This morning one of the letters in Dear Abby’s column is from a parent wanting to know why their child’s school has to be allergy free simply because one kid of the 20 in the child’s class has a major food allergy. Why is the school forcing all the kids to follow an allergy free diet at school rather than helping the one child learn there is food he can’t eat? (Not exactly worded that way, but it was the jest of the letter.)
Dear Abby’s response was the school’s stance was to save lives and the parent was just going to have to learn to live with it (more or less).
When I was in sixth grade I moved. New school, new friends. One girl lived nearby so we saw her every day. Nearly a year and a half later in seventh grade we learned she had a peanut allergy when she purposely ate her peanut butter cookie served with lunch that day so she could get of the rest of the school day. Yes, she told us she was allergic and was going to eat it anyway because she wanted to go home.
My daughter is so allergic to some things just having them in the house can send her into anaphylaxis and I know Bonnie’s husband had a similar allergic reaction.
I can understand wanting to protect young kids from the allergens. I really can.
But how is it protecting them if you never teach them what they can and cannot eat, or how life threatening it is to eat the food they are allergic to? How are they protected if you don’t show them how to find out if a food has or is cross contaminated by their allergen? How is it protecting them if you don’t teach them what to do if they are accidently exposed to it?
My daughter reads food labels. She keeps her medicines and epi-pen in her purse. She also keeps it packed with allergy free food she can eat so she doesn’t go hungry when she’s on campus or anywhere else. She is always prepared.
People with shellfish allergies like Bonnie’s husband had learn how to deal with it like he did. He knew he couldn’t go into a restaurant that served shellfish unless he took his allergies medications first. Just like my daughter knows that going grocery shopping (where there is shellfish) means she’ll have to take her allergy medications first.
Now imagine a child with allergies who has been coddled their entire life.
At home and school they have never been exposed to the idea that any foods could have their allergen in it. They may have been told they have an allergy but they’ve lived their whole life without ever running into shellfish, peanuts, soy or whatever else they are allergic to so they have no idea it’s prevalent.
Now they are adults. They’re on their own or at college and they’re in the grocery store for the first time.
That’s a mine field.
I’ve read food labels. Most every single commercially produced food in the US has or is cross contaminated with at least one of the recognized eight major allergens. Most of the few exceptions are specifically marketed for the allergy free.
I can see protecting these kids. I do know people who would react just being in the same room. But coddling them? No. They have to learn to protect themselves sometime.
Now smile. Make the day a brighter day.