When I think of toddlers and young children, there are some foods that I view of as staples. Many of these common snacks, TJ cannot have yet due to his allergies. Aside from the obvious ones like yogurt, yogurt bites, and cheese sticks…
There are a bunch of others that contain milk, wheat, or some of the other allergens that some people, including myself may not have known before this.
- Cheerios – contains wheat & oats
2. Rice Krispies – contains malt flavoring which is usually made from the gluten grain, barley
3. Goldfish – (although made with smiles) – contains wheat and dairy
4. RITZ Crackers – contains wheat and barley
(It also contains soy but TJ can eat soy now.)
This is an excellent resource about hidden dairy in products for all ages.
These are just some of the common yummy toddler snacks that TJ cannot yet have. However, we have faith that he will one day be able to try these delicious products. In the meantime, we are very thankful all of the products TJ can safely snack on now and as he continues to get older. For now, we must look at the bright side. TJ has one of the healthiest diet ever so with that positive thought, we snack and smile on …
Through this entire experience, I have become extremely thankful for other moms with blogs out there. (And dads that may have them but I just haven’t found them yet.) The information you have shared is beyond helpful.
With that being said, here is such a helpful one about gluten-free art supplies that we will be using all year long. =)
Being a Special Education teacher for ten years and in the field for twelve years, I know the importance of accommodations based on students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Because of TJ’s multiple food allergies with his risk for a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, his safety and well-being does require several accommodations. If TJ was older and attending a school that receives federal funding, he would qualify for a 504 plan. Here is a great resource about these plans.
Because a written plan like this is not available for TJ at his day care, we met and are continuing to discuss the best plan to ensure TJ’s safety. After working with TJ’s daycare to devise a plan according to his Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan, several accommodations have been made. We were informed that his classroom will be a top-priority allergy room for the year and every year moving forward.
- TJ will have his own high chair for meals and snacks. They will control everything that TJ eats in the high chair and reduce the risk of cross-contamination by having one aide help in feeding him.
- As mealtime is ending, they will keep TJ in his high chair until everyone else is washed and put onto nap cots. Then, they will clean the classroom tables before TJ gets down.
- In the future as TJ becomes older and a high chair is not applicable anymore, we will provide disposable place mats for TJ to use at a table that is separate for the ones with his allergies.
- These disposable place mats will be used for any activities he may use the classroom tables for.
- We asked TJ’s Auvi-Q to be stored by him and offered to buy a storage box for it. Due to the facility’s emergency procedure and plan, all medications including Epi-pens/Auvi-Qs are stored in the office which is two doors down and less than 150 feet away. After speaking with our allergist about this, we have decided that keeping this procedure and location in place is the best option for TJ’s safety.
- Art Supplies: Since TJ is currently allergic to wheat according to his blood level results, he needs to avoid art supplies that contain wheat. While it is very unlikely they would cause an anaphylactic reaction, they would likely cause a skin irritation/reaction of some sort. Therefore, before they participate in activities like Play Dough, we will be contacted. Then, we have offered to purchase the allergen-free versions to replace them so that all students can use the same materials and isolation does not become an issue.
- TJ will only use cleaning materials and products given by us.
- TJ will be closely monitored and daycare will communicate more often with us.
- As a back-up plan, in case needed, I have lunch during TJ’s lunch this year and they will contact if they need me to come assist.
- TJ’s classroom is tree nut and peanut free. (All students’ lunch and snack labels and containers will be checked each morning to ensure that this is indeed the case.)
PROCEDURES AND POLICIES ALREADY SET IN PLACE THAT HELP US
- A new strict allergen policy that relates to food ingestion and potential food exposure/cross contamination issues inside each classroom
- No sharing utensils or food policy
- Constant hand washing/face washing
- Disinfecting surfaces
- Every employee is trained in administering an Epi-pen.
