Well, it happened. My daughter had an allergic reaction on her 6th day of 1st grade. She never had a reaction when she was in kindergarten at the same school, and at first I couldn’t even figure out what had happened. But the mystery has been solved and I am left wondering how far I should go to protect my daughter.
Here’s what happened:
The school called me to tell me that my daughter was coughing and couldn’t stop, that she had left class and was in the office. They gave her water, but that didn’t help. I wasn’t thinking food allergy at all. I was thinking that she had a tickle in her throat, or maybe allergies to pollen. I didn’t react like it was an emergency. I headed for the school.
When I reached the school, her coughing had gotten worse and she couldn’t stop. Her breathing was affected, but she told me that she hadn’t eaten any food yet that day (it was still early). I was still trying to figure out what could have happened and asked her a bunch of questions as I drove her home. She was still coughing uncontrollably. At home I gave her Benadryl and waited. Luckily, her coughing gradually subsided and her breathing was better.
Later that day I spoke to the teacher and told her that I couldn’t figure out what happened to my daughter but that it seemed like an allergic reaction. The teacher’s eyes got wide and she said, “Ask her if she was playing with Julia. She had a big glob of peanut butter on her shirt and I sent her to the bathroom to wash it off.”
Now, my daughter has never had peanuts in her life, nor has she had a reaction to peanuts. She tested positive for peanuts on the allergy test along with other nuts, so we are very careful, but it has never been tested in real life. Until now.
I asked her if she had played with Julia. No, she said. I asked her again if she played with Julia. No, she said again. Hmmm… I asked her if she touched her shirt by any chance? Yes! Why?? “Because her shirt was fuzzy and she said I could feel it if I wanted.” Bingo! Later I confirmed that the girl in her class had eaten some of her peanut butter sandwich at recess. My daughter touched the girls’s shirt right after recess and then her reaction started. Most likely my daughter put her fingers in her mouth as she sometimes does when she is doing her work.
According to the Food Allergy Action Plan given to me and to the school by our doctor, her coughing was a reaction that warranted the use of an epinephrine injection (Epi-Pen) because her throat and lungs were being affected, and the reaction can suddenly get more severe, leading to anaphylaxis. Because I didn’t think there was food involved, I was so slow to react. I’m not sure if I am in denial or just plain dumb, but this has been a real wake up call for me. I have a whole new perspective on the benefits of having a school be nut-free, but I am not sure I am ready to lead that fight, or even if I feel it is necessary, but it sure would be nice.
I know there are parents out there who feel that making a nut-free school puts a burden on them as parents of the non-nut-free kids. I know there are lots of children with issues surrounding food, but honestly, when you think about the fact that a child could die from touching a kid’s shirt, doesn’t it put things in perspective?
I don’t really know where I’m going with this post, but I hope to at least raise some awareness about the dangers that kids with food allergies face. If you know your child’s friend has a life-threatening food allergy, talk to your child about it and suggest that he/she doesn’t bring that food item to school. Just today, one of my daughter’s friends told her dad to pack her a salami sandwich instead of peanut butter so that she could sit near my daughter at lunch. Kids are amazingly receptive and thoughtful when it comes down to it. The grown-ups sometimes are the ones who need the convincing!