If your child doesn’t have allergies, you are lucky! The number of allergic children is climbing at an epidemic rate. If your child doesn’t have a peanut/nut allergy, chances are a friend, classmate, or cousin does. Allergies are everyone’s concern because what you put in their lunch box or snack bag could end up in the mouth of a vulnerable child.
The school year is about to start. My daughter, Jessie, is one of thousands of students with allergies who will be socializing with classmates. I feel the need to explain to every parent how to be safe for my daughter and all the other allergic children.
When I found out Jessie was allergic to peanuts (which is actually not a nut—it’s a legume!) and all nuts and fish, my life changed. I’ve gone from Carefree Mom to Vigilante Mom. No place is safe. Ingestion of just a trace of any nut or fish could prove fatal for my little Jessie.
Here’s an example of how scary our life has become. This summer we went to an all-inclusive family resort. Our server and chef were warned about my daughter’s allergies. One night we ordered the beef. After a couple of bites I noticed little hives around Jessie’s mouth, then her eyes. She starts clawing at her swelling, itchy eyes. Clearly, she’s having a reaction, but to what? The chef admits there might have been traces of nuts in the sauce on the beef. Luckily, her reaction was manageable. That night, once she was safely asleep, I had a huge cry—the gravity of our delicate situation had become clearer to me.
Naturally, my family and friends are terrified of feeding my daughter something fatal. It has become my job to educate everyone in my life about what peanut/nut free really means.
Here are a few tips:
Your choice of what you pack for your kid’s lunch at school can have a direct impact on those around him/her. Packing a peanut butter or nut butter is like playing Russian roulette with an allergic child’s life. Granola bars are dangerous. Trail mix is also a big no no.
Just because it isn’t a “nutty” product, there could be peanuts or nuts in it! It’s essential to check the ingredient list for a “may contain” warning. If you see the words “traces of,” it means the product was made in a factory that uses nuts. If there is a trace and my daughter eats it, she will likely have a reaction. I’m not overreacting. I witnessed it that night on vacation.
Ice cream and popsicles are prime suspects. A good friend of the family who was aware of my daughter’s allergies brought vanilla ice cream for dessert, thinking it was safe. What she didn’t understand is that most factories use nuts in frozen products. So even plain ice cream is not guaranteed to be nut free. Check the ingredients on your ice cream packaging. You’ll be surprised how difficult it is to find nut free ice cream. Make sure you check the ingredients label before buying!
Birthday parties are very scary. Most supermarkets do not make nut-free cakes. The highlight of a child’s party is the cake, so taking my daughter to a birthday party is stressful. There are many nut-free bakeries out there. When throwing a birthday party, please keep food-sensitive kids in mind when choosing your cake and loot bag goodies!
I hope this clarifies things a bit for you. So, when you’re packing school lunches or snacks for your family, think of my daughter, Jessie. She might be in your son or daughter’s class. I really love her and don’t want anything to happen to her. I’m sure you don’t either.