Severe Allergy


My 7-year-old son has a severe life-threatening peanut allergy. He cannot be around people eating peanuts (it's potentially airborne) and he certainly cannot eat food that I did not provide for him.

Managing his day-to-day life involves extra work. I have to keep up on recalls from food companies, I have to memorize all the different ways "peanut" can be written on a label, I make the vast majority of food from scratch, and I am constantly educating Sunday school teachers and the staff at his school. I have to be more involved with everything than I would like to be. If I am not at a party or on the field trip, he cannot attend. Those type of events require even more monitoring and that's too much to expect of a teacher who has 29 other kids to watch. There is a widespread unawareness of how much is involved in caring for a severely allergic child. Most people assume you just can't feed the kids peanuts and that's it.

Going to a restaurant is quite a production. We have to talk with the chef, meet with the manager, and do online research ahead of time. My son cannot eat any foods made in someone else's home. Even basic ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and cheese, name it, can be processed in a facility with peanuts. If we go to a potluck, my whole family eats only the foods that I've made. Anytime his school does anything with food (class parties, crafts with food, birthday celebrations), I provide a safe alternative for my son.

These things are just a part of our life. They are necessary in order to keep him safe. It's relatively easy when we are alone but when other people are involved, it becomes complicated. We don't want to keep him in a bubble so we put in a lot of extra time and work to allow him to safely participate in regular childhood activities.

I want him to have freedom to go to his friends' homes to play, but I don't see how I could allow that in the near future. Unless a parent has a child with a severe food allergy, they have no idea the scope it involves. In order for him to spend time at a friends' house without me there, I would have to set some very firm guidelines with the parent. It's not my place to set rules in someone else's home but that is the only way I could send my son there safely. I would have to set strict rules about what food they can consume in his presence. I would need to spend about 30 minutes with the other child's parent going over how to use the EpiPen and explaining specifics of his allergy. I would need to ensure that my son would not have any contact with food I did not provide. They would have to keep the EpiPen close to him but out of his reach. That is a lot to "dump" on a parent who isn't accustomed to dealing with this on a day-to-day basis. Likewise, it would be a lot for me if someone dropped their kid off at my house who had a life-threatening condition.

My son is very responsible and educated about his allergy but he's still a seven-year-old boy.

Clearly, it's a lot of work and so I'm wondering if I should just stick with a "friends can come here, but you can't go to their houses without me" policy. What are your thoughts?

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