Our Peanut-free Journey

Life with a peanut allergic son.

Pennsylvania Epi-Pen Law — June 18, 2011

Pennsylvania Epi-Pen Law

When we visited the allergist last month, she mentioned that Pennsylvania is working on getting a law passed that will allow students to carry their epi-on their person. As of now schools can make the decision for us as to where our children’s epi-pens are stored. While I get that kids in kindergarten, first-grade, maybe even second-grade should not be allowed to carry their epi-pens I believe the children in the upper grades should be allowed. If you are able to do the epi-pen yourself, you should be allowed to carry it. My son is going into 3rd grade next fall. I don’t know if the law will be passed by then or not. If not, he will be fairly far away from the nurse’s office and that makes me very uncomfortable. Up until now he was right down the hall from the office. Granted, this year it was as far down the hall as he could be, but close enough that I felt comfortable with it.

My hope is that even if the law isn’t passed, the new principal (yes, I have to start over with a new principal this year) will call our allergist and find out what this new law entails. If our kids can’t outgrow this allergy then we need to do our best to advocate for their safety.

1st Grade done. Wheal results for this year. — July 23, 2010

1st Grade done. Wheal results for this year.

Since I last posted, five months ago!, Alex has finished first grade. Other than the few bumps I previously mentioned it was an uneventful year. Thank goodness.

He also had an allergist appointment during that time. His wheal has gotten smaller (now 12mm) but he is still very allergic to peanuts. I know that every peanut allergy is serious in that we never know when the reaction will be anaphylaxis but Alex’s wheal and spread results indicate that he is 100% guaranteed to have a reaction if exposed to peanut protein. The only unknown is what that reaction will be.

Alex was only diagnosed with a peanut allergy because he ended up with a rash and a very swollen eye when he was 20-months-old. I had given him peanut butter crackers that morning. The third time he was exposed to peanuts. I believe the other two times gave him a small rash as well but nothing else was out of the ordinary.

For the first three years I just got his RAST test done every year. He varied between level 2 and level 3 with the blood test. Then before he started school I felt that he needed to see an actual allergist. His kindergarten year he saw the allergist in December and his wheal was 16mm. He was also diagnosed with cat and dog allergies (which we already knew), a spring tree and some kind of fall weed. I believe there were 23 pricks in all. Thankfully he was not allergic to any other food product including tree nuts.

I have to explain to people sometimes that peanuts are not actually nuts at all. They are legumes like peas etc. The look on their face is usually pretty funny.

So, that’s that. We have 37 days left in our summer vacation. Around day 25 or so I will be meeting with the new teachers and discussing protocol for this coming year. Fingers crossed it goes well!

No news is good news. — February 22, 2010

No news is good news.

Most of the time anyway. This school year is flying by quickly. I’d like to see it has been flawless but we have had a couple bumps along the way. The two biggest ones involved lunch. My biggest fear.

1. One day Alex’s class was going to have a pizza party. I mistakenly assumed that was their lunch. I know, we should never assume something but it was pizza! Anyway, the principal called saying Alex didn’t have a lunch and wanted to know what he could have from the a-la-carte items. As we talked she informed me that they have a lunch that is cheese stick, fruit, yogurt and juice box. Fantastic! He’ll take that.

About two weeks later we were really scrounging for lunch and I asked Alex if he wanted to buy the cheese stick lunch, he did. When I asked him that night how he liked his meal he said it was good and he even got a roll and mashed potatoes. What? I guess because the principal walked him throught he lunch line the first time she only let him get the things I mentioned. I explained to him that he can only get what was in the first meal and then we decided it was just better to pack every day.

2. He has his own table in the cafeteria. It’s a small table and no one sits there at any other lunch. His teacher is kind enough to check lunches and see if any children have peanuts in their lunch, if they don’t then they can sit with Alex. Thankfully there are plenty of kids who want to sit with my little man so he has never eaten alone.  One day he was with two of his good buddies and popsicles were given out at lunch. The cafeteria lady (she walks around and helps kids open things etc.) looked at the popsicle and told Alex he could have it. Now I’m sure she read the ingredients but since there is no law for “may contains” I don’t know for sure that it was safe. He had no problems so it was fine but I had to explain to Alex, again, that he can’t eat anything at school that I haven’t said is ok. His teacher buys their snacks off the list I provided so I know that snack time is ok but I never thought the cafeteria lady would let Alex eat something. I explained the best that I could that sometimes adults mean well but it isn’t always safe. Ugh.

Hopefully the rest of the year will go without incident. This journey can be exhausting sometimes! 😉

New School Year — October 12, 2009

New School Year

Wow, I had no idea it was this long since I last posted. We are now into a new school year. The one where he eats at school. And everything is fine!

We have an action plan in place and he sits at a separate table in the lunchroom. By separate I mean it is his table only. No other children sit there, not even during other lunch periods. Then each day the teacher asks if anyone has a peanut-free lunch and if they do then they can sit with Alex. The only problem is that it only sits four kids and usually more want to sit with him! He loves it.

