Posted in Mom, personal
March 15, 2011

The allergy nightmare that isn’t mine.

The Little Kidlet has a laundry list of allergies. Yes, it means that he doesn’t dine out very often. But we’re exceptionally lucky. His reactions are only if he personally comes into contact with the allergen- so if he gets it on himself or eats it. And even then, a dose of Benadryl was done the trick to stop things from getting worse. It also means that I don’t have to force his diet on everyone.

There are plenty of people who have much worse allergies. There’s a small percentage of people with peanut allergies who become violently ill when they’re exposed to tiny particles on other people… which is the case with a Florida girl who is merely trying to go to an elementary school.

In similar cases, schools have banned peanuts entirely, but in this case they set a policy where children would have to wash their hands and rinse out their mouths with water. This is something that’s federally enforced, because her allergy counts as a disability. Confused? The government says that they will try to accommodate any disability within reason. Because there are counter-measures that would allow her to mix with students that are minimally invasive (washing hands and rinsing mouths), they have to put them in place and accept them.

But there are a lot of parents up in arms, saying that this is taking away their kids’ rights… taking away valuable school time and ruining necessary experiences, like school parties.

For anyone who’s a regular reader here, I don’t suppose it’s surprising to discover that I’m siding with the little girl and her family on this one. These parents are complaining about something that takes about 30 minutes out of their child’s day. Which might seem like a lot… but there’s a fair amount of downtime in elementary school. Getting kids to calm down at the start of the day, recess and lunch. Having the routine might actually just take the place of that time.

Now, the school didn’t ban the use of peanut products. They’re simply asking students to wash up, and to not bring in outside baked goods. Yes, birthday parties are fun- but they’re disruptive. As classes get larger, you’re likely to have 20 kids that will actually celebrate their birthdays during the year… and that’s 20 days where you’re going to lose a substantial amount of time. Yes, class parties take up a lot of time. You have to set up for them, get the kids to settle down afterwards… My second grade teacher actually said at the beginning of the year that they were just going to do a monthly party for all birthdays. Cut down on a lot of the parties, and it was still fun. And if there were months that there weren’t any birthdays, it didn’t ruin our month. We got over it pretty darn quickly.

The problem I have with this is that these parents have formed a mob, who are completely overlooking the fact that they’re talking about a child’s health. They’re telling their children that it’s okay to ostracize someone that’s different, if it makes life easier for them. (Don’t get me started on the medical professionals they’re quoting that seem to say it’s an overreaction on the school’s part. I know enough children who suffer from anaphylaxis due to food allergies to know that it is possible)

Food allergies are a part of life. People might say that they’re more prevalent these days, but the reality is that we’re simply better at detecting them. In the past, people used to just get sick and depending on the severity, die. Teaching children to understand that food allergies exist is a valuable lesson. Far too many people don’t understand how dangerous some of these allergies are, and would prefer to think that those with them are simply picky eaters or want to be difficult.

This is what our allergy problem looked like. That is a picture of the Little Kidlet when he was 5 months old (and a bonus shot of my bony knees). I nursed him when he was born, and pumped when I returned to work- determined to what I thought was best as a mother. All of a sudden, he became covered with that itchy eczema. It looked horrible, but he was still the sweetest, cuddliest baby that happened to be covered in scales (this would be our first indication that he was his big brother’s total opposite). Our pediatrician sent us to a dermatologist, who ended up sending us to an allergist… and after a blood draw determined that he was allergic to so many things that it was safer for him to simply put him on a hypoallergenic baby formula rather than put me on an elimination diet (since they’d only tested for the most common allergens, and he’d tested off the charts for all of them- they weren’t sure what else he was allergic to).

One small fortune later (even with insurance covering the bulk of the cost), he cleared up, and we’ve been very lucky. He’s had a few cases of hives where we weren’t entirely sure what was the cause. I caught him eating french bread several months back and we gave him Benadryl and stared at him for hours. We’re lucky. He can be around people who eat the things he’s allergic to, and he’s fine. He’s even had fries from places where I know now that cross-contamination could be an issue… and hasn’t had much of a problem. We’re exceptionally lucky.

However, I completely understand where the parents of this little girl are coming from. They don’t want her to be isolated. They’d like her to have a somewhat normal school experience- with friends, teachers and playgrounds. They don’t want her to be so afraid of her allergy that she doesn’t want to get outside and live her life.

A lot of arguments I’ve seen in favor of the other parents is that she’ll have to face this eventually. True. But keep in mind, this is a kid! No matter how much you try to educate a little kid about allergies and the effects on them… it’s still hard for them to govern it themselves without support. Why not give her a developmental hand and let her have a bit of normalcy because yes, the rest of her life will likely be filled with asking whether or not there are nuts in a dish or if there are nuts used in various kitchens. Flights will have to be picked based on who has banned peanuts from their flights. Let the little girl be healthy enough to get to the point where she can take care of herself, and not come out some damaged little girl who feels like nobody wants her around and that she has to live in a bubble because people are inconsiderate.

As I see it, a lot of the problems I see in our country right now are all related to not caring about anyone other than ourselves. Most politicians care more about their careers and protecting their donors than they do about their constituents. Parents care more about themselves than their children. And those parents who do care about their children, seem to think that only their child matters in this world. We’ve become so self-serving that it almost seems like we’re unable to be compassionate.

They aren’t asking the entire town to ban peanuts. They’re simply asking children to rinse their mouths out with water and wash their hands. In the grand scheme of the world… that really isn’t very much to ask.

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