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Monday, December 19, 2011

Staying on the Radar…One Cookie at a Time

Holiday season is a time of joy for most, and stress for others. I admit that I fall in between the two.  Unfortunately, for those kids with food allergies, holiday season can become a landmine if no one is at the helm keeping watch.  I have made my son vigilant about food allergies;he knows not to eat anything at school, in class, in the lunchroom or otherwise.  For every treat he has to turn down, he gets the equivalent at home-safely.  The teachers in the school all comment on how great he is about managing his food allergies, and as a result, they take notice of my six-year old who maturely gives up some of the irresistible goodies in school.  Most of the teachers know who my son is simply because they are so impressed by his fortitude (not to mention that he can be so darn cute).

Every school year I introduce myself to the lunch aides, provide a note for the teachers to send home to parents, talk with the nurse, discuss my son’s  allergies with his new teacher, refill expired Epi-Pens and update medical forms.  On a lighter note, I also make dairy, egg, nut free baked goods for the teachers during holiday season. I do the same during Allergy Awareness Week. It’s a small gesture of thanks, and moreover, it keeps my kid on the radar.  I find that it takes the stigma out of allergy food as well.  Most people think that if it isn’t loaded with eggs or butter, it won’t taste good.  When those who are not familiar with quality allergy free products, taste it and comment ”Wow, I can’t believe these don’t have eggs!” There is pause for thought.  It’s no longer so weird or different, rather it’s now considered good, or daresay, normal.  It’s the new normal.

The day after I brought in some allergy free sugar cookies, the EMT’s were called into my son’s school because a fourth grader ate a cookie with nuts that someone in his class brought in for a birthday. Somehow, the kid slipped off the radar. I had been volunteering that day and heard the call for EMT’s regarding a nut allergic reaction.  My heart stopped.  The child had an Epi-Pen administered and was then sent to the hospital…he was fine.  Afterward, many teachers who saw my stress, said, “You know your son would never take a cookie and eat it.”  Yes, I know, he wouldn’t, and yes, I am glad they realize that and as a result would never even offer it to him. I would like to think my efforts have made a difference over the last two years, or at the very least brought the attention of food allergies to teachers who never really had a clear understanding of what it’s all about.  

Again, often we don’t ask for these types of missions in our lives, but when faced with the challenges we have to rise to the occasion one cookie at a time.

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