By the time you will read this, I will be at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, waiting for my son to come out of the O.R. Everything should be fine, but I always seem to experience the mom-like, stomach-flip, head-spinning, heartache, no sleep the night before, anxiety every time we go to one of Nathanael’s procedures.
When my son was a baby, his pediatrician noticed Nathanael’s growth being below the chart lines, so as a precaution, she ordered an endoscopy at the children’s hospital to see what may be going on. The test results came back showing Esophagitis of the throat. Nathanael was only ten months old and I was beside myself. To know that your child is suffering is the worst feeling to ever experience, as a parent. For the next two years, my son was put on an “elimination diet”. This meant that he had the majority of staple food groups taken out of his system and one-by-one placed back into his diet for a period of time. The food item add-on was then followed by an endoscopy to pinpoint the food item allergy. The culprit ended up being gluten.
Gluten this and gluten that (ugh!) what’s the big deal about gluten, you ask? A body’s digestive function is to absorb food items to generate fuel and help you grow. In Nathanael’s case, when he eats gluten his body rejects the food item and over time it will give up trying to digest the gluten in the form of a disease, like the Esophagitis he had had or, if left untreated, a far worse disease of the autoimmune system. Some other allergies have a much more aggressive way of rejecting itself from the body, in the form of; skin irritation, itchiness, vomiting and the most scariest of symptoms – difficulty breathing and throat closing. This type of allergy is called Anaphylaxis and Nathanael has this too, with egg (lucky us).
So what does this all have to do with school? While some parents may only get to worry about school-list items and which back pack their kid will want to sport on, other parents have to also worry about how controlled the allergy process is in the school that their child is entering into. Unfortunately, more parents are starting to experience the “allergy worries” more, and more. According to WebMD, the percentage of children’s food allergies is up 18%, over the last decade! The article states, “Four out of every 100 U.S. kids under age 18 now suffer food allergies, which doubles their risk of asthma and triples their risk of skin or respiratory allergies.”
This past Monday was a walk-through of my son’s elementary school, so I took this opportunity to go and hoped I would also get to speak with someone about allergy protocol. I’m happy to report that I was very successful! I was able to get my list of questions answered by the school’s principal on classroom and cafeteria precautions and the school’s nurse on medication procedures. Then, the principal and nurse also asked ME questions and took notes about Nathanael’s allergies. We, together, talked about classroom situations and solutions, which really made me feel that they cared about every child’s situation entering their school. Here are some solutions we talked about…
Snack (kept in the classroom) and bagged lunches (going to the cafeteria) will be separated.
If play dough is used in the classroom, Nathanael will bring in his own (commercial play dough has gluten/wheat in it)
This will be played by ear, but besides cupcakes, the principal mentioned some parents also brought in other allergy-free treats or just stickers! (I would also send along extra treats for my son to enjoy, just in case.)
The principal and I also talked about how a child with food allergies must feel sometimes with a classroom of kids that mainly don’t have the same issue. My son used to question why he can’t have something that his friends can have. He also used to sneak food that he shouldn’t have had, and I would explain to him how it would hurt his body if he did it again. Nathanael felt a little “different” and “segregated” – not due to anyone – but just the overall situation. Now, at five-years-old, he seems to grasp it better. My son will ask if the food he is given is gluten and egg-free. It’s cute when he does it, but it is also reassuring. You know what else is reassuring? When I see his friends ask for him, as well. I love that! I mentioned this to the principal. This type of “buddy system” within the classroom might help all the kids feel they are part of the same team (there’s the soccer coach coming out of me) by looking out for one another.
The principal really liked that idea.
The WebMD Article: Food Allergy In Kids Up 18 Percent
Fellow blogger Sarah’s story on her daughter battling her Anaphylaxis peanut allergy: My Daughter’s Toughest Race
Adults have suffered too! Here is blogger Ellen’s story and how she grew out of it: No Longer Allergic!
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