Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
I have had a few allergic reactions over the years and had to get emergency help many years ago. As someone with eczema and asthma I have had my share of asthma attacks when in contact with dogs and cats. When living with relatives that had cats or dogs I carried my inhaler in my pocket for access at all times.
About fifteen years ago when making meatloaf I must have touched my face before washing my hands, which resulted in the swelling of my face with an instant rash where I needed a corisone shot.
As a child I regularly went to the Doctor for shots for my asthma and as a teenager went for emergency issues to get a shot. You cannot drive after having a shot of adrenaline and need to stay in the office for 15 minutes before you can even get up and walk out the door.
A few years ago I learned that my lips swell up when I come in contact with chicken skin, so I have avoided it ever since. About two years ago my face became flushed and hot to touch while consuming beer. I had poured from the can into a glass and had to toss out the rest of the beer. Not too long ago the same thing happened to a lesser degree when I had a glass of white wine. I am too chicken to try red wine, so have resorted to Captain Morgan Spice Rum and Pepsi.
While in my 20s I worked in restaurants and could not work the salad bar. I had bandaids on all fingers practically from the cuts due to touching food items. When I make stew I wear white cotton gloves to cut the celery and meat. I also wear these underneath the clear plastic gloves found in hair coloring kits. The few times I have made meatloaf since that emergency incident I toss it all into the bowl and mix it up with a wooden fork.
Another part time job I held when in my 20s was working nights at a grocery store, but coming in contact with food items left me wearing white cotton gloves and bandaids on my fingers. I would not suggest working in the food industry for someone with a skin condition.
As the single parent to two boys on the Autism Spectrum we have encountered an allergy issue when Matthew developed PICA - known as the eating of non-food items, after he started drinking two cans of Ensure Plus daily to gain weight due to malnourishment.
I still keep the air conditioner on in the bedroom just so there is some air coming in and I feel uncomfortable knowing that the Mother who resided here before us had a fatal asthma attack in that very room. I learned of this after being here for two years. Sometimes I feel the need to take a spray before going into the bedroom just to be on the safe side.
Matthew has been attending feeding therapy since December of 2003. While in the first grade his teacher would try new foods with the students. This was a special day class with children in Kindergarten and first grades with a variety of disabilities. I specifically asked not to try new foods with Matthew as he was seeing professionals in that area. I also inquired if she had an EpiPen and was informed she did not and was not even aware of what it was.
The school only had a nurse once a week and here was a special ed teacher trying new foods with children without any background in this area. Although Nicholas loves peanut butter and has it daily for lunch, Matthew has never tried peanuts, nuts or peanut butter, so I have specifically made it clear that no one is to give him these items. I am not even certain if the clinic where we go for the feeding therapy has an EpiPen. For children there is the EpiPen Jr.
Awareness is the key to peanut allergies. First for the person who has the allergy they need to know the ingredients in all items that ingest, as well as all ingredients to items they place on their skin through health and beauty aid products, this also includes detergents they use to wash clothing, soaps for their body.
Then they need to let others know they have this allergy. This can prevent such tragedies as dying from kissing someone who consumed a sandwich of said ingredient hours earlier.
Parents need to be diligent in letting school staff know of these issues by writing it down in the emergency section, finding out if they have an EpiPen at the school, notify those who care for the child when parents are not there, other relatives and friends of the child/teenager. They need to know the seriousness of this allergy so they can alert those they come in contact with and have close or intimate relations with. You cannot have somone rubbing a lotion on you that might contain peanut oil.
When a child is attending a birthday party you need to make arrangements ahead of time letting the hostess know of the allergy. Seating arrangements may need to be changed. If the child attends after school care, any sports activities, girl scouts or boy scouts, church school and music lessons - those who facilitate these activities needs to be aware of the allergy. You never know when they will be celebrating an occasion or birthday and have treats of any kind.
When a child attends summer or winter camp food allergies need to be listed. Also to respite care workers and the agencies they are affiliated with. Consider posting some sort of awareness note on cabinets, inside cabinets and on the refrigerator.
The cafeteria workers at school need to be made aware of any issues relating to food allergies your child may have. This should also be mentioned at the IEP meeting and be listed under health concerns and accomodations for the lunch room.
Food products are clearly marked with what ingredients they include and also what type of facility the item in question was made. Some items for example that are gluten and casein free may still have soy and egg products inside and be made in a facility that uses nuts in other products and maybe even dairy. Always pack food items your child can have and offer these when the places you visit will be serving food to the children so your child is eating something as well and not feeling left out.
Some children that are asthmatics cannot be near someone who wears perfume and this too can be listed in the IEP. Do not overlook any incident that could occur when the child is not in your presence and teach the child that they need to ask first before they touch any food item or put it into their mouth.
Check the Database at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and get on their mailing list. Get a MedicAlert bracelet and let everyone know of your allergy. For many they cannot be in the same room when an allergic product is out. I heard during a Good Morning America segment last week on this Canadian tragedy that 5% of those with peanut allergies cannot even ingest or smell peanuts or they will have a reaction.
I grew up knowing that my father had a bad reaction to strawberries and ended up in the Hospital as a teenager. He eventually outgrew his asthma, but at 45 mine is still intense at times, so I have never tried a strawberry. So far only Nicholas has consumed them, but this has been in the form of a poptart.
I learned as a child that I was allergic to Horses when I was taking a lesson as a child and fell off the horse from sneezing so much. Neither of my children have been interested in being near Horses when we are at Griffith Park where they have horse and pony rides.
There are also people who have seafood allergies that need to let others know of this and take precautions in event of an emergency contact.
Free Info Kit from EpiPen
What Is Anaphylaxis
Flying with a Food Allergy
Food Allergy Network Tip of the Day
What is Allergy Testing by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. AAAAI Physician Referral and Information Line, (800) 822-2762
Gluten Free Casein Free
Celiac Disease and Gluten-Free Support Center
Safety In The Home
Gluten Free Pretzels