SOMETHING THAT WE CAN’T CHANGE BUT WITH THE GUIDANCE OF OUR ALLERGIST AND GOD, I AM TRUSTING TJ WILL BE TOTALLY FINE WITH
- TJ will need the actual flu shot despite his egg allergy since he cannot receive the thymerisol-free/egg-free version of the flu shot. This version is not FDA approved for people under 18 years of age. We asked our allergist today when TJ went to get his MMR shot there. (Ahhhh I hate shots and especially more now that some contain components that he is allergic to That’s a whole other topic though.) Therefore, we will need to have TJ given the flu shot at the allergist’s office this year.
Sure, I am still over here “plotting” more and more ways to ensure TJ’s utmost safety but isn’t that what parents do? I do not expect everyone to understand our situation, decisions, and the extent to which we would and do go, like we did in this situation. However, I do expect others to respect it. With that being said, we are blessed with the support of so many individuals like TJ’s daycare staff who not only respect us, but also clearly care for him. Therefore, we continue to smile on into the weekend …
This week’s “Favorite Find” isn’t a specific product, but instead a resource that I am thankful some companies are starting to make available.
To start and as a side note, I started reading food labels as a middle school student. I found some kind of control and comfort in it during a very sensitive and transitional time of life. Back then, I was developing an irrational obsession with my weight and food which did later lead to an eating disorder in high school. But that’s a whole other story to tell.
Now, 20 years later, I am “obsessed” with labels but for a much different reason, my son. Sounds strange but due to my struggles with eating, I have a great deal of knowledge of food which does help a lot now. Because TJ’s multiple food allergies are to common every day foods/ingredients, his diet is very limited for now. Therefore, I am always looking for new ways to safely broaden his menu options, spending much time reading labels on everything.
Back in May when TJ’s blood results showed a major increase in his dairy IgE levels, I started to double, triple, and quadruple check everything he was eating. Because I feared cross-contamination was causing this jump, I reached out to several companies and asked about the cleaning procedures and product ingredients. One company that was sooooo helpful was Happy Family.
One of my favorites things about this organic company was that their website had an allergy chart. Because TJ eats several of their products like other kids his age, I am extremely thankful for them and the comfort their allergy chart gives me. Therefore, my Favorite Find for this fabulous Friday is their chart below that encourages us to safely eat and smile on…
NOTE: Even with helpful charts like these, it is extremely important to read all food labels to double check. For example, a UD symbol may or may not be safe for an individual like TJ because it probably means the product(s) was/were processed on equipment that handles dairy as well.Therefore, we make sure to double check.
Here is a link of how to read these labels.
Today was a good day so we smile away,
Capturing the moments no matter what mountain lay.
Moments inspire, making the strong,
No matter the valley, it’s where to belong.
Providing a strength that life would otherwise never know,
God’s footsteps leading to exactly where is needed to go.
Life’s defining moments, in an instant create and then are gone,
Today is a good day so we smile on and on…
While food allergies have always been around, they are continuing to become a growing concern in our country. Before TJ’s anaphylactic reaction to yogurt in December 2014, like everyone, I knew what I felt like was enough about food allergies…
- I knew food allergies existed.
- I knew some people had life-threatening ones especially to fish and peanuts.
- I knew people carried Epi-Pens for these life-threatening ones.
- I knew that I had to check which students in my class had them and check in with the nurse before classroom parties if a class had any major allergies.
- I knew my husband had a minor walnut allergy and fish allergy, but could eat shellfish.
- I knew how annoying seasonal allergies could be since I had experienced a few bad years of needing Allegra D almost every day back in my 20s.
With all of these “knows,” I thought I had enough insight to this world of food allergies. However, today as I look back on certain moments before TJ’s initial reaction, it is eye-opening on how naive I really was, without meaning to be.
