Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Food Allergy Awareness Week

It's Food Allergy Awareness Week! While I think I do a pretty decent job raising awareness of this life-threatening, life-altering medical condition, I can't pass up yet another opportunity to educate those who might not know anyone who is afflicted with a food allergy.

As you probably know, Ryan has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts. His allergy affects all of us every single day. Let me count the ways....

  • We don't bring one bite of food into our home that isn't researched and inspected.
  • Even so, we are keenly aware that mistakes can happen--mistakes at the manufacturing plant, mistakes at the factory that produces the packaging and labels, mistakes that might be made during the transportation and display of the food at the grocery store, mistakes that we might make in reading labels and inspecting the food. I know that if Ryan ever has a reaction under my watch, it will most likely occur due to such an error and not from a lack of vigilance.
  • We don't eat at Chinese or Thai restaurants. Or Indian restaurants. Or ice cream places.
  • Every time we go to a playground, I check out the grounds for dropped bits of food (found leftover sandwiches and pistachio shells last time), and wonder if the kid who was on the slide or the ropes before Ryan had possibly eaten peanut butter that day.
  • Last soccer season, Ryan could not approach Morgan's soccer field because of the peanut shells strewn all over the place.
  • Even a walk around our neighborhood has brought us into chance encounters with peanut shells, where people have dropped them after having a snack.
  • We've never taken the kids to a circus or a baseball game.
  • We bring Epi-pens with us wherever we go, and if we forget them, we stop what we're doing and go home to get them.
  • Currently, I have a stack of expired pens, and we'll invite our friends and family--and maybe even Ryan--to practice using them on apples, so they will hopefully remember that you need to remove the gray cap first or the needle won't fire.

Morgan is not allergic and has eaten peanuts a few times out of our house away from Ryan. She has had to give up treats she's received because of the risk to Ryan. (I think that as they get older and more reliable about washing up that we can develop a different plan for such occasions.) When she pretends to be a chef, she always serves peanut-free cupcakes.

Sean hasn't been exposed to nuts, peanuts, fish or shellfish and won't be until he's 3. The process of introducing new foods to a baby is more stressful than fun for us. Each time he gets something new, I watch him very carefully for any adverse reactions. He does have mild eczema, which along with a sibling with a food allergy, increases his risk for food allergies.

It affects us all--but no one more than Ryan. He is 7 years old and he knows that this could kill him. :o( He is very good about not accepting food from anyone unless Brendan or I (or a select few trusted friends) approve. I'm glad he is cautious, but so sad that he must face this. His blood test scores are very high, making it unlikely for him to outgrow this allergy. We are hopeful for a treatment--if not a cure--but until then, we must be extremely vigilant.

That's all for now. For more information, see my earlier posts Facts about Peanut Allergies and I Am Not an Attention-Seeking Psycho!

For a liitle food allergy humor (yes, there is some!) see this post at Gravity of Motion and a classic moment from last year at our house.

Don't forget our Twitter Party this Friday!

Finally, a big THANK YOU from all of us to everyone who has asked us about safe food for Ryan, has taken the time to comment or link to my blog posts about peanut allergies, who has made alternate menu plans because of Ryan's presence at an event, who has referred others to me so they can learn about this condition. It really means a lot that so many people--some I've never met!--care enough to help keep Ryan safe and educate themselves and others. Truly.


Nowheymama said...

*dumbstruck silence*

I NEVER thought of doing that with expired EpiPens. Genius.

Rational Jenn said...

I'm not sure where I first heard of that idea--can't take credit for it!

We've done this with our family, friends, and babysitters. It's interesting to get the "feel" for it--and slightly horrifying to see how thick and long that needle really is. I'm not sure Ryan will want to try it, but he is getting old enough to learn how, I think.

Beware, if you stab them in the apple really hard, the force of the needle ejecting will splash you with apple juice! Which is kinda funny and kinda . . . not.

Jenny said...

Great post, Jenn! You make several good points and clearly are raising your son to handle his allergy in a positive way. :)

Jane Anne said...

We do the same thing with expired Epipens. It has made me even more confident with the Epipen (not that I would have ever hesitated). There is just no way a trainer can give you the feel of the medicine being released.

Great post! Glad you enjoyed our Nuts story. You have to laugh when you can.

I am going to go back and check out some of those older posts. Thanks for including the links.

Susan Weissman said...

This is sort of besides the point on the Epis but I just want to say that I had a babysitter who insisted on giving herself a hit in the thigh with a just expired one so she would know what it would feel like for my son and I never loved anyone more at that moment. But watch out - it can give you the shakes.

alison - surefoodsliving.com said...

This is a wonderful post!!
Darn - just threw away my expired epi-pens! I have never used one before (thankfully!) and am nervous that I will not do it right when the time comes. I will search the house for another old one! Thank you!

Another Jenn (and another momma with food allergic kids) said...

We use oranges and grapefruits to keep the epinephrine splashback at a minimum. Potatoes and expired epi-pens are a bad idea, and yes, even expired epinephrine stings when you get it in your eye :O

Rational Jenn said...

We'll try oranges! Actually, that's one of the ways we were trained to do insulin when Brendan was first diagnosed with diabetes. I had forgotten about that.

Susan--I'm not sure I'd do that even! Wow!

And thanks, everyone, for stopping by! I'm sorry that we had to join this club, but I'm glad the club has such nice, supportive people in it!

Mrs. C said...

That is an awesome post. I had no idea that just peanut shells around would be so deadly. I would be *really* scared if Ryan were in a public school with 700 kids... what if one forgets to wash or does a stupid peanut trick to be "funny?"

Ok, here I'm sorry for my kid that he can't eat cake and stuff, and you deal with deadly things. I do hope they find a way to minimize that reaction soon, complete with Star Trek effects!

PS. Read you HOA post and just stunned. It never occurred to me when I was in a HOA to ask for records, and bet it's probably common. :[