The school is not peanut-free but the two first-grade classrooms are. I made a list of safe snacks the teacher can use to buy snacks for the classroom. At the beginning of the year they asked for a $10.00 donation to buy snacks for the year. That way everyone is eating the same thing and it is safe to eat.

Other than that things have been uneventful. We leave for DisneyWorld in 10 days and I have been hearing wonderful things about their food allergy awareness. Hopefully that holds true. I’ll have a full report when we get back.

Hope everyone out there is having a wonderful fall!

The Peanut-Free Birthday Treat — February 11, 2009

The Peanut-Free Birthday Treat

This was a great idea for a birthday treat. It was cute and as peanut-free as I could make it while still buying mainstream ingredients.

Nilla Wafer Hamburgers

Two Nilla Wafers
One Snack Size Peppermint Patty
Vanilla Icing tinted red and some tinted yellow
Sesame Seeds

No need for a description, I’ll just show the picture:

treat

A Peanut-Free Birthday Treat — January 24, 2009

A Peanut-Free Birthday Treat

February 2. Groundhog’s Day. Alex’s birthday.

I am trying to come up with a cute birthday treat for Alex’s kindergarten class that is peanut-free, not boring and still utilizes the snack sheet that I gave at the beginning of the year.

I haven’t come up with anything yet. I thought about buying the Keebler fudge stripe cookies and putting a little icing face on them but that seems kind of dumb. Baked goods are out. Although cookies aren’t exactly healthy, they would be quicker to eat than say a box of Nerds. Alex first requested Lucky Charms cereal. I was trying to figure out if I could make little pots of gold to put the cereal in but I haven’t spent enough time searching the net for ideas.

I guess if all else fails, I’ll just send in a couple boxes of Lucky Charms and they can enjoy that snack for several days. We shall see. I’ll update when I come to a decision.

Public School — October 4, 2008

Public School

So Alex has been in public school now for a week and a half. He is really enjoying spending time with the kids. It takes some prodding but I can usually figure out what he did during his time at school. I feel comfortable with the precautions the school is taking this year. We have a plan of action in place, there was a letter sent home to all kindergartners and then a letter sent home to the whole school letting parents know there is a child with a life-threatening peanut allergy attending. His classroom is peanut-free and all snacks must be from a pre-approved list that I made.  Even birthday treats must come from the list.

I think the fact that I had tried homeschooling really made the school administrators realize how terrified I was of sending him to school. Thus they took every precaution they could without making the entire school peanut-free. I’m happy about that. Alex needs to know where he can and can’t make adjustments.

So things are going well. The only thing that I was surprised to hear Alex tell me was that he was excited that he didn’t have to eat a different snack than everyone else. He was beaming when he told me that they all got the same snack. My sweet boy. I never thought he minded having a different snack in preschool, I guess he did but never said anything. It breaks my heart to think about him hurting. At least now he’s happy.

Homeschool Failure — September 17, 2008

Homeschool Failure

I can’t do it. I wanted to. I just can’t. I called the elementary school that Alex was suppose to attend and got the ball rolling to put him into the kindergarten class. We have a meeting on Friday where we will discuss our concerns and what protocols Alex will need.

I have been having an internal battle again about whether this was the right decision. This is just so tough. I just feel that Alex will have a better education in the public school system. It’s not that I feel what I taught was wrong. He just doesn’t have much of an interest in learning and I feel that a person who was taught how to teach would be better for him. I will do what I can at home to help him but he needs that classroom experience.

Is this the end of our saga? Probably not. Will he ever be homeschooled again? I can’t say for certain. I hope that this decision is the right one. When I told him that homeschool wasn’t really working for us I asked if he wanted to go to school. He replied with a sigh “well, I do miss my friends”, maybe if he is around kids his own age he will get interested in learning.

Homeschool it is … at least for this year. — July 22, 2008

Homeschool it is … at least for this year.

The decision has been made and Alex will be homeschooled for the kindergarten year. I have spoken to the principal at the school and since they have a morning and afternoon kindergarten class, the only way I can really ensure a peanut-free classroom is for Alex’s class to be the only one in the room. The principal and I are going to reconvene in January to talk about the following school year. I received some great information from another mom who has a daughter just leaving kindergarten in another school district.

I just didn’t feel prepared enough for this year. Now that I have a plan with the principal, paperwork and more information I feel better for the first-grade year. So that’s the plan. Hopefully I won’t go crazy having both kids home with me this year but it should be a fun but educational time.

Decision – Home — July 16, 2008

Decision – Home

I think we are going to homeschool for the kindergarten year. That gives me time to get the school prepared in a way that will keep Alex safe for his first grade year. The year he will have to eat with the students in the cafeteria. Hopefully I will be able to do a good enough job this year preparing him both academically and emotionally for public school. As much he understands he can’t have peanuts, he doesn’t understand everything about it. For instance, as we prepared for a three-day beach weekend last week, Alex told me we didn’t need his epi-pens because we were only going a few days. Unfortunately that couldn’t be further from the truth. I tried explaining to him that he needs his epi every he goes. It’s these little things that make me very nervous about sending him to school this year. Hopefully this year at home will prepare the school, me and Alex for first grade next year.