I didn't know how much food could be harmful until my little girl had her first allergy reaction when she was four years old. Up until then we never had an allergy scare or anything close to a food reaction. We have been a family that tried many different kinds of foods and being a multi-cultural family we eat so many different dishes. My husband is Jamaican and I am Vietnamese so we have so many types of meals that being made in our household. Some of my little girl's favourite dishes are curry chicken and rice to "Pho" which is a famous Vietnamese beef noodle soup.
It all started one day when my husband had bought some sesame snaps as snack option for the family to enjoy. My little girl (her name is Tuyet) had gone into the snack cupboard and pulled it out as I was getting my little baby boy down for his nap. And within seconds of eating it she started to cry and complain that she ate something spicy. As I ran down towards her screams and saw her face, her eyes were starting to swell and she continued to cry in pain. We immediately got the kids ready and went straight to the Pediatric emergency department.
When we got to the emergency department Tuyet's little face was so swollen and the nurses immediately let us in and started to take her vitals because at this point she was so upset and her face was getting worse. The doctor administered some benydryl and we waited to monitor her changes, but after an hour with no changes and her face kept getting worse the doctor decided to administer a higher dose and finally it worked. Tuyet's face slowly started to go down but the swelling stayed a little longer around her eyes and nose area. Through some tests, the doctor gave us a referral to a allergy specialist and also prescribed an EPI pen until we get into contact with the allergist. Once we got in to see the allergist and the doctor did a series of allergy tests to see where her levels of allergens towards nuts in general. The test came back positive for my little girl's allergy towards sesame seeds, walnuts and peanuts.
Now that Tuyet is in grade 1 we have been very careful as to what she is allowed to eat and we also have care plan for her at scooll. We had meetings at her school on steps to take if and when she has an allergic reaction as to how the school should handle the situation. It's been a great experience so far and Tuyet's teacher has made it a really great experience. Tuyet's teacher has gone as far as to have all parents in the classroom to not have any food that nuts/seeds nor traces of nuts/seeds in the packed lunches. With everyone being on board with Tuyet's allergies she hasn't had any reactions at all.
Here are some important things I've learned of having a child with a life threatening food allergy:
1. Don't rely on someone else to prevent your child from the life threatening allergy. What I mean is that I don't expect the school or the teacher to prevent the allergy. Yes the school has gone beyond what they have to do in order to keep the classroom safe for my little girl. We have made it a point to talk to Tuyet about her allergy. Tuyet knows that she shouldn't touch any nuts, if a friend tries to share food with her that she should refuse and tell her teacher.
2. We always make Tuyet packed lunches and never opt in for the school hot lunch menu. We also pack her special treats that the teacher leaves in the fridge at school so if there is a birthday, Tuyet has her own special treat she can have during the birthday celebrations.
3. If and when we do go out and eat at restaurants we always make sure to let the waiter's know of tuyet's life threatening allergy and we also try to avoid restaurants that have sesame in their dishes, such as lots of asian restaurants since lots of Asian cuisine even in my own cultural dishes have sesame oil in it so we have to avoid lots of different places .
4. When we do venture out to restaurants I always pack a little snack or food that Tuyet really loves that she can have while we are out.
5. If your child has a life threatening allergy, taking a CPR course as well as taking this online Allergy Aware course is so great just so your aware as the parent of what to expect and do if the allergy attack ever happens. I've linked a great site of free courses you can take just so your ready if an emergency should arise.
6. Again I can't stress this enough, the most important tip is to talk to your child about their allergy and why they can't have this particular food and what can happen.
Also if your not aware if your child has a life threatening allergy and needs an EPI pen, if and when they have their allergy attack at school the teacher or caregiver are not allowed to administer the EPI pen, they're only allowed to guide your child through the process of injecting themselves with EPI pen.
I've actually had to adminster the EPI pen myself and I can say it was quite a scary experience. Although I've had training for this and as a Preschool teacher, I've had many first aid, cpr courses and uses EPI pen testers it's not quite the same as doing it in real life. As the cpr course would say "blue to sky and orange to the thigh". And also remember to gently massage the area of where you injected the EPI pen because your child will be quite sore in that spot. Since again remember the needle on the EPI has to be big enough to go through the pants your child is wearing to pierce into the skin.
Some things to consider when getting an EPI pen for child, remember about the expiration date because all EPI pens do expire within a year, make sure the liquid inside is clear (there is a little window on the EPI pen) and it's okay if your not able to administer the EPI pen yourself, if you have someone around with you to help, don't be afraid to ask for help. It's a traumatic experience in itself to see your child in distress and if your feeling anxiety and stress as well, it'd be a better idea to have another calm adult to assist in administering the EPI pen.