One more week of school holidays and my son goes back to school, he is very excited. I am really pleased he loves school, given his life threatening allergies he handles himself really well, and at 5 1/2 he knows not to eat food that is not prepared by me.
My son’s awareness about food didn’t happen over night, over the years we have continually reinforced a simple message that he could understand – that food that is not prepared by Mummy could be ‘itchy’. ‘Itchy’ is a great term to explain food that might cause an allergic reaction, kids get it – allergy is an abstract concept, but itchy describes an uncomfortable sensation that they can relate to (in my experience). As he has gotten older he is more inquiring, when we go food shopping he says, “Mum can you check the ingredients in this – can I have it?” Food safety is now hard-wired in my son’s brain and our job is to continually reinforce the message.
I then check the contents of the medical kit I leave with the school, including the Anaphylaxis Action Plan, Asthma Action Plan, an Epi-Pen, Antihistamine (now available in chewable tablets for children), Ventolin and Spacer (for Asthma). I always have a conversation with the Teacher, this year my son is fortunate, his teacher carries around an Epi-Pen for her own allergies and the Teacher’s Assistant is a Registered Nurse. So I am confident that allergy awareness is more than satisfactory in his class.
Recently Anthony Field – the Blue Wiggle, spoke on an Australian TV breakfast program about his son Antonio’s allergy to Peanuts, you can see it here. It’s great when a high-profile entertainer not only advocates for greater awareness and understanding of allergies but can share his personal experience.
On a negative note, the Western Australian, State Government has decided not to fund anaphylaxis and allergy training in schools. More alarmingly the distribution of Anapens and Epi-Pens will also stop, which means schools will not have this life saving resource within arms’ reach, you can read an article about this here.
On a personal level, it gets tiring advocating for your child all the time, at play dates, at school, but you do it because it is important, it is not frivolous trying to protect your child against a severe anaphylactic reaction. I am sure some of the parents view me as that ‘over protective mum’, but if only they could walk a mile in my shoes, experience brings understanding and greater awareness.
This happened to an acquaintance of mine, she told me that her son started a new Day Care Centre, when she enrolled him they spent a great deal of time talking about their training in being ‘allergy aware’, how they don’t use egg or nuts and are careful with all food proteins. She told me that she just thought ‘yeah, whatever – it has nothing to do with me – I really don’t care’, over the weekend her son had a severe reaction to egg; he had eaten egg before but she was surprised when he broke out in hives and had severe swelling, she immediately went to hospital, and her son was fine after he was treated. She said when she turned up to the Day Care Centre on the Monday, she asked the Manager to tell her more about how they manage allergies and exclude egg, “all of a sudden” she said “I understood what parents with children with allergies go through, because now I am one and I want to make sure that the places my son goes to are safe for him.”
Not wishing allergies on anyone, but maybe the politicians should listen more to some of the stories of parents that negotiate life with their child’s life threatening allergies, perhaps walk a mile in our shoes, see what it’s like on a daily, monthly, yearly basis.
Just an interesting footnote the state election is this year and the opposition party is offering to continue allergy education and resource schools with Epi-pens and Anapens (you can read about it here) - how would you vote?