Friday, January 6, 2012


This is my 4-year-old, Cole. He is allergic to peanuts.

When I say "allergic," people might draw different conclusions - that it just makes him feel sick, or that it could threaten his life. So far, we are lucky that Cole's "only" reactions have been hives, but at any point if he were exposed again, the reaction could be worse. We have Epi-Pens prescribed by his allergist for just this case, and there is one at school, one in my purse or diaper bag, and one at home. We are prepared.

When Cole goes to someone's house or we're out at church or a party where there is food out, we know that we don't have all the control over what Cole might pop in his mouth. So we have talked to him ad nauseum about the fact that he is allergic to peanuts and what that means. We have told Cole that everybody's body is different, and even though others might not be allergic to peanuts and can eat them without problem, he simply cannot. And for the most part, Cole has internalized this well; he often asks people if a new food has nuts in it, or asks permission to eat a certain unlabeled item before eating it.

But he's 4. Four-year-olds sometimes make bad decisions because they don't understand the consequences of their actions. Heck, kids much, much older than him make bad decisions because they don't understand the consequences of their actions. At a cocktail party for my brother Tim and Natalie a few weeks ago, there were some bowls of M&Ms out on a table. Before going, we again stressed the importance of asking a grown-up before eating anything and reminded him of his peanut allergy. And yet, at some point during the party as my mom came near the table, she caught Cole red-handed about to grab some M&Ms. I was so grateful that she was there to jump in before he got them! I'm sure some well-meaning adult would have gladly helped him reach the M&Ms had they seen him trying, but instead, it was my mom. Phew.

When I asked him about it later, Cole said, "But Mom, they just looked SO GOOD!" I know, honey, I know. But I reminded him again that no matter how good they look, he can't have them. Sigh.

I've been thinking a lot about allergies because a 7-year-old student in OUR county died this week after going into anaphylaxis and then cardiac arrest. :( (Google "Chesterfield county peanut death" and articles will surely come up) As you can imagine, tension is high about this event and hearts go out to this poor family. There are all sorts of speculations and also a lack of information about exactly what happened and what roles the parent(s) and the school played in this child's death. It sounds as though, unfortunately, multiple parties were at fault.

I'm not going to start a riot about whose fault it was or attempt to solve all the issues surrounding food allergies and schools. Between PWS and a peanut allergy in our family, I'm a little tired of thinking about the partnership of food and school. But I write this all as a reminder that food allergies are real, they are out there, and it requires the coordination of *multiple* parties to assure that the child with severe allergies is protected when outside their own four walls. We have one little red-head in particular who we are focused on protecting.


Candice said...

Severe food allerigies are so difficult to deal with it's unbelievable! I heard about that death and it shook me up. We are prepared as well. Two epipens are with Graham at all time, as well as Benadryl AND they have an epipen in his classroom and the office. His classroom is nut free, and he is only allowed to eat food I send. His teacher and aid are very knowledgeable about his allergies. That said, I was still shaken enough to make an appointment with his allergist to get written plans (Anaphylaxis Action Plan) to have it incorporated into his IEP. They have some written instructions from his Pediatrician, but I thought the IEP would be a good way to make the school take responsibility. It is so scary!!

Ali Foley Shenk said...

I hear you. In light of this girl's death, I'm thinking about getting a 504 or something written up so that the school will HAVE to follow a particular plan for Cole since he won't have an IEP. :/

Kevin said...

That afghan looks very familiar.

Ali Foley Shenk said...

Ha! I was waiting to see which Foley would notice first! :)

Haley said...

Her death shook me up hard as well. Nicholas has so many allergies (dairy,eggs and nuts)his worst being dairy which is in 90% of the typical food eaten and used in classrooms. Scares the ever living daylights out of me. He has had severe reactions before and I know that he could just be one mistake away from tragedy. It terrifies me. I hope that this little girl's death can enlighten people that food allergies are real and they ARE serious! They aren't just a runny nose or sneezing. They can literally take a life in the blink of an eye.