Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Allergy Update - FAQ!

I know that most of you reading this could NOT care less about James' allergy issues, but I've actually gotten some emails from people recently that have asked really great questions so I thought I'd answer those today. I am not an allergy expert, this is just our opinion and the way that we've done things for James. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or email me!

The first question I got is actually one we answer often: 
Why can James eat at Chick-fil-A? 
{Actually I think the real statement was: James must not REALLY be allergic to nuts. He eats at Chick-fil-A.} {Chick-fil-A fries their food in peanut oil.}
So the REAL answer is the James is NOT allergic to peanuts so this wouldn't be a problem anyway. :) He has an allergy to tree nuts which is an entirely different food. We have been told to avoid peanuts and peanut products, BUT highly refined peanut oil takes the protein out of the oil {that's the part people are allergic to} so Chick-fil-A is supposed to be safe even for those with a peanut allergy. I have friends that swing both ways on this issue. Some have no problem eating Chick-fil-A and some won't step foot in there. For us, however, it isn't an issue. We HAVE seen pecan oil at the farmer's market and that's not something I'm willing to give him.

The second question I got was:
Why hasn't James ever had a bad reaction? He must not really have an allergy. / He must be outgrowing his allergy.
So the short answer here is that he HAS had a bad reaction. Click HERE to read what started all this and enjoy those pictures. Those pictures are a reaction to less than one cashew. It didn't cause anaphylaxis, but it did cause MAJOR hives, swelling, and vomiting. The longer answer is that Eddie and I have been very, very, very diligent about researching restaurants, reading ingredients, avoiding places and foods, etc. We are VERY strict about what he can and cannot eat. This is a child who is not allowed to eat birthday cake from a bakery. I've dug cake boxes out of trashcans before to read ingredients at a party. We are fairly thorough when it comes to reading ingredients. We also ask his caretakers to do the same thing. His teacher texted me pictures of the ingredients each day they had food at school. He had a box of "emergency treats" at school for birthday parties he couldn't participate in. The scary part is that we don't KNOW how he will react to the other nuts he's allergic to. Will it be a minor skin reaction? {Hives are still awful.} Or will it be the one that sends us to the emergency room? We should have gone to the emergency room the first time. If your child has a reaction like that, TAKE him/her. Don't worry that it's not "bad." Just GO! The people at the ER see other patients who have the sniffles. This is major compared to that. To answer the part about outgrowing his allergy, there is less than a 10% chance that he will. We just don't know. He hasn't been retested for anything so we've still avoided foods that could be triggers. Typically, for those who don't outgrow it, allergies get worse and reactions happen faster every time. That's why we're so cautious about having a reaction in the first place.

The third question was:
My child has just been diagnosed with asthma and I remembered that James has it, too. How have you handled it?
I am so NOT the person to ask about asthma. James was on a nebulizer for several months before we moved him to inhaled steroids. He's been off of his asthma medicine for MONTHS {except for last weekend when he saw his bag of emergency meds with YaYa and took it because I'd forgotten to send instructions} and has done fine. I keep expecting him to get sick because it's grass season and he is HIGHLY allergic to grass. See exhibit A below. If he gets wheezy or gets a cold or just a runny nose we start back on meds, but he has been super healthy recently {yep, it'll bite me next week for saying that!} so we've just not taken medicine in the past few months. I figure anytime we CAN get a break from it, we should! {Actually, that's not true. We really need to be on an antihistamine 100% of the time because of food allergies. Whoops!} Our pediatrician has totally taken over our asthma diagnosis but she wasn't concerned about it. If we ever get back to the point where he's coughing so much that he's throwing up at night, we'll work on a new plan. For now, he's great!

This is a reaction to grass. GRASS! Just playing outside during grass season last year. Crazy. {It's grainy because it's a backwards selfie. Someone got my phone but I realized it was fairly good documentation.}

Okay, and the last question!
How did you handle sending James off to preschool with a severe allergy? We're going in the fall and I am so scared to leave her!
This was a big, "Let go, let God," thing for me. I am very, very, very upfront anytime I drop James off for anything. Like annoyingly so. I'd rather people talk about what a crazy nut I am and NOT feed him things he can't have than be quiet about it, him have a reaction and someone not know what to do. With preschool, we chat with his teachers at orientation and then I sit down and write them an email so they can read it at their leisure. {Open House is just chaotic.} The first teacher he had told me she didn't know what an EpiPen was and blew it off. If I'd been braver back then I would've picked James up and unenrolled him IMMEDIATELY. And I should have. She was a nightmare. Instead, I went to the office and told the director about it and she made sure the teacher knew. The second teacher we had was a God-send. For real. He knew what we needed and He provided. I prayed all summer for her. She had a latex allergy and had to carry an EpiPen so she knew exactly what to do if a problem came up. Last year his teachers had no clue but they were AWESOME. They asked about everything and texted often about things in the room. They were wonderful. James has gone a handful of times to preschool camp and he went to VBS this summer. This means people who don't really know him are with him for just a small amount of time. For all of it, I've taken him his own snack. At VBS I could check things and let him have some things that the others were having. One day we swapped out the Graham Crackers and icing they were having with a different kind and it was fine. Brand to brand everything varies so we ALWAYS check. At camp it's been the same. One week he had to eat the snack I packed, another week he could eat what was provided. {I will say that his second year of preschool they took turns bringing snacks and that was nerve-wracking for me. Opt out of that if you can.} 

If you have other questions, comment or email me and I'll try to answer! It's so much easier now that I have a handle on things. And it will be a TON easier when James can READ. :)


Simply LKJ said...

Never fun! Both my girls had reactive airway disease when they were younger and through high school. Asthma mainly brought on by our crazy weather changes here, and occasionally sports and allergies. Both of my girls are allergic to two classifications of antibiotics. It can be scary. Our church preschool and the Bible study group I teach there are completely peanut free zones (really all nuts to be honest). And, we are taught to use an Epi pen if we have a child that has one for emergencies if we do not already know how. I would not have been happy with that teacher that seemed disinterested!

Anna Catherine said...

I think you have done an amazing job on teaching James to be aware of his allergy and to inform people of what he cannot eat. He has brought a snack to me numerous times and asked me to read the label to make sure he isn't allergic to the ingredients. He is also extremely understanding (esp for a 4 yo) of the fact that some things he just cannot eat and will eat a substitute snack. Good job, mama!