What do you say?

We’ve all been in those uncomfortable situations.  Other parents are questioning why they need to change their habits for the safety of your food allergic kid.  Or maybe they are complaining about accommodations made by airlines, or schools, or churches that curtail their freedom to eat peanuts where they want, when they want.  And you are there, listening uncomfortably, to their complaints about how they have been inconvenienced by food allergies.

Magical Phrases

It is tempting to be silent, but please don’t!  Here are some phrases that are almost magical in changing the tone of the whine-fest.  Please only use when completely true!

“Before dear son was diagnosed with food allergies, I felt that way too.”

“Before he reacted at the baseball game, I wondered the same thing.” (true for us)

“Before that trip to the emergency room, I thought…” ( thankfully haven’t been there )

“Before his eye swelled up from contact with ____”

“We are proud of dear son.  He is used to going without and not complaining.  He can have something special to eat when he gets home.”

“Our allergist Dr. Wood told us to…”

“The allergist told us not to…”

“We know he has not outgrown it because …”

“We have thought about going to ___ restaurant, but we were not comfortable after we talked to the manager.”

“I was frightened when I thought about what could have happened…”

“We looked into ___, but our family has decided it was too risky for dear son.”

“I was so scared when I realized I hadn’t been careful enough…”

“After that near-miss, we started to ___.”

[Explaining why dear son can’t eat their home-made brownies.]  “I can cook for peanut allergic kids.  But even now I am not able to cook for kids with milk/egg/wheat allergies.  We just have too much of those in our kitchen; the kids and I are not that careful.”

Tone of Voice

You are not a paranoid, over-protective parent.  You are just stating what has happened in your family and the logical decisions you have made since.  Do you best not to get defensive!  These are all most effective when spoken in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice.  Good luck, food allergy parents!

Restaurant with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Should you leave? Before you answer, here’s the day so far.

– Independence Hall
– Congress Hall
– Betsy Ross House
– Search for a public bathroom
– Penn’s Landing
– Group of 10 people – 6 of them hungry kids
– Also dining is a wheat allergic vegetarian

We did look at the brief menu outside the restaurant. It looked a little new-age for our family but OK. We are just happy that they could seat all 10 of us.

Then we open the full menu.

  • Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps: bibb lettuce and spicy peanut dipping sauce
  • Grilled Thai Chicken Skewers:  jasmine rice and peanut dipping sauce.
  • Jumbo Lump Crab Pad Thai: rice noodles, tofu, egg, scallions and peanuts

At this point I am really sorry I didn’t follow my own advice about being prepared, checking out safe restaurants ahead, having some backup food with us!  If we had been home, less tired, less hungry or had not been with extended family I think we would have left at this point.

But they also had hamburgers on the menu.  We talked in depth with our experienced server and also with a manager.  They were confident they could serve our son a safe meal.  We double checked with a manager when his food was brought out.  Dear son ate the whole thing and was fine.  Kudos to the Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar in Philadelphia!

Notes to me for next time:  BE PREPARED!  You will be tired, hungry, cranky and need to stop for a meal before you expect to.


Letter to New Team

In “Play Ball” I mentioned the challenge of a new baseball team, with new parents, coaches and teammates.  So far things are going really well.  The head coach is very supportive.  I trained the coaches on the Epipen and it turns out an assistant coach is also allergic to peanuts.

Dear son was offered chocolate in the dugout during Tuesday’s game, but he stuck to the script and didn’t have any.  I told him how proud we are of him, and how he really is ready for more independence since he can handle situations like that.  (He also walked twice that game, and scored both times!  I was there for the second run and yelled my head off when he crossed home plate. )

As promised, here is the note to coaches, parents and players that we sent at the beginning of the season, with the coach’s OK.

WARNING!  I am severely allergic to PEANUTS and tree nuts.  I am also allergic to chick peas, lentils, peas, lima beans and some soy.

My Responsibility:  In order for me to avoid a life-threatening reaction, I avoid eating foods that contain these ingredients.  If I accidentally eat one of these foods, I must get an Epipen shot and go to the ER.  I will always bring my own snacks to practices and games.

Teammates: Please don’t bring peanut products into the dugout.  If your family packed you peanut butter or granola bars, please eat them away from the team.  Please wipe off your hands with a handi-wipe before throwing me the baseball!

Coaches and Parents: I am very careful about what I eat.  Baseball bagBut if I have a reaction at practice, I would need an adult’s help.  Warning signs include an itchy tongue or itchy throat and hives.   Symptoms of a severe reaction include throat tightening, tongue swelling, and difficulty breathing.  If I have a reaction, please give me an immediate Epipen shot and call 911.  My Epipen is always in a green bag in my baseball bag.

Birthday _______
Mom cell _______
Home ________
Dad work ________

The parents and kids have also been really good about son’s food allergies.  Thank you AAA Nats!

Play Ball!

With sports, life was a little simpler when dear son was younger.  One practice a week, one game on Saturday – fun for everyone!

Safe Team Snacks

There was the issue of team snacks.  All the parents take turns bringing a half-time snack and an end of game drink and snack.  An allergy mom reminded me that email does have to go out to the team saying basically “please please bring food that is safe for my kid as a snack!”  The coaches are always supportive of this.  One year, we had a couple boys also on the soccer team who needed gluten free food.  The three moms put together a suggested snack list and it worked out really well.

So, fast forward – how did the time go so FAST!  Now we are in AAA baseball with the big boys.  Two hour practices, more independence, warm-ups like the pros!  I feel like I am watching him become a young man.

The Food Allergy Dilemma

Each kid brings their own snacks.  I can’t stay the whole time at practice.  Practice and games can be right at dinner time.  We don’t know the new team coaches.  We know only two of the players and their parents.  Son is nine and not comfortable giving himself the Epi.

This year we are going to have to lean more on the coaches and other parents.  With the head coach’s permission, here is the email we sent out:

Hi all,

___ is really happy to be on the ___s AAA team!

___ has a serious peanut allergy, and knows the rules he has to follow to stay safe.  We would be so grateful for your help.  Would you be willing to share the “teammates” section in the attached file with your player?  Thank you so much!

If you have concerns, please let us know.

___’s parents

(___) ___-____

So far we have gotten good feedback from the other parents.  Nothing negative, no teasing.  We know we are giving up some of dear son’s privacy, but it is an issue that we will not always be there to deal with.

Stay tuned – next post will include the full letter to the teammates, and a wrap-up of the first muddy game!