My 1.5 year old son has multiple food allergies. He is currently allergic to dairy, peanuts, and cashews. It is not a great challenge living with someone with multiple food allergies. The current challenge lies in educating people how to interact, and properly handle food for Forrest to prevent anaphylaxis shock from occurring. It is amazing to discover how much everything is processed with peanuts, tree nuts, and made with dairy.
At first, it is overwhelming to make a transition from eating everything with blissfully ignorance, and not knowing what lies in the food ingredients, and what has been processed with food. It is easy to go out to eat, and not worry about possibly dying from what you've consumed. I buy cookies, candies, and breads from bakery without blinking my eye.
All of that changed when we learned that Forrest has allergies. I become more aware of what is processed with this, or that. I make food from scratch quite frequently these days. I read ingredients on the back of food, and search for allergen warning. I come up with creative meal dishes to make every week. I stock up on safe food for the lazy days when I don't feel like cooking. I do research before heading out to a restaurant with Forrest to ensure that they are allergen-free of this, and take precaution to prevent cross containment. I carry epipens with us everywhere.
It is easy to become sheltered, and be afraid. I choose not to go down that path. I am not going to keep my kid in the bubble for rest of his life. He has to learn. He has to fend for himself. Forrest has to learn how to survive real-life situations. I've been dismayed to learn that some children, living with severe food allergies, and intolerance, have absolutely no clue what the allergen look like, because their parents have sheltered them. Some parents blog about how terrible their children's allergies are, not that I am dismissing the importance of being aware, and careful for your children's outlook, and scare new parents treading into food allergy territory. I refuse to be one of those parents. When I have a chance, I educate our friends, family, friends, and coworkers about our life with food allergies. The more I talk about this, the more awareness is being spread, and the more people understand the issues that lies with having multiple food allergies.
While it is easy to manage Forrest's multiple food allergies now for the most part, because Forrest is barely 2 years old, and has not been exposed to a lot of issues yet to come. The issues I can think of are: birthday parties--he can't have a cake from the bakery, because of cross-containment with peanuts, and nuts, dealing with kids with more freedom with eating whereas he is more restricted, having to bring his own safe meals, saying no to his friends to share meals, having to be more careful with washing hands, and having to give up a bit of that carefree childhood indifference in order to be vigilant toward his own health. This does make me a bit sad. It is not something you wish on any kid. At the same time, he will be stronger because of it.
Nonetheless, the idea of sending Forrest to school used to be somewhat intimidating. I knew there is a 504 plan, under disability section, to create a plan, and have plan set in the place to protect Forrest. But that didn't feel "enough" for me.
Recently, my aunt sent me an article about states passing Stock Epinephrine Law in the schools.
On November 13, 2013 President Obama signed into law the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which encourages states to adopt laws requiring schools to have on hand “stock” epinephrine auto-injectors.
How awesome is that? That means any child, especially if he/she has not been diagnosed with a life-threatening food, latex, or bee sting allergies, have an access to get help faster. For children with life-threatening allergies, they have a back-up access in an event of emergency. This means the school staff is trained to use epipen, and use it on the child with a life-threatening reaction. It prevents a possible death, and puts a lot of ease in parents' minds when they send their children to school.
Since the article my aunt sent to me was a few weeks old, I had to check on the internet to double check whether Wisconsin had caught up or not, because in that article, Wisconsin was in the yellow zone. Now, yellow zone meant your state had not passed the bill yet, and has been reviewing it to prepare it into a law. If there is a red zone in your state, then unfortunately, it meant the bill has not been submitted. I checked the latest epipen stock law, and found that Wisconsin had passed the bill. Great!
That made me feel a lot better about sending Forrest to school beyond the safety of our little home.
If your state is either in yellow, or red zones, then fear not. There is a way you can contact your state senator to introduce the bill to stock epipens in schools.
The more we are aware about food allergies, and intolerance, along with other allergies such as dairy, bee sting, latex, medications, and other causes; the more we are able to take preventive measures, and make the world a safer place for those living with allergies.