Thursday, February 25, 2016

Allergy free and Non food ideas for Easter Egg Hunts

Easter is coming up... and what is normally a time for celebration and a bit of fun, becomes a time when allergy parents have to put on their thinking hats, pre-empt situations at school, at church, and even at the shops. How you choose to celebrate, or not celebrate will make a difference to your child, and your family. The way you explain things to your child will also make a difference to how they view their food allergies.

Allergy Education

Last year, I did an Easter egg hunt at my in-laws, with little clues for where to find the next egg. I filled plastic eggs with small lollies, snacks and little chicks, and of course ended with the finale egg. My 3 year old actually remembers it from last year and has been asking when we can do it again. The best part of last year for my older son was the food trials we had to do leading up to Easter. Every day, he ate increasing amounts of a large Easter Egg, to ensure that Easter Sunday would not end up in hospital. We can sometimes find a very bright side to allergies ;-)
Easter Egg hunts can be fraught with danger if other children are involved. On some occasions when other children are searching for normal chocolate eggs, I've filled plastic eggs with special treats or stickers, and put say a name sticker or some other special sticker on them. (This also allows me to know the eggs have not been open by someone else and act like a safety seal). Then I tell my child they are only allowed to pick up their special eggs with their sticker, since the other ones would make them sick. At a young age, I would walk with them, and direct them to the right locations, so they don't accidentally pick up the wrong eggs. I would point out the wrong egg occasionally, and explain, oh, that egg is for other children, let's keep looking for your eggs. It can still be fun for them... but it really depends how big and controlled it is. If there are too many people, I would probably not choose not to attend that Easter Egg hunt. If it's just a few friends, then it is more manageable.

Non-Food Easter Egg Hunt

Organising a non-food Easter Egg hunt would be a great way to educate others about how to include, and not exclude, children with food allergies. Here are some great ideas for an Easter Egg hunt, that don't involve food at all - Non-food Easter Egg Hunt. I love the puzzle pieces one... but imagine what would happen if you didn't manage to find all the pieces!?

And what about Glow in the Dark Easter eggs?? Simple, but clever! 

Allergy Friendly Easter Eggs

Here's another idea for making Easter Egg icypoles. Cute!

And one last one... Rainbow Jelly eggs anyone?

It seems alternatives to the traditional chocolate Easter Egg hunt are only limited by your imagination, and perhaps personal energy levels.

Have a safe Easter everyone, and don't forget to look for the real meaning behind Easter.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Food Allergy Anxiety

As a parent of children with multiple allergies, I am all too familiar with the feelings of fear and anxiety that come soon after an allergy diagnosis. The doctors can be great in providing you with emergency medication, and perhaps some advice about how to manage the allergies, but few provide any ongoing support that may be needed for the emotional ups and downs that come with it. Actually, I'm not sure I know of any doctors that have provided that!
I have wanted to write about the anxiety that comes along with food allergies for some time now, but it has been hard to pinpoint exactly which "angle" I would take. The DSM 5 definition of anxiety (the book psychologists use to diagnose formal anxiety disorder) includes the point that the fear is "unreasonable or excessive". For someone who fears spiders, their fear is excessive, considering the danger most spiders pose in day to day life. However, if you fall into a pit of dangerous spiders, then that fear is completely reasonable and will cause you to climb out to safety as soon as possible. Is it reasonable to fear for your children when they are surrounded by substances that can threaten their life, but seem benign to everyone else? The answer is yes, the fear is reasonable and not excessive. In this way, the traditional way of dealing with anxiety is not very helpful. You can't just use positive thought to make that fear go away. Fear in the case of life threatening allergies is reasonable, and can actually help to keep you and your loved ones safe.

In our Facebook Allergy Fun - Support group, one parent asks, "if the phone rings, and it is childcare, or the grandparents, I immediately jump to the worst conclusion. Is this bad?"

Considering the situation, it is reasonable to fear that an allergic reaction has taken place. If we try and convince ourselves that the phone call is actually about where did we put the child's hat, then we may choose not to respond to the call straight away. If we panic and lose our ability to drive or think clearly, then the situation is made worse. What is a reasonable response? Yes, our heart rates may go up for a few minutes as we make the return call and find out more information. If there is no risk, then we need to be able to return to a calm state relatively quickly. How? Be thankful! For caregivers, it can be helpful if they leave a message that immediately alleviates our fear. As a school counsellor, I would often leave a message that started with, "Hi it's Grace, the school counsellor. There is nothing urgent, you child is fine, but it would be great if you could call me back when you have a moment."

So reasonable fear is helpful, but when the fear is overwhelming or crippling, then we need to look at it more closely.

Let's break it down.

What fears are there for today?

What fears are there for this week? What fears are there for the future... for next year... for 5 years' time... for 10 years' time?

Sometimes, our fears can snow ball and it can be helpful to separate what fear is helpful today, and what fears are for the future, and just too tiring to carry everyday. Truly... "Each day has enough trouble of its own" Matthew 6:34. Allergy parents need to plan a lot more than other parents - we plan food, doctors appointments, medication and we plan all the extra forms that comes with having a child with allergies. By all means plan, but we cannot live our day to day life in fear of what lies beyond this moment we are living.

Take time out away from allergies - maybe 5 minutes, preferably longer, and more regularly.

Don't read about allergies everyday. Facebook and the internet in general are a great tool for bringing together communities, especially in the allergy world, but anytime there is a food recall, or a death due to food allergies, we hear about it. This can skew our perspective and feed our fears. Be informed, but regulate what you read or think about.

Read other things - inspirational things.
Look at beautiful things - no body was every allergic to a rainbow!
Smell lovely things.
Touch things (or people) that bring you warmth, security and comfort.
Think on good things - think on amazing things, and count your blessings, whatever they may be.
Try and find time away from your burdens - time with your spouse, with friends to rejuvenate yourself.
Physical activity - it is important to let out some of our stress that we hold in our body. Whatever helps you - a walk, a run, a jump or a ride... just do it!

Find a supportive community - spouse, extended family, friends, online support, professional help. 

There are multitudes of online support groups available now on Facebook. You can find a group that is specific to the allergies you are dealing with, or a group that is more local and can help you find the right products and services you need. Pinterest has lots of recipes available. We tend to look for Paleo, or Nut free Paleo. Vegan recipes can also be helpful.

I invite you to join our Facebook group - Allergy Fun - Support.

If you are not approved within a few days, please send me a message. I try and block anyone who might just be sending spam through. It has been a wonderful and supportive group over the last few years, so we would love for other allergy families to join.

Never be ashamed to seek professional help. Life with allergies is not a path that we planned to travel and sometimes those around us just aren't able to support us enough... or maybe they are having trouble too.

Is there more you would like to know?

If you have a specific topic you would like to discuss, please send me a message. I would love to hear from you. This is just the first of many posts about how we can all live life to the full while managing life threatening food allergies.

Do you have a child with food allergies? Find out more about how to help their social and emotional development, so that they aren't crippled with anxiety themselves by checking out our Allergy Education page or enquire about a personal consultation via email: