Life is a learning process.
As parents, we are learning new things all the time about allergies and how to manage them. Similarly, children are also on a learning journey and we need to adjust the way we teach them about allergies as they continue to grow and mature.
I was struck by the changes we have gone through in our allergy management, when our son went to Sunday School for the first time in three years. Our son is at risk of anaphylaxis to milk, eggs and all nuts. He is unable to eat any of these foods and we continue to avoid even the possibility of traces in most foods. However, at age 3, when he (occasionally) went to Sunday School, we had a long list of things to organise and discuss. Part of the reason his attendance was so occasional was that the effort required and the stress it caused probably outweighed the benefit.
Some of the things we used to do are the same as they are today:
- Medical Information - Updated action plans for his anaphylaxis and asthma are always provided.
- Medicine - Emergency Epipen, antihistimine and ventolin are always left in the room with our son.
- We make sure we chat to the staff and volunteers, so they know MATTHEW has ENTERED THEIR CARE!!!!
- Food - we provide all our own snacks and water bottle. No Food allowed - sticker placed on him.
- No food crafts, without clarification from us.
Some things that we used to do at age 3 seem excessive and unecessary now at age 6:
- providing a special place mat for him to eat from, and to do craft on.
- providing his own glue sticks, his own colour pencils (to ensure no cross contamination)
- sitting separately from other children during meals and even some craft time.
Why are we more relaxed now?
The main reason I think is that our son has been attending school now for a year and half. Although we went through many procedures at school, I am sure that the kids do not honestly wash their hands as often nor as well as they should. I am sure cross contamination occurs in many instances in the class room. However, our son has not had a serious reaction so far... touch wood! I guess this experience means that for us now, it seems our son needs to eat the allergen before he reacts. This was not the case when he was younger. And so, we have entered a stage in his life where the implements he uses and the surfaces he touches do not need to be as squeaky clean. Our son has also developed significantly in his understanding of allergies, and the children at this age are not nearly as messy as they were at 3. Phew, what a relief!
Saying all that, I still stayed in the room for the whole session, to get a good idea of what goes on and what the helpers are like. I am enormously happy to conclude that my son is able to stay at Sunday School from now on, without my presence. They have all my contact details for emergencies, they have trained volunteers (quite a few), and I feel the risks are minimised and managed.
What a difference a few years make!
I wonder what life will be like at 9?
When was the last time you reassessed your risk management strategies around allergies?
I know that we tend to stick with what has worked in the past, but perhaps sometimes, it is good to reassess. You might be pleasantly surprised.