Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rachel's Top Ten Food Allergy Lessons

This post is an extension of the recent conversation on Gina Clowes's Facebook page regarding allergy plans in school.  As I wrote on Allergy Moms yesterday, a plan is the most important thing to put into place to keep your child safe.  For what it's worth, after doing this for four years now, I compiled a top ten list of things I have learned along the way, about the myself, the process, and myself in the process. 

Rachel's Top Ten Food Allergy Lessons

1. The process sometimes stinks, but you have to be vigilant.

2. Don't expect the world ( and by that I mean the average public) to fully comprehend your fear because most of them don't. Once you release that anger, you will be  more productive.

3. Don't approach anything with guns blazing. I tried that at first and it only backfired with much alienation from the ones I needed help from.

4. Approach schools, camps, etc...with a sane persona, and a do-able plan.

5.While it's important to educate those who are with your child on a daily basis, don't forget to educate your child! No matter what age, it's imperative that they know how to advocate for themselves because sometimes even the adults (unfortunately) don't get it.

6.Try not to let your fear overwhelm you or your child. I have a child who is anxious by nature and I see how my own anxiety fuels his.  It is definitely a lesson in patience.

7.Make sure you and your spouse are in sync with each other on this issue.

8.Find something you love to do that doesn't have anything to do with food allergies. We get so caught up managing our children's food issues we often lose our former selves.

9.Stay educated...but don't overdo it. Stick to reputable websites like Gina's and FAAN.

10.Just remember,we can't keep our kids in a bubble, (though if we could, I would be in the bubble alongside my kids with a full time chef and personal trainer, and maybe a hunky celebrity, ha) but that doesn't mean we can't insure their safety. 

For those of you that requested a copy of my letter to the parents, I am attaching it below. I did receive a favorable response from many parents when it came time for birthday parties and such. For the most part, I provided the snack for my son, but at least parents were courteous enough to let me know when and what they were bringing. Some even brought in one of my suggestions.   The letter is very informal, and the principal added her signature at the end (which I insisted on).  Hope this helps!

Dear Parents:
My name is _______________and my son ____ is in your child’s class.
 _____ has severe food allergies to all nuts and eggs.  Simply stated, he cannot eat anything unless it is specially prepared or packaged, in order to avoid a life threatening reaction.
I know that class celebrations and other occasions with special treats are an important part of first grade.  I am not asking for anything extreme, just two simple requests so _____ can safely celebrate with your child:
  1. If you plan to bring in a treat for the class, please let me or the teacher know a few days in advance. I will pack something for ____ ... no need to make anything special, just advance notice.
  2. Even though _____ will not be able to eat whatever you bring in, please try to be sure that there aren’t any nuts (this includes all types of nuts) on top or inside the item.
If you have any questions, or want suggestions for an allergy-free alternative treat for the class, please feel free to call me at ________or e-mail at ___________.
Thank you so much for your cooperation in this matter.  I look forward to a wonderful, safe school year.
Rachel Packer (___’s mom)

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