MEMORY 1: Our Honeymoon “Your Salmon Looks Sooo Delicious”
In going to Aruba for our honeymoon, we had heard about the amazing restaurants and food. In fact, it was night one where we had one of the best meals of our lives. Back then, when we went out to dinner, Timmy would usually order filet mignon and I would enjoy fish. During dinner on one of the first nights there, I ordered a delicious salmon. When we were almost done, Timmy asked if he could try some because it looked too good not to. I questioned, “Aren’t you allergic?” To which Timmy said it had been years since he had ever tried it and who knew if he was still allergic. So he took a bite. I worried a bit because I’m a natural worrier but not to the extend at which I should have.
Within minutes, Timmy’s lip started to swell up and he said his mouth was getting very itchy. So we paid and went back to our room. At the room, he complained that his throat was feeling a bit weird while his lip was still quite red and swollen. We were both more scared now. All I had was my seasonal allergy medication, so he took an Allegra-D and we waited to go to sleep to make sure he was okay. He doesn’t have an Epi-pen.
The next morning we woke up, went to the gym and pool all day, enjoying cocktails while laughing at the previous night’s experience.
Now, after TJ’s reaction to yogurt, I would NEVER ever let something like that happen again and react so relaxed like that. Knowing what I know now about how severe and unpredictable food allergies and reactions can be, I know we were lucky. Thank you God.
MEMORY 2: Wedding Walnuts
As if that experience with Timmy’s ” fish experiment” wasn’t enough, there was also some walnuts tried. Timmy and I have been to 37 weddings together to date ( Yes, I’m weird and keep a count in my phone). There was a period of a few years where we had anywhere from 5-9 weddings a year to attend. In going to many of these beautiful events, we learned how common it was for them to serve a salad with walnuts. Most times, Timmy asked for his salad without these or didn’t eat the walnuts in it since he was allergic. However, twice he forgot or didn’t see them, eating some walnuts. In those moments, because nothing happened, we laughed and told friends at the table about our honeymoon fish story.
However, after learning through TJ’s experience, he should NEVER have done that even though both those times he had no reaction to walnuts. Sure, he may have outgrown his allergy to walnut, but I would urge him to go to an allergist and be tested before he ever tried anything else he was or may still be allergic to. Food allergies and reactions can be sooo unpredictable and even life- threatening. You could have a minor reaction to an unsafe food twenty times and then the twenty-first time you ingest it, it could be severe. Therefore, no one should experiment on their own and always ask for a salad that has not been handled with the allergen. (Don’t just pick out the walnuts if you are allergic.) Wedding venues are now becoming more educated about all of this. At one of the last weddings I attended, they mentioned food allergies on the invitation’s menu even.
MEMORY 3: Peanut Free Classrooms
While I was still on maternity last September and October, I heard through colleagues about a new student who would be attending our middle school. From what I had been hearing, she had an allergic reaction to peanuts as a young child and now her parents hired a lawyer to make our school peanut free. Everyone, including myself (I must admit), thought it was a little too much. While I am very empathetic to everyone’s situations, I did enjoy eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches many days for lunch and stressed about what I would eat if I couldn’t bring this to school. ( It’s crazy to look back at what I was worried about back then and how much I have changed in regards to what I focus on now.)
During a conversation with my breastfeeding group moms, I brought this situation up, still feeling that it was a bit overboard. One of the other moms nicely mentioned that she understood where the parents were coming from since her oldest daughter had multiple food allergies including peanuts. She brought up very good points that really got me thinking.
That was the end of October and just around the time when TJ started to have random hive and rash outbreaks. Soon, these parents’ motive and experience would become one very close to my heart. I just didn’t know what we were soon in store for. Now, I relate to these parents. In fact, it gives me a deeper sense of respect to not only them, but all parents out there who are speaking up and doing whatever they need to do to be their child’s biggest advocate. You are all heroes in my eyes.
