Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Raising Your Child's Awareness vs. Freaking Them Out

I recently read an interview of a psychologist studying the social and emotional toll of coping with food allergies. Specifically, the "shocking" levels of stress in mothers of children with food allergies.

I guess there was nothing shocking to me in the interview, but I took note of the following quote from Dr. Rebecca Knibb:
If the parents cope well, this behavior is learned by the child. Children are very perceptive and learn vicariously, i.e. they learn by watching how parents react to situations. If a parent is very anxious, the child tends to be anxious also.

That sounds about right to me. So, how do you teach your child to better understand his or her food allergy in order to keep them safe, without scaring them in the process? How do you go about hiding your "shocking" levels of anxiety from your sponge-like children? : )

My daughter is not yet 3 years old, and we are trying to gradually increase her awareness of her own food allergies and what that means as far as what she can and can't eat. This is especially important since she'll be starting preschool in the fall, surrounded by well-meaning adults and children who may occasionally offer her food that she should not eat.

However, we have never once told her something like, "You could die." I don't think she even gets it that plants die, or that bugs die when you squish them, so the last thing we need is for her to live in fear for her own life. I don't think any toddler should be burdened with such a heavy thought, but dare I say, our Georgia is an especially sensitive one. (Understatement of the century.) We have an age appropriate allergy book that mentions hives, coughing, itching, and that sort of thing, but if you asked Georgia, I think she'd tell