Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Food Allergy Awareness Week

May 11-17 is the 11th annual Food Allergy Awareness Week (sponsored by The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases). I imagine that in future years I will probably take advantage of this week and spend the time with David educating his class or peers about his food allergy. I started to write a list of "Did you know" facts about food allergies and how prevelant they are in our country. Instead, I will pass on a link to the Food Allergy and Anaphylactic Network. Instead of making you more aware of food allergy issues, I will educate you on David's daily battle with his peanut allergy. After all, if you are a friend of mine and David's, you need to know what his peanut allergy means for him. I don't really have a great place to start so I am going to make a list.

- We found out David is allergic to peanuts when he was one. He had the smallest imagineable taste of a peanut butter sandwhich. He broke out in hives and his voice became hoarse. We gave him benedryl and waited to see if we should take him to the ER. We made him an appointment with an allergist.
- David was tested for allergies soon after that outbreak. At that time he was allergic to peanuts, fish, eggs, and wheat (which explained the numerous times he got hives as a baby). He outgrew the rest of the food allergies.
- Every time he has been tested for the Peanut allergy, his reaction has gotten worse.
- David is required to have his EpiPen with him at all times. He would most certainly go into anaphylactic shock if he ate peanuts or a peanut butter product.
- We also keep Benedryl handy because he gets hives from contact reactions (for example--if he touches something that had peanut butter on it).
- We do not have peanuts or peanut products in our home. This includes peanut butter. This also includes ANYTHING with a peanut allergy warning.
- Grocery shopping requires reading labels. I must always check for allergy warnings. I cannot think "once safe always safe". We have seen safe products (no warning) become unsafe (nut warning). Also, labels are not standardized. Sometimes you have really search for a warning OR simply read all of the ingredients.
- We cannot get anything from a grocery store bakery (or any bakery). This means that my kids do not know about the free cookies that many stores give out. More importantly, going to friends birthday parties are tricky. David cannot have store bought cake. Even if it is homemade, he cannot have the cake if I don't know if the mix has a peanut warning.
- We cannot safely eat at Oriental or Mexican food. We cannot go out for Ice Cream at local Ice Cream shops.
- It is impossible to protect David from all peanut contact. He has been exposed to peanuts through physical contact - He was exposed from a child booster seat (at a restaurant that served PB&J to kids), he was exposed at an airport (touched something that someone who had eaten peanuts had touched and then rubbed his eye), he was exposed in a kid cart at Walmart, and he has been exposed at a friend's house. Contact exposure (except when rubbed in his eye) causes hives.

This is just a list...not an inclusive list... of some of what David's peanut allergy entails. Before David's allergy, food allergies didn't mean anything to me. Now, I am constantly aware of the possible danger. It is mind boggling to think that a food could harm or kill my child. If you are reading this (unless you just happened up on my blog) you know David. I hope this post makes you more aware and more compassionate for his allergy.


breaking free said...

I was actually thinking about you guys this weekend as I was eating at Texas Roadhouse with my best friend and her 3 year old. We couldn't get emma to understand you don't eat the shells, and somehow I started thinking that I guess the Owen family doesn't eat at Texas Roadhouse.
Thanks for the link, it will come in handy when I am a practicing pediatric PA!!

Kimberly said...

I'm so sorry about giving David hives. I still wish we knew what he had touched. Being close with someone who has an allergy has definitely been eye opening. I think before when you heard, "Oh that child has an allergy to nuts." You just think okay he/she can't have nuts. You don't think about the contact and transfer of the oils and such. Thank you for patiently educating us on how to keep your child and others with the same allergy safe!

Patty said...

I hope you will print this out and hang it in the nursery and Sunday School rooms and maybe even put it in the newsletter. I think it's important that people get a glimpse of the fact that this type of allergy is so much bigger than just not feeding him peanut butter.

Amy Jo said...

I really do appreciate all of your education and teaching on this subject. I guess I never really sat down and thought about all the implications and possibilities. I continue to pray for David's safety.

The Kinney's said...

Wow, I didn't realize how this is woven into everything that you do. Thank you so much for this information. I didn't realize how severe even contact could be. I will defintitely be more thoughtful as to where I allow Hope to eat peanut butter.

John & Carrie said...

Thank you for sharing and educating us. You are doing a great job taking care of David.

veronica said...

My son is 7 years old and he too has a peanut allergy. His levels are off the charts. I found your blog by accident and reading your comments is all too familiar. I remember picking a pre-school for Jackson and being terrified, but we did get through it. This year he was in 1st grade and it was the first time he stayed at school all day and ate lunch there. I was a nervous wreck, but again we got through it. I think the best thing you can do for your child is to educate them on their allergy. We have been very lucky as I am a stay at home Mom so I have always had a lot of control with what he eats. Now that he is getting older though it is getting harder. He is starting to get invited to friends from schools homes for birthdays and to play and it is so hard because I don't know the parents. Every day brings a new challenge with the allergy but it does get easier at the same time. I think one of the hardest things is how many people are always offering him candy and treats. It is such a natural thing that people do with children and having Jackson I have learned to never offer other peoples kids food. Well, good luck with your pre-school search. If you ever have any questions or want to share information feel free to email me. veronicarae_miller@hotmail.com