Friday, August 3, 2012

Nuts are NOT toys | a Momma Bear's plea

I believe in a mother’s instinct to protect her children; I belive that there are no limitations to the lengths a parent will go to ensure the safety of their child. Fortunately, for most of us, the moments when our Momma Bear must emerge are far and few between, however, when your child has a life-threatening allergy, the Momma Bear never gets a chance to hibernate.  When we discovered the boy was allergic to peanuts, we had to sort through out cupboards and reread the labels of products we’d been eating for years.

It’s difficult to decide where to draw the line with regard to the foods you allow your child to eat.  The allergist determined that the boy had no reaction to any other nuts, including tree nuts so we made the decision not to feed him, or keep in our home, any products that ‘may contain traces of peanuts’.  This is especially difficult for our family as many gluten-free products contain or are manufactured in facilities that process nuts. Fortuantely, as parents of an allergic child we are acutely aware of the food we buy and feed our children and our home is a location that we can control.

Public spaces on the other hand, can become a parent’s nightmare in a matter of moments.

Case and point, we were recently enjoying the summer weather at our local park with the boys; there is a fountain that drains down and around a small hill to a gate that traps the water, but can be released by the children. My boys, and almost all the other children, love to chase their ‘boats’ as they float down the river and open the gate.  We’ve seen ‘boats’ in a number of forms and on this particular day some older boys (probably around 7) were chasing leaves down the river.  Our boys were playing happily and the hubs and I were enjoying the peace and sunshine until suddenly the hubs noticed that the leaves had been replaced with nuts and shells.

We raced up to the boy and quickly explained to him that the other kids were playing with nuts and reminded him that he was very allergic.  We explained that we had to go home immediately because if he touched them, he might end up at the hospital. I felt awful cutting his playtime short so abruptly, and he was a upset for a few moments, but without doubt, keeping him safe is far more important than preventing a few tears of frustration.

As a parent, an aunt and a sister of individuals with life-threatening nut allergies, I know that I am hypersensitive and acutely aware of the presence of nuts in public places. For those of you who are not directly affected, its easy to forget that some people need not ingest their allergen in order to have an anaphylactic reaction. For my boy, touching a peanut butter sandwich crust resulted in two shots of epinephrine, a shot of steroids and a week of benadryl. I have a friend whose daughter had a reaction just from being in the vicinity of a peanut butter sandwich on a family outing.

If your child had a life-threatening allergy, how far would you go to keep him safe?

Nuts are a great source of nutrition for those that can ingest them and I wish that I could feed them to my children, but I can't.  If your child eats nuts, please take the time to teach them that nuts are not toys. If your children consume a snack that contains nuts in a public space, keep the snack localized and ensure you take a few moments and do a proper cleanup.  Simply washing hands, wiping tables, chairs or any other public items that may have been contaminated (even using just a baby wipe) can go a long way to keep an allergic child safe and healthy.

Please Momma Bear, won’t you help me protect my cubs?