Allergy Week: Eva’s 5th Skin Test and Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Kindergarten + food allergies = holy smokes am I tired.

On a cheerful note, five years of freaking out about allergies actually made this one of our easiest back-to-school seasons yet because we sort of know the drill by now. Before Eva goes to school we need to have meetings with her teachers, a doctor’s appointment to go over her heath plan and check her meds, and we need to stock both Eva and her classroom with whatever she’ll need to stay safe.

Not too hard to do but a little exhausting, especially when you have another starting preschool for the first time and a third in your tummy dropping your sugar levels and kicking your kidneys.

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Eva’s doctor’s appointment to do her skin test went really well. We’ve switched to a new allergist, making this our third since her diagnosis, because we’d heard great things about a new-ish clinic and it was more convenient all around. I feel like it will be a good switch because we liked her doctor and we covered a lot of things in the appointment that we hadn’t ever talked about before. Not all of it was positive (did you know people don’t really have a chance of growing out of shellfish allergies?) but at least a couple of her more minor allergies seem to be getting a little better so it wasn’t all bad news.

She’s still at the ceiling limits for nut allergies and we’ve now hit the point where she would have gotten a little better if she was going to grow out of them so we’re hanging our hats on someone finding a cure or a treatment or a something to make things a little easier. Sadly, the whole allergy community took a kick to the shins recently when the prices for Epi pens skyrocketed. It’s not an optional thing to have up-to-date pens so I guess we’re all just going to have to hope someone notices how badly we’re being skewered. Did you know we spent more on Eva meds last year than we spent on a week at Disney World? At least we had it, though, and didn’t have to pick between meds or groceries…

As for school, we had a bit of a panic attack when we found out that Eva’s teacher quit over the summer but we’ve been in contact with the new teacher and had a good meeting covering all of her needs. I always feel like I’m dropping an overwhelming bomb when I show up with Eva’s meds and papers but she handled it well and we have our fingers crossed tight for an uneventful year.

Finally, Eva has been getting used to wearing her Epi pack since she’s doing a not-so-traditional school program where she won’t just be in one classroom all day. Instead of moving the meds around, we’re going to keep a pack of Epi pens in the front office and Eva will wear a pack on her belt so she has them with her always. It’s a bit of a pain because the Epi pack is not small and Eva is small so she’s basically wearing a big brick to school but in theory it will be less noticeable once the weather gets colder and clothes get bulkier.

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I admit that my new worry is that the Epi pack and her silver med bracelet are going to make her stand out as some kind of target among her new classmates but I’m really hoping the kids are too little for those kind of differences to matter. Kindergarten kids are pretty flexible about that kind of stuff, right? I guess worse case scenario she’ll just be that different kid that turns into a teachable moment about accepting people but I kind of hope that nobody notices or they think she’s just accessorized.

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We opted out of doing a lunch program this year but I’d love to hear how you’re preparing to send your allergy kid to school, esp if they’ll be eating! Separate lunch tables? Labeled lunch box? No accommodations beyond meds? I’m really curious in case we decide we want to switch it up…

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8 thoughts on “Allergy Week: Eva’s 5th Skin Test and Getting Ready for Kindergarten

  1. As a teacher, I can reassure you that an epipen doesn’t make a child stand out. In fact, ask to have a quick discussion with the class about what it is and why she carries it. Tell the other children the symptoms to watch out for and you’ve got lot of new eyes helping watch her. Once it’s demystified, kids don’t care. It’s only when it’s a “secret” that they notice.

  2. I would be cautious about having the pack on her back, kids can be mischievous and try and unzip her pack as a joke opening up potential of the epi pens falling out. Maybe have her keep it on the side hip?

  3. So I randomly stumbled upon your blog and I was instantly drawn in because I have food allergies too. Have you ever heard of auvi-Q. I think it was made in Canada and is marketed towards kids but at 25 I prefer it much more than my epi-pen. Auvi-Q is a little smaller than a deck of cards so it can easily fit in my pocket and small clutches which is why I like it. It also talks when you pull it out of the canister so that anyone even unexperienced people will know how to use it properly. It guides you through the injection and counts backwards from 10 and lets you know when to release the injector and informs you to go to the ER. If you haven’t heard of it take a look. There was a recall on 1 batch last year but they fixed that I’m pretty sure and I still have mine. Only used it once but when I did it was seamless! Hope this helps!

    • We loved Auvi-Q when we had it! Easier to use and easier to carry. Sadly, they folded up (at least in the US) last winter and recalled everything so we can’t even get them anymore. I really hope they come back! 🙁

  4. I think you’ll be surprised how cool five/six year old are with kids who may have something different than the norm; they are eager to learn and love to look out for their friends…such a caring bunch at that age!

    Our son’s (public) school has a very strict “no sharing” rule at lunch and also has an allergy table in the lunchroom. They’re also very strict about classroom snacks being peanut free.

    Here’s to a health and happy kindergarten experience for you all!!