Because we continue to learn more and more, we realized how lucky we are and smile on…
To start, I should say while many times in life I struggled with my confidence, I never struggled with determination. Somewhere, somehow I learned to believe that I could do anything (Well, except maybe sing.) Now, I must also say that I am one for random, crazy ideas. Therefore, even my most outlandish, “seem-impossible” ideas are worth a try in my eyes. What do I have to lose but have a few more people think I am crazy. =)
With that being said, after our meeting with TJ’s daycare on Friday about his current allergies, skin conditions, and emergency action plan, everything seemed to end on a positive note. That is why when they called me up yesterday afternoon with major concerns, I was initially caught off guard and upset. Hearing, “have you considered a nanny” from the people who care for your son when you cannot (but wish you could) is a bit alarming. Since I had been in the middle of setting up my classroom for the upcoming school year, my focus was super thrown off, my strength and confidence that everything would be okay suddenly questioning what would happen next. On the phone, I admit I got slightly upsetting, shedding a tear or two as I asked for clarity on what the director was alluding to. I asked, “Are you saying that you can’t have TJ at your facility this school year?” She just answered that they were very concerned for TJ’s safety and gave a couple major concerns without much detail. Our conversation then ended when I asked if I could speak with my husband and then plan to talk again through and about all their concerns. (Epi-pen/Avui-Q storage, shots, contact reactions, art supplies with allergens present, etc.)
On my way home, I started to have an overwhelming sense of anxiety. To start, I was scared for TJ’s safety every single day even when I am with him, but even more so when I am not. Now, I was more frightened if they weren’t confident about being able to care for him. (Wait, Jen, there are days that you too feel like this.) However, I love him beyond words and pray all the time for God’s guidance with everything I do and decide regarding my “Cutes.”I wanted the people watching him to be fully educated on his current conditions and how to react. I think in sharing our doctors’ letters, emergency plan, and requests, they did learn about the severity of some of his allergies which was a great thing, except for the fact they were now doing what I do every day, over-analyzing everything. I need TJ with people who not only adore him like I know they do, but plan to do as much as they can to keep him safe.
Secondly, what would we do if they were telling us to go elsewhere? The new school year is literally around the corner, less than two weeks away. That thought made me so angry because
TJ is such an amazing little guy. However, after allowing myself some time to be upset and angry, I soon turned to praying. I prayed the remainder of the evening and into today that God would guide us to do whatever we need to do. I admitted to Him that I have no idea where this is leading us and what to do, but instead trust that He is guiding us to exactly where we need to be, exactly where TJ needs to be. With all of this, I prayed that God is leading us to making the best and safest decisions for TJ.
Today, I woke up fired up and determined to figure out our options, and I didn’t even need to go on my morning run. (Today was a forced day of rest.)
Here is a timeline of thoughts/ideas/actions/emails:
- I looked into home nurse care practices and insurance – Could TJ receive a one-to-one nurse for part of the day at daycare? Do they even do things like that? Would he qualify and what are the steps in doing this?
- Reached out to two nurses, one being my sister to find out whatever information they could provide me. Thanks girls!
- I drafted a letter to his allergist(s) requesting them write a medical necessity letter to our insurance company asking for a one-to-one nurse for daycare. What do I have to lose by asking? Go for it, think I am crazy, but even if it is shot down… I am okay with that…because I know I tried.
- My husband contacted daycare via email asking for specific straight-forward concerns and a time to discuss further.
- Daycare emails back with an extremely detailed, concerned, and genuine email. I understood and respected everything they were explaining and sharing. It appears evident now that we painted the world of food allergies to be the truly terrifying picture it is. So now, we are left with a lot to discuss.
Everywhere I look and read people are giving advice on how to send your children with multiple food allergies back to school and I do find these articles helpful. However, where were the people when their children were toddlers? Did anyone have to send their children to daycare? What accommodations were made? How did things turn out? As we continue to work out the best plan for TJ, I continue to pray and remind myself to Keep Calm & Smile On…
While we met with my son’s daycare last Friday and left with a positive feeling, we are still working on some logistics on how to best to keep TJ safe. Therefore, here is my original post on how to prepare for a new year at daycare. I will post about how everything turned out once these details are worked out. =)