Thursday, August 16, 2007


One of my friends has a friend (whom I've never met). She has a 5 year old with a life threatening peanut allergy (aren't they all potentially?) - I've never met her though. I know for a fact she doesn't read this blog (she probably is only vaguely aware of me and Bella)....

Her son has had a couple of scary incidents that involved hospitals and epi-pens (need I go on?). One minor incident was enough for me to change my ways and become uber-vigilant about what Bella could eat.

Here's the point of my post though: I was surpised to learn that she NEVER lets him eat anything at other people's houses. Is that weird to you? Even when she is there and the people tell her exactly what is in the dishes - even family and close friends. She says that she doesn't want to set a precedent for her child - that he shouldn't believe what other people tell him about what's in the food they are having. She wants him to think that the only place he can eat is at home.

I say she's a bit paranoid and setting him up for paranoia during school and potentially alienating him from friends and socializing. I think times like this are a really good opportunity for a parent to teach a child to take control of their allergy and not be hindered by it. Basically I want Bella to think to herself (almost like a vegetarian or vegan) - hmmm, what's on the menu? Well, I can't have that because it has nuts, but look what I CAN have! Or to say to herself, should I be eating this? Let me ask someone first.

Am I a horrible, naive, loosey-goosey, hippie-dippie mother? Is 5 too young to teach cause and effect? Some of my family think I am nuts (gotta work that term into every post - hee hee) for showing Bella what peanut butter looks like, or peanuts in and out of a shell (in photos of course!) so she knows to stay away. I know it will take some time for it really to sink in, but isn't all of this about education and awareness, not sheltering your child from reality?

My mother, unfortunately, has a life threatening allergy to shellfish. Does it stop her from eating out at seafood restaurants? Nope. She's just really careful and really clear when she goes to a restaurant. I think we're lucky in that she set a great example of how to live your life with a food allergy that can stop you in your tracks. Believe me, she's spent time in the hospital (and actually was stuck in British customs after cross-contamination from inflight dining - that's a story for another time though)...

What would you do (WWYD)? Thoughts? If you went to a family member's house and they made a cake (from a mix you approved - or from scratch with approved ingredients), would you let your child have some or would you still not trust it? Please let me know!


allergicmom said...

It depends on where he is. If I'm going to my sister-in-law's house, I bring something for him. (Read an early entry in my blog, where I describe a bbq where she added something he was allergic to, in every single dish.)

Not only do I not trust her, my son doesn't trust her any more, and is totally spooked by eating there. (Let's not mention the time she left out peanut butter rice krispie squares for him and his cousin to snack on. And then she complained because he vomited it all back up again, onto her pet-stained carpet.)

And she has no excuse for not being cautious: her best friend's son is also allergic to peanuts.

But I totally trust other friends of mine to bring over food that I'll let my son eat. I know from experience that they will be ultra-careful, and will do their best to not contaminate the food.

And at 4, my son is super-careful himself. And when he's spooked, there's nothing I can do to get him to eat. I just give him his safe food, and trust that he'll get a balanced meal sometime over that week.

I guess he is taking charge of his allergy, but I so wish that he didn't have to learn that at such a young age.

Anne D said...

We do eat at people's homes. They love my boys and we check out the labels at people's homes.

But I've never had to bring out the eip-pen either, so that could make a BIG difference.

Granted, I carry the epi-pen with me, but we are now into our 4th year and 4th epi-pen.

Good luck! And trust your gut. (no pun intended)

Growing in Grace (Nicole) said...

For me it also depends on the level of trust I have for that person. If they really "get" it. When he's not with me or his dad I try to make it clear that he shouldn't accept anything other that what he's brought from home. I also try to respect his instincts. Sometimes even when I say something is okay, he declines. For whatever reason, if he doesn't want something it's totally okay.

ark said...

Your attitude seems so much more sane and better for Bella in the long run to me. Everyone can tell how careful and protective you are being, it doesn't mean you have to raise them to be co-dependent on you. One thing we've learned is that doing what feels right to you is usually the best course of action.

greenlady31 said...

You also need to take into account that some people are more sensitive to the allergenic protein than others. Robyn Allen (whose mom founded Anaphylaxis Canada) died from eating a sandwich that didn't have any peanuts - but it was cut with a knife that had been wiped "clean" after cutting a pbj sandwich. Sabrina Shannon, who had a severe milk allergy, died after eating fried that had been picked up with tongs that had also been used for a cheeseburger.

For people with this degree of sensitivity, trusting someone not to use an allergen isn't enough - you have to make sure that the allergen isn't anywhere near anything that is used to prepare the food. For them, maybe it is best that they learn to only eat food prepared in allergen-free kitchens.

I'm lucky that my son hasn't shown this degree of sensitivity (knock on wood) but I would never judge another family who is doing what they think is best to keep their child safe. When it comes to food allergies, "one size fits all" is definitely not the rule.

ChupieandJ'smama said...

I let my son eat a few things at others houses (hot dogs and fries at my moms or at my neighbors or some chips) but that's pretty much it. BUT, that's because he's allergic to wheat, rye, barley, egg, milk, peanut, and tree nut. I have a hard enough time trying to keep it all straight let alone trusting someone who doesn't deal with all these allergies on a daily basis. If he outgrows some of these, then we'll re-evaluate the situation at that time.
My older son has a friend from school with a peanut allergy and when he comes over I let his mom know what lunch will be and she is comfortable with that. I would be too if our situations were reversed. But she has told me that she would not feel comfortable feeding my little guy because she has not dealt with the wheat, rye, and barley allergies. I appreciate her honesty.
I hope one day my son can go out to eat by himself and advocate for himself no matter what his allergies are. I know that day will come, but for now, with all his allergies, I feel like I'm his best advocate and the best line of defense to keep him safe. There isn't a right answer here. It just depends on the comfort level of the mother and the child.

Sarah said...

Rather than put myself in the position of having to decide if he can eat something or not on the spot with a 4 yo who wants to eat it I just bring his food with us. He only eats food from us. He is contact reactive and even though I can read labels at people's houses if they are serving peanut butter to their kids and using the same cooking equipment it's a no-go for us. Perhaps you could call that co-dependent but a 4 year old is co-dependent! I do show my son how to read labels, to recognize peanuts in products, etc. I am teaching him to manage it BUT for now he does not eat anything that doesn't come from mom or dad. It's a simple rule to remember and he always has good alternatives available for him. I have friends who I know really get it and can provide safe food...but for now it's off limits. My son is in preschool and in the care of others who may try and feed him...I don't want him trying to decide what is ok and what is not. simple rule is what works for us now.

Maybe I am your friend's friend? LOL

wachibre said...

I agree with her. DS can eat at my parents' house, my brothers, and our house and otherwise he eats food I bring. I think if you read more about the dangers of cross-contamination and people who died from eating things touched by a contaminated spatula, knife, etc you may also find you feel very differently about this. Other people in general, esp thosee who have your child's allergens in their kitchens and use them, are not going to take the care a food allergic family would to avoid contaminating non-allergenic food because there is a lot to it. Even as careful as I am (and I"m one of the most careful people with regard to food allergies who I know) messed up once while making food that I thought was safe for my friend's son. He has almost identical allergies as my son plus one more. Well, opps! The food had that allergen in it but I forgot. Sounds very dumb and trust me, I'm not dumb. I made a mistake. It would be so much easier for someone *without* FAs to make this type of mistake.