  5. I ended up on your site from a link for an amazing chicken recipe as we embark on the whole30 program, again. I stayed for hours to read about Eva’s allergy adventure. I just wanted you to know you aren’t alone. My son is now 8 and is in the third grade. We found out he was allergic to peanuts at 13 months when he had a lick of peanut butter at daycare (literally a lick from her finger as she was making a sandwich) and his face swelled to the size of a hot air balloon (I never thought to take a picture, but he was so swollen, I was sure his skin would literally explode). We found out two months later that cross-contamination was just as disastrous as directly ingesting peanuts. The learning curve was steep and he was just so little! And none of our other children are allergic to anything! I was terrified that he would not understand the severity, that others would not understand the severity, or he would ask an adult if something was safe, they would say yes, and it would not be (kindergarten: muddy buddy treats at Halloween). There have been written doctor’s plans, dozens of epi-pens, lots of consultations with teachers and administrators, and lots and lots of allergy bracelets (I buy two a year because I haven’t found a single one that will stand up to my rambunctious little boy). We had an allergy blood panel done at 3 and found he was highly allergic to peanuts, but nothing else. Whew! But peanut cross-contamination is in EVERYTHING! We have survived public school so far without any trips to the ER (for his allergies anyway; we have totally been there for other little boy antics!). I understand it is my job to keep my son safe, and I have found most teachers are super supportive in my attempt to keep my son alive. The other parents are always my concern, but not because there is ever outward hostility (thank goodness!), but because they just don’t understand. There are signs posted in many classrooms (not just my son’s), that the classroom is nut-free, but peanut-contaminated foods still cross the threshold for parties. Since he doesn’t remember NOT being allergic, it is normal for him to not be allowed to eat anything until I’ve cleared it. So he brings home bags of Valentine’s and Halloween candy for me to check; I remove the obvious Snickers and Twix, pretty much anything chocolate, the conversation hearts, anything made by Brach’s, and any item that doesn’t have a full ingredient list on its label. That usually just leave him with Dum-dums, Skittles, and Airheads. But I can’t really be mad at the other parents; I was that clueless once, too. Nine years ago, I would have staked a serious sum of money on the fact that plain M&Ms don’t have peanuts. And I would have been wrong. I send him with a homemade lunch (in a marked peanut-free lunchbox) and snacks every day. The district does offer a special food program for allergic kids, but I found the information inconsistent and I don’t trust it (does a blueberry roll really having peanuts when served at breakfast, but doesn’t have peanuts when they serve it at lunch?). He sits at a peanut-free table in the cafeteria and the teachers have everyone wash their hands after lunch before they go out to recess. The bane of my existence are parties. They are a regular occurrence, and there isn’t a single source of cupcakes in this town that do not have a peanut contamination warning. His first grade teacher required parties to be scheduled, so I always knew when a party was happening. I brought in a single Zachary-safe cupcake that day, so he could “party” with his friends, but not touch the offending food. That worked out great. His second grade teacher was more of a “just bring in treats if it’s your birthday” kind of person. And his math teacher LOVED to motivate the kids with food (donut party, ice cream party, pizza party). Sometimes I got advance notice and could bring in a safe version for my son. Sometimes I didn’t. I fixed that by getting three plastic shoeboxes and filling them with safe treats that Zachary could pick from if there was an unannounced party (candy, processed junk food that was peanut-safe, raisins, pudding cups, etc.). I taped instructions and my phone number to the lid and gave one to each of his teachers (homeroom, math, reading). They send the boxes home when they are empty and I send them back refilled. Now that he is older, I am less worried about the threat of the other kids (he knows what a peanut looks like in all its forms, he can read the labels himself (although he still doesn’t eat anything I haven’t specifically approved), he understands the importance of not sharing food and always washing his hands). We’ve been to Disney World and on a Disney Cruise and they bent over backwards to accommodate him and ensure he was not excluded. We go to restaurants and potlucks and birthday parties (I always, always, always bring a slice of cake for him in my bag, even if the host assures me the cake is safe). It’s not convenient or easy, but it could be a lot worse and I am ridiculously grateful that he only has one allergy. His doctor said he could grow out of his allergy, but I’ve read the likelihood is not high for peanuts. We will have him tested again, just to see. But even if his test comes back and says he isn’t allergic anymore, the image of my baby’s face blown up to five times its size will forever haunt me, so I can’t see myself ever handing him a Reese’s and telling him it’s okay.

  6. Allergies suck. I discovered at age 35(!) that I had become allergic to tree nuts – that I used to eat regularly with no ill effects. Now I’m nervous for myself, and haven’t tried any on the kids either, because that was the thinking around the time they were born. (Now it’s “feed them anything to get them used to it”, or similar.)
    And now I see that more and more food outlets are putting up signs saying effectively “Our servers aren’t medical experts and can’t guarantee what’s in the food, so if you have risk factors, don’t even ask.” (Tim Horton’s, Mucho Burrito for example. The signs aren’t even apologetic, just basically, “yeah, we’ve done some calculations, and frankly, your business isn’t worth it.” A bit demoralizing.)

    For what it’s worth, a friend’s daughter developed (or exhibited) a peanut/nut allergy around age 5 or so(?)- vomiting, hives, etc. She has since been in a study with an allergist at McMaster University Hospital (Hamilton, Ont.), receiving injections, and has now reduced or possibly eliminated one or more of her allergies.

    Another friend’s kid has reduced /eliminated his egg (and nut?) allergy by using a patch of egg(/nut?) powder on his skin. Same principle of gradual acclimation, overseen by an allergist.

    Ok, those TWO! datapoints aren’t conclusive, and may not match your situation, but the point is that work is being done, and progress has been made for those families in their circumstances. Maybe there is hope for you? Or all of us for that matter?
    Until then, we’ll continue to count our blessings, and try to have some understanding for those who could use it.

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