Allergies–Why They Matter

I’ve never done this before, but I really want to share a blog post I read tonight about allergies. It’s really hard to truly grasp how much allergies can really affect your life if you haven’t dealt with them and I think Organique Gal explains it all so clearly (and so much better than I could).

My 7.5 year old son has an anaphylactic-shock allergic reaction to peanuts, so I have first hand experience on the topic. He also has an anaphylactic-shock allergic reaction to dairy, but peanut particles are more easily air-borne, so while he can be in the same room as someone eating dairy, he cannot be in the same room with peanuts.

…A couple months after my son started school I was on the playground watching my son play, and a parent I had never met was making small talk with me and said “some kid in the class has stupid nut allergies and it really pisses me off that I can’t send peanut butter or granola bars in my son’s lunch anymore.” Another parent spoke up immediately to point out I was the parent of the child with the “stupid nut allergy.” I took the opportunity to educate that parent, and he had the grace to apologize, but I was really shocked that anyone would feel so negatively about being inconvenienced by something so simple that could potentially save my child’s life. We have no problem accommodating children with disabilities that are more visible, and no parent would complain about accommodating a child in a wheel chair, but not sending peanut butter in your child’s lunch is a problem. Really?! Quite frankly your inconvenience is a minor concern in contrast to preserving my child’s life.

My brother, DJ, had a ton of allergies when he was little. At 15 months, he was diagnosed with severe peanut and diary allergies along with soy, corn and a bunch of others. (Our mom was laughed at when she first suspected allergies, too. She found a different doctor!) By the time you cut peanut, dairy, soy and corn from your diet, there really isn’t much left. We’re talking, this kid thought rice cakes were “yummy” and sugar cubes were “candy.” That’s how limited things were for a while. We had to pack lunches for him any time we ate out or with family or friends. Over the years, thankfully, he’s outgrown most of them, making his life much easier.

I remember a few times when DJ accidentally came into contact with something he was allergic to. Usually, the problem food was peanut. He was most sensitive to it and it doesn’t have to be ingested to react. At Christmas time, our church gave the kids traditional treat bags: a popcorn ball, some chocolates and ribbon candy, an apple, an orange and peanuts. One year, the bags also had a Christmas pencil in it. Obviously, my poor brother couldn’t have any of the food in his bag and my parents promised him a special treat from home. What we didn’t realize at that point was that he couldn’t have the pencil, either. He clutched that pencil the entire ride home from church because he was so happy to have something from the treat bag. When we got home and turned on the lights, we discovered he was broken out in a rash on every bit of skin that touched the pencil or that he’d touched with his hands.

Through the years, we’ve had trouble with people not fully understanding allergies. Ice cream was “safe” because people tend to forget that a key ingredient is milk. Oops! As soon as I started reading, I learned how to check packages to find the fine print with the allergy warnings. Any time that my parents weren’t right with us, I was there to protect DJ. As he got older, he learned to recognize dangers himself. When he was just barely old enough to start Sunday school, he had a young teacher who really struggled to grasp the concept of allergies. Every week, my mom would tell her that DJ couldn’t have peanut. Every week, she’d say “ok.” Several times, he came out clutching a candy bar with peanut in it, thankfully, unopened. The week that really sticks in her mind, though, is when she once again reminded the teacher of DJ’s allergy, only to be told “that’s ok! We’re only having peanutbutter cookies. Those don’t have any peanut in them!” My mom almost died on the spot! She quickly explained that he could not have those cookies and why. The teacher agreed not to give them, but seemed completely confused.

All the crazy stories from when DJ was young are insanely funny looking back, but they weren’t at the time. DJ has been told many times that he worries too much and he needs to “grow up” and “get over it.” The people who said those things didn’t understand how deadly the allergies could be. If they had, they would have cut the poor kid some slack. At least one has truly eaten his words, as he now has a preschooler with the same allergy. Some days, it gets really old. I’ve even been told that allergies are all in people’s heads. (Yeah, tell that to the kids who’ve nearly died!) Other days, it gives me a good laugh. They don’t mean any harm. They just don’t know.

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Allergies–Why They Matter

  1. Amanda

    It’s so crazy how people have such a hard time accepting the validity of “invisible” illnesses or conditions. I’m on the fence about whether schools should have peanut-free classrooms — I grew up with severe peanut allergies and was very aware of them. After having one severe reaction, I didn’t need to be told to avoid the foods to which I was allergic; it was self-preservation.

    On one hand, peanut free classrooms are great and other students don’t really “suffer” by NOT having peanut butter; but on the other hand, where do we stop? What about kids who are allergic to any of the other top 7 allergens and gluten? Why don’t they receive any special table or classroom? As I said, I’m on the fence and as someone who doesn’t have children, I don’t have strong feelings toward it either way but I could be swayed.

    • The reason peanut is treated in such an extreme way is that it can actually be airborne. I can drink milk next to someone with a diary allergy and, as long as they don’t stick their hand in it or taste it, they’ll be fine. If I do the same with a bag of peanuts, that dust from them goes everywhere and can cause the same reaction as ingesting them.

      Honestly, if there are no students with a peanut allergy, great, don’t eliminate them in the classroom. If someone does have the allergy (or any other) I will do whatever it takes as a mom and a teacher to protect that student. It really doesn’t hurt anyone to not eat PB&J at school. A lot of schools are adding rules about what kids can eat, anyway, far beyond peanut free.

  2. Rodrick Bucolo

    Anaphylaxis can be deadly if not taken care of properly.

  3. riot points

    Good information. Lucky me I discovered your blog by chance (stumbleupon). I’ve bookmarked it for later!

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