check him out all over. There were no hives, no rash, no redness, nothing. But he kept complaining about his tummy. The whole drive there the poor boy was whining and complaining about his sore tummy. I started to feel really bad…what was I thinking? Why did I give him so much? I should have waited for a day that we were going to be home all day. I should have given him just a tiny piece of cookie…maybe I shouldn’t have done it at all…oh, the guilt. At one point when we were in the van Son-S whined to me “I don’t ever want to eat that again!” That put me over the edge. I was bawling! “Oh honey, you don’t have to eat it anymore,” I cried. Oh, the guilt.
Son-S complained on and off about his tummy for the next few hours. He had the blood drawn and we went home.
The funny thing is, my tummy hadn’t been feeling all that well. It wasn’t that bad, it was subtle really. I was so wrapped up in keeping an eye on Son-S and the guilt I was feeling that I barely noticed. Later on that day Baby-M (who’d also had a cookie or two) had a really gross diaper – I’ll spare you the gory details but let’s just say it was out of the ordinary. Baby-M clearly had some tummy upset too.
And then I started thinking…hmmm. That’s a funny coincidence. Uuuh…wait a second. I wonder how old those eggs were. We rarely use eggs and I’d used the last egg in the carton, so I started thinking that they might have been in the fridge for a while. I went and dug out the empty egg carton from the recycling. The best before date stamped on the egg carton was May 25th! AAAK! No wonder! Later that day when my husband came home I told him the whole story. Not wanting to take my word for it he insisted on trying a cookie for himself. Sure enough, a short time later his tummy wasn’t feeling so well.
A couple of days later, with a fresh batch of eggs, I made the cookies again. Not surprisingly Son-S wouldn’t go near them. I don’t blame him at all. I guess we’ve scared him to death about his allergies. The poor kid.
I’ll have to find something else to sneak an egg into and try again.
Sabrina Shannon. Do you know who she is? I do. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t. Sometimes I wish that she was just a normal kid, living a normal life that nobody knows. Unfortunately she’s not; Sabrina Shannon is the girl for whom Sabrina’s Law, Bill 3, is named.
Sabrina Shannon died on September 30, 2003 at the age of 13 as a result of an allergic reaction to food. She went into anaphylactic shock and her brain was deprived of oxygen for too long. She died the day after she ate food in her high school cafeteria that, because of cross-contamination, had traces of dairy in it.
Sara Shannon, Sabrina’s mum, made a promise to her daughter that day. She promised that she would do whatever she could to prevent this from happening to another family. Sara has stayed true to her word. With the help and support of Sara Shannon, on May 16, 2005, Bill 3 was passed unanimously. The first of its kind in North America, Sabrina’s Law is an Act to help protect anaphylactic students. It requires schools to have an anaphylaxis plan which includes: strategies to reduce the risk of exposure to allergens, a communication plan for parents, staff and the community, regular anaphylaxis training for staff, an individual plan for each anaphylactic student and more. The law took effect January 1, 2006.
I am amazed and inspired by this story. Sara Shannon’s motivation and commitment to this cause is astounding. That in the face of such a heart wrenching tragedy, Sara worked to help other families is truly awesome.
Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that this is a topic that is close to my heart. Son-F grew out of peanut allergy and Son-S is allergic to dairy, eggs, bananas and tree nuts. As I prepared to register Son-S for School in September I was so grateful to Sara and Sabrina and all the others who helped Bill 3 pass into law. I felt so lucky to live in the province of Ontario where we have this law to protect anaphylactic children. It didn’t take long for those feelings to turn to frustration, anger, and shock.
It turns out that Bill 3, Sabrina’s Law, is only being applied half-heartedly at the school and Board that we belong to. It seems that the law – and yes, it is a law – is being misunderstood, misinterpreted or ignored.
After much discussion and much back and forth, the principal at my kids’ school is willing to do whatever can be done to make me happy, and to keep my son safe at school. For this I am very grateful. But the principal and school administration are doing it because they know it is important to me – not because they think they have to.
For those that have been wondering about my status updates on Twitter and Facebook this is what has been bothering me. This is what is keeping me up at night; this is what is eating me up inside; this is what I’ve been dreaming about. Not everyone will get it, not everyone will think it’s a big deal but for me, it is consuming. People have been telling me just to keep my head down; to be happy that my kid is getting what the law says he deserves and forget about everyone else. I just can’t do it.
The questions keeping me up at night are these: I am happy with what my kids’ school is doing to help keep my son safe at school…but what about all the other schools in this district that are not doing what they’re supposed to do? What about protecting those kids? What would Sara Shannon think if she knew that law she worked so hard to help enact, was not being followed? What would Sabrina think?
It is shameful; disrespectful to Sara’s efforts and an insult to Sabrina’s memory. I am not okay with this and I just can’t let it go.
I will contact the Board. I will ask questions. I will file a complaint. I will contact my MPP. I will do whatever I can to make sure that schools in my Board are compliant with Bill 3. I owe this to my anaphylactic son; I owe it to other kids with anaphylaxis; I owe it to Sara Shannon and most of all, I owe it to Sabrina.
When Son-F grew out of his peanut allergy (you can read about that here), the allergist told us that if we made sure he ate some form of peanut regularly, he’d be less likely to re-develop a peanut allergy. This has not been as easy as it sounds.
Son-F hates peanuts. It’s no surprise really; we scared him to death when he was allergic. It’s no wonder he wants to stay far away from peanuts. When the other kids are eating peanut butter, he doesn’t even want to sit beside them; he also won’t share a cup of water with them if they’ve been eating it. So let’s just say we haven’t been doing a good job of making sure Son-F is eating peanuts regularly.
I thought I’d bake some peanut butter cookies and see if Son-F would be interested. He will often eat baked goods with peanut butter (or when all else fails, he will eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup). I modified a recipe and came up with one for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. Sounds good, eh?
Well, licking the bowl was divine…chocolate and peanut butter, yum. The cookies looked perfect, right down to the fork marks. But alas, when I went to pick one up, it crumbled in my hands. Umm, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Crumblies anyone?
Two good things came out of this experiment: 1) We still got to eat the yummy crumblies, despite the big mess they made and 2) Son-F happily ate one and said, “These taste like peanut butter. I like them!” This in itself is a victory, and well worth my efforts. But as for the cookie recipe…it’s back to the drawing board.
*I forgot to add this important detail: due to allergies, I bake without dairy or egg. The reason the cookies are so crumby is because egg in a recipe acts as a binder (among other things). The challenge is to find a suitable binder that does not alter the taste significantly.
Food Allergy Awareness Week: May 5-8 in Canada, May 10-16 in the United States
Saturday is the last day of Allergy Awareness Week in the United States, which followed Allergy Awareness Week in Canada last week. This will be my final post for official Allergy Awareness this year (but certainly NOT my last post on allergies or awareness!). Just a few thoughts and some links to a handful of allergy sites/blogs. There are so many great ones out there; these are just a few of my favourites. These links will lead you to more. Thank you for reading.
As Allergy Awareness Week finishes up I find myself thinking – obsessing really – about allergies, as I go through the process of registering Son-S for school in September. My aim is balance; balance between being totally paranoid about my son’s allergies, and letting him live a normal life – I never want him to live life in a bubble. Balance between the ‘mama bear’ that is inside, who wants to come out roaring when schools and the like try to get in the way of keeping my child safe and the cool, calm, reasonable mother who is much more likely to get results. Balance when trying to explain the dangers of anaphylaxis to our friends and families but not wanting to scare them to death so much that they’re afraid to be around us. Balance between searching the playground compulsively looking for fishy crackers, and teaching and trusting that Son-S knows to stay away from said crackers. Balance between being a strong advocate and being an annoying zealot. Balance between reading, researching and making rational, informed decisions about Son-S and being totally consumed by the weight of it, frantically wondering if I’m making the right choices. Balance between being normal and being kooky.
For more information about Anaphylaxis:
- Anaphylaxis Canada
- Allergy Anaphylaxis Information Association
- The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network
- Allergic Living Magazine
- MedicAlert Canada
- Avoiding Milk Protein Blog
- Please Don’t Pass the Nuts
- Rational Jenn
- Allergy Moms
- Allergy Sense
- Gravity of Motion
Food Allergy Awareness Week: May 5-8 in Canada, May 10-16 in the United States
I’ve been thinking a lot about dairy lately. Before we knew that Son-S had any allergies we cut dairy out of our diet for a while. Along with wheat, we cut it out on a recommendation from our Naturopathic Doctor in the hopes of helping to calm down asthma and croup in our two oldest boys. It wasn’t so bad. We did all our grocery shopping at The Carrot Common and easily found alternatives. Before long though, we realized that we were spending a small fortune in groceries – WAY more than we used to. So, slowly but surely dairy and wheat crept back into our lives.
Not so long after that we learned Son-S had a dairy allergy. He is allergic to all dairy; cow, sheep, and goat – in any way, shape or form. So we got rid of dairy again, but not entirely. Right around the same time Son-O decided that he loves cow’s milk and just recently Son-F decided that he loves it too. I kind of wish they didn’t love it. Dairy has been on my mind a lot recently because I want to get it out of the house all together but it’s hard.
All of my cooking and baking is dairy-free but we still have it in our lives. I drink milk in my coffee and tea and no matter what other whitener I try it just doesn’t taste the same as milk. The kids want to drink milk and there are lots of good things in milk so it’s hard to say no when they’re begging for it. And cheese, everyone loves cheese. Butter…why oh why does butter taste so good? I love butter. I have an angel on one shoulder telling me not to eat it…and a devil on the other telling me to go ahead; unfortunately, the devil usually wins. I just can’t have butter in the house and not eat it, and I don’t think there is any way I’d ever convince my husband to go without it.
I used to love milk. If I have a sip and don’t think of anything else, I still like the taste of it but I never drink it. The thing is this: dairy gets on my nerves. It’s not until you try to cut down or cut it out completely that you realize how much dairy we as a society consume. When you can’t have it you realize how much we rely on dairy; how it’s in just about everything! It bugs me, why do we think that dairy is the be-all-end-all? And the question then becomes, what do you do if you can’t drink it…or if you don’t like it? What if you’re allergic? What if you’re vegan? Oh sure, there are other options; they’re just not promoted nearly as well.
Have you ever wondered how we humans started drinking cow’s milk? Why is the idea of human breast milk so gross to some, yet these same people turn around and have a nice big glass of milk with their dinner? When Salma Hayek breastfed another woman’s baby in Sierra Leone it was all over the news. There was a lot of praise for Salma but there were also lots of people squirming in their seats at the idea of breastfeeding someone other than your own child. Well people, here’s a newsflash: We not only drink milk from someone other than our own mothers, we drink the milk of another species! Think about it, what would you say if you heard the latest health craze was drinking dog’s milk? Kind of gross, eh? What about monkey milk, how would you feel about feeding that to your kids? No thanks, right? Yet we seem to have no problem with cow’s milk. Why is that?
This article, published recently in the National Post talks about how breastfeeding is “…is a subject that is clearly interesting to a limited audience-mostly the toothless under 12 months set.” It goes on to say that it’s “creepy” to be breastfeeding a toddler and that they have, “no reason to be breastfed.” How is it then that we can’t seem to live without cow’s milk? How did humans ever survive before we started consuming cow’s milk? How can people in other countries – where cow’s milk is not the norm – possibly survive?
If your kids don’t drink milk doctors, dieticians and public health often recommend chocolate milk. Am I the only one that thinks there is something wrong with this? My kids would probably eat every kind of vegetable known to man if I put chocolate sauce on them but I still don’t think it’s a good idea. Instead, why not promote the alternatives?
As I sit here drinking my coffee with milk, feeling like a hypocrite, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to get rid of it. Will I ever be able to just say no…to dairy? Maybe not, but it will never be the be-all-end-all for me, regardless of whether or not my son grows out of his dairy allergy. But hey, if you know of a great non-dairy coffee whitener, will you let me know?
Food Allergy Awareness Week: May 5-8 in Canada, May 10-16 in the United States
10 Things Children with Food Allergies Want You to Know
by Gina Clowes of www.allergymoms.com
1. I long to be included. I would like to look, act and eat like everyone else. I’d like to buy my lunch and sit wherever I want. I know I can’t, but I am so happy inside when someone cares enough to provide a safe potato chip, cookie or Popsicle for me. It’s nice when I can have something similar to what others are eating but I love it when I can eat the same thing as everyone else. Whenever it’s possible, please think to include me!
2. I’m scared I could die from my food allergies. I’ve heard my parents and teachers mention “life-threatening” food allergies and I remember having some reactions where I felt very sick and really scared. I could see how frightened my parents were too. Sometimes, I could use a little reassurance that I will be okay.
3. I feel like I’m the only one sometimes. If you have a support group or another way to arrange for me to meet other children who have food allergies, I would really like to know that I am not the only kid who has food allergies. Having another friend with food allergies in my classroom or at lunch time helps too.
4. I get confused when grown-ups offer me food. I know I’m supposed to be polite and listen to grown-ups, but my parents have told me I am only supposed to take food from them. When you offer me food or especially candy, I’d like to take it but I’m not sure about what I am supposed to do.
5. I get itchy spots sometimes when grown-ups kiss me after they’ve eaten something I’m allergic to. I get itchy spots when your dog licks me too. I’m not quite brave enough to tell you this so I’m hoping you will remember that if you have just eaten something that I’m allergic to, I may get hives if you kiss me soon afterward.
6. I’m embarrassed when people fuss over what I’m eating. I know I have to eat my own safe food, but it’s easier for me when I’m not singled out. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing when grown-ups ask lots of questions. I love to fit in more than anything.
7. I hear all adult conversations about my food allergies. My ears perk up when I hear grown-ups mention my name or food allergies, so don’t pity me or act terrified because then I get scared. Food allergies are just one part of me. Let me overhear you talk about all the other wonderful things about me!
8.Sometimes I’m sad about having food allergies. It’s hard to be the only kid in class not having a cupcake and eating something different from my box of “safe treats” especially when there are about 20 other birthdays in my class. I know it’s not the end of the world, but from my perspective, it’s tough at times.
9. I’m watching you—Mom and Dad! You may think that I’m too little to notice, but I see that you went back home to get my Epi-Pen® when you forgot it. I see that you read the ingredients on the Smarties every time. You are my role models and I am learning how to manage my food allergies from you!
10. I will do about as well as you do. My parents “can-do” attitude will help me cope with the challenges of living with allergies and ensure that food allergies don’t stop me from being everything I was meant to be!
Reprinted with the permission of Gina Clowes
Food Allergy Awareness Week: May 5-8 in Canada, May 10-16 in the United States
Son-F, my second child, was diagnosed with a peanut allergy when he was about 18 months old. When he was around four we learned, through a series of tests, that he was no longer allergic. He was one of the lucky ones, one of the 20-30% that grows out of a peanut allergy. I will never forget the moment we found out. We were at The Hospital for Sick Children’s allergy clinic and he was having the third and final test; a food challenge. Son-F was given peanut several times, spread out over a few hours. Each time the amount given was increased. He was then monitored closely for a reaction.
After he’d been given the final ‘dose’ of peanut we were sitting in the now-empty waiting room. Son-F was busying himself with some of the toys when a nurse came out to talk to me to give me the ‘official’ word. He was no longer allergic to peanuts. I sat there, momentarily overwhelmed, and took a few seconds to regain my composure. All I could say is, “It’s such a relief.” The nurse and I sat there for a minute; she patiently let me take it all in. Son-F, who I thought wasn’t really paying attention suddenly turned to the nurse and me and said, “Mummy, does this mean I’m not allergic to peanuts anymore?” and I said, “Yes.” He dropped whatever he was doing, ran across the room full tilt into my arms and gave me the biggest, squeeziest hug he’d ever given me.
After that we brought nuts back into the house. Peanut butter, almond butter, raw nuts, whatever we wanted! Nobody really complained when we didn’t have nuts in the house but we all realized how much we missed them once they were back again. Another bonus was that it gave us another protein option for Son-S, who at that time was allergic to dairy and eggs.
When Son-S was only a few months old we learned he was allergic to dairy and eggs. We were at a restaurant and he was in my lap. He’d picked up the spoon I’d used to stir the milk into my coffee and within minutes he had hives and redness all over his face and one of his eyes was swollen.
Before Son-S was two we learned that he was also allergic to banana. He had never been interested in eating banana until one morning he decided to devour half of one. Almost immediately he broke out in hives. They were on his face, his chest and his thighs. My husband sat with him and waited and watched to see what would happen next. After about 20 minutes the hives started to go down. This is when I came into the kitchen, having just woken up. Son-S was obviously still uncomfortable, clinging to Daddy for dear life. After another minute or two he threw up. Back out with the banana – all over his shirt and pants. We stripped him down. As we were taking off his shirt some of the vomit from his shirt rubbed off onto his head. His chest and legs were also damp where the vomit had soaked through. Anywhere the vomit touched he broke out in hives again; his head, chest and legs. It was like the reaction started all over again. Then his eyes started to water. His nose was running and he started sneezing. He was also wheezing. We sat there waiting, ready to give the EpiPen. After about another 20 minutes things started to settle down. Looking back, I know now that we should have given him the EpiPen. I don’t know why we didn’t. It scares me to death to think about it.
Near the end of last summer we were getting ready for back to school. Son-S goes to nursery school a few mornings a week so we needed to see the Allergist to have her fill out some forms. Son-S had had nuts many times before. Almonds are a common snack in our house, peanut butter a staple, and I know he’d had pecans before too, so I thought nothing of giving him some trail mix as a snack on the way to the Allergist. When we got out of the car I noticed some hives around his mouth. He started scratching the inside of his arm and the back of his neck. How ironic is that? We are at the door of the allergist and Son-S is having an allergic reaction! We went in and were in the waiting room. The hives on his face started to go down pretty quickly but his arm and neck were very itchy. Son-S was totally out of sorts. The smallest thing set him off and he’d start crying hysterically. This behaviour was out of character for him and so I can only assume it had to do with the allergic reaction.
The Allergist tested his allergies. In addition to dairy, eggs, and bananas, which we already knew about, we learned that day that he is also allergic to walnuts and pecans. By the time we left the Allergist’s office the back of his neck and the inside of his arm had been scratched raw.
Without a moment’s hesitation we got rid of nuts again. Of course we did.
Son-S inspires me to find new recipes and he makes me think twice about everything we eat (which, I think is a really good thing). We’re keeping our fingers crossed – maybe Son-S will grow out of his allergies too, you never know. If not we’ll just keep doin’ what we’re doin’ – rollin’ with it.