Monday, 23 April 2012

Food Allergies-Peanut Allergy-Nut Allergies

Food Allergies and 'Safe' Activities: How Do You Decide?

One of the most frequent questions I hear from parents of kids with food allergies and peanut allergy, especially, is whether or not a certain activity is "safe" for their child. It stands to reason: Peanut residue (and tree nut, too, if you've got that concern as my family does), is all around us and often in the spots where you'd like to bring your kids. Events like the circus, baseball games, arena sporting events (like basketball or football), concerts, indoor playgrounds at the shopping mall -- just about every place you can think of might have a significant amount of allergen in the environment.
As parents, we might wonder: what are we supposed to do with this information? We can't keep our kids away from anything and most of us don't want to do that. This is one reason I'm so glad to see more and more baseball teams offering "peanut allergy-friendly" sections or "peanut-free" baseball games. Since peanuts are tradition at baseball, limiting them in certain sections takes a huge weight off parent's shoulders, especially those of us who've watched their child have a reaction during a regular game.
First, the bad news about nut allergies and whether or not to do something: this is not a question with a one-size-fits-all answer. I still struggle with it, depending on the activity or event. For one thing, a child's age and awareness of their allergy will play a role; so will their level of sensitivity to an allergen. If you have a child who is extremely sensitive, you might not even ask yourself if you can do something involving a lot of the allergen; you just don't do it. For example, with all of the peanuts everywhere, we don't feel comfortable bringing our daughter to a baseball game without a peanut-free section, especially at an outdoor field where weather, wind and peanut dust blowing around in the air is a strong possibility.(Be sure to ask your allergists about your particular situation; everyone is different.)
The event itself is a factor, too. How big of a role does an allergen play in this activity?Sometimes that will decide it if for you.
Now the good news: most of the time, you can find a way around allergies and do the activities you and your kids enjoy. And for the things you can't do or don't feel good about doing--it's OK. Your kids can still have an awesome, full and happy childhood.
I think it's important for parents to give themselves a break when it comes to dealing with food allergies. While it's important to find ways to do things that kids really want to do, we shouldn't feel like we have to take heroic measures to do every single thing. I mean, let's face it: even without food allergies, most kids can't do every single thing they'd like to do.
I remember when my daughter was first diagnosed with severe allergies at age 4. We found out in a very scary way--anaphylaxis following one bite of a peanut butter sandwich.
At the time, my daughter was in preschool and was beginning to get invited to birthday parties. Tea parties for the girls were big that year, held in special venues that catered to little kids. Of course, the main focal point of these parties was, you guessed it, food. Lots of unsafe food. Baked goods galore, sweets, sandwiches with PB & J...you get the picture.
I got pretty good at deciding what parties we would go to and which ones we wouldn't. I'd ask a few questions. Was my daughter really excited about this party or person? Would she be devastated if she didn't go? If she did go, would it be worth it to send in basically an entire menu of separate food and then still be concerned someone would give her the wrong thing?
When my daughter was four, I also had a toddler and limited outside childcare (aka, grandparents, sitters), so I think that decided a lot of it for me, too. I couldn't drag my little one to every party and drive myself crazy trying to keep an eye on her and make sure anaphylaxis didn't happen, too. So we skipped a few parties read more..

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