If daily life activities don’t seem to feel normal when you have food allergies you are not alone. Going back to school is not exciting times of the year for students with food allergies or their parents. Children and teens not only have to deal with the normal anxious feelings of going to back to school, but they have to cope with their mom’s or dad’s food allergies preparedness madness. The list of to do things is never-ending and real fears are often attached to it. Food allergy related fears will come and go, new ones will quickly appear and stick inside for a long time, and others suddenly go away without you noticing. Talking about food allergy fears gets easier with time, but there is no possible way to stop them from coming.
Once food allergies touches your life or the one of someone you love, there will always be something that will augment your food allergy fears. Sometimes you can quickly empty the “fears bucket”, but somehow one fear will always manage to get stuck inside and it could feel so disturbing that you just don’t want to talk about it. These are what I call the “food allergy silent fears”.
Students Silent Fears
Children and teens want to feel safe at school especially if they have anaphylaxis food allergies, so they want mom to tell the nurse about their allergies and give the school his/her safety kit but they fear what else she is going to do. Is mom going to tell everyone about my allergies? Is she going to start distributing all those food allergy awareness flyers? Is she going to start putting up posters about how to use an Epipen? Is she going to be there all the time, going to all the school trips, volunteering to do things that no volunteers are needed for? Will she ever stop?
No matter what mom does or how she does it, a child with food allergies will feel that they are different and there is no way to keep them a secret. Sooner or later someone is going to know and they will be treated different by many, excluded from activities, be embarrassed by their mom, or even forced to sit on the allergy safe cafeteria table with kids he/she hates. They will share some of their fears, but living with food allergies is always attached to a silent fear.
Parents Silent Fears
Parents, especially mom’s of students with food allergies try to act normal during back to school but in the inside they are terrified. I wish I could tell moms to relax and not to worry so much about but I can’t. If you have a child with food allergies, you need to plan, execute and never led your guard down. Always follow your instincts and don’t be ashamed of becoming a “helicopter mom”. With time you get better at it and will be able to find ways to do things without embarrassing your child, but some kind of fear will always be there. Not been able to closely watch over your child will always make you worry about something. If you ever see another parent with a child who also has food allergies even if they seem like they have everything under control, they don’t. Every parent is always dealing with a food allergy “silent fear”.
Example of how to talk to your child about back to school so they will listen.
Kid: Mom please don’t start telling everyone at school about my food allergies, just tell the school nurse. Please don’t embarrass me.
Mom: Don’t worry, I will only inform the school nurse about it and only those that the nurse tells me I have to.
Kid: Can dad do it?
Mom: That’s a great idea I will ask him to do it.
Things Mom could do without telling anyone.
Ask dad to help in taking the medications to school and while preparing the medicine kit, don’t include inside it a medicine that is not a must have, such as an anti-acid or Tylenol. The next day go to school and take the “forgotten” medication to the nurse. Try to go during school hours so your child won’t see you.
Get name, telephone, and email of every teacher your child will have and any after school activities leaders and coaches
Write and send them an individualized email explaining your kids allergies and include a picture of the child embedded in the email. Why? Most schools, if not all, will only inform the principals office and nurses about a student’s food allergies. If the teacher doesn’t answer your e-mail or the reply you get looks like an automatic reply, call them. You will probably get a recorder, so leave a message such as;
“Hi Mr. X I emailed you a note about my child (give name and last name) but I am not sure I send it to the correct e-mail address. Please let me know if you did. The best way to reach me is at: xxx-xxx-xxxx”
Don’t waste time worrying about what others will think or say about you. Every single time a parent, especially if a mom, tells someone about their child’s allergies they will most likely be told to relax and will tell others behind your back that you are acting “crazy” “paranoid” “overprotective” “ridiculous” .
How most Mom’s feel
1. How can I trust a nurse or an underpaid teacher who needs to take care of another 20 kids with problems to care of my child?
2. So many times I just think I was lucky and God helped, because I didn’t do was I was supposed to.
Every parent will question their ability to identity the signs of a severe anaphylaxis reaction.
- I shouldn’t have injected the Epipen… but…He/She seemed fine ..Next time I will just inject him/her with the Epipen…
- But if I used the Epipen every time I think my kid is having a reaction I would be using it every day. There is not a day that goes by that a moment of panic due to ingested foods forces you to make a decision
- If use the Epipen …OHH!!!! you over reacted… If I don’t Ohhh!!! you should have.
- I guess we all have to simply say “Thank God” and/or “we just got lucky…
- I gave him/her Benadryl and I think it was out of panic.
- I got lucky and I really feel bad because I should have listen to my son and call 911 sooner. ….
I believe the day I realized my son was much smarter than me was when he was about 4 years of age. When the time came to start school, I was silently panicking about the food allergies. Inside my brain I would have these thoughts/conversations
1. He is really smart but he is going to be in school with teachers that just met him and they have another 18 plus kids more to worry about.
2. He is really little but I don’t know why, but I know he will say what he needs when he needs it. But adults will not do what he says. They will want to take over the decisions on what to do in case of an allergic reaction.
Why I knew he knew what to do better than a nurse of a teacher as long as he was not “overpowered”
Why I knew my soon to enter Kindergarten child knew when he was having an allergic reaction more than any nurse or school teacher could?
Even as a baby there he was able to somehow always able to let me know that …”mom relax I know I am OK or vs Mom call 911 or I will call them”
It was confusing, for me, but now that I look back he was always right.
What we Moms tell Teachers to do and What adults caring for a kid with food allergies usually do:
I knew teachers and school administrators were adults and in case of an accidental food allergic reaction adults would take over and do what needed to be done to keep him safe such like I did many times, “Don’t worry just take this Benadryl and you will be OK”.
Why do parents and adults think we always know more than kids?
Can a child know more than anyone else if they are having an allergic reaction that can quickly become severe? Why do we have to tell them,just relax you are over reacting?
Once diagnosed with food allergies, most kids know better than anyone else if they are having an allergic reaction. My child was barely six years of age and I gave him some sweet snacks I had ordered directly from the manufacturer and I was 200% confident he could eat them. He took small bite and immediately spitted it out and said mom this is not good…it’s making my tongue itch. Trying to follow what “experts” said about moms not loosing control and kids becoming paranoid or afraid of trying new foods, I keep assuring him that it was allergy safe.
I did what most adults will do. I said “No you are not having a bad reaction just relax”. I was trying to do what most parents, caregivers, school nurses, and coaches would do:
“Here baby, take some Benadryl”, but when I saw him grabbing the phone and I heard him saying “Mom look at my tongue, look how big it’s getting… if you don’t call 911 I will”…
I learn my lesson. Is better to over react than be sorry. My child knows better and I will always listen to him especially when he refuses to eat something. I would never again trust the label of a package nor I will ever stop worrying about food allergies. A proud over attentive, helicopter, over protective mom until a cure is found. Symptoms of anaphylaxis allergies are always different and can happen anytime anywhere.
When a kid tells you that he/she is having an allergic reaction, don’t take any risks. Call 911 listen to your child and always follow your heart. Better safe than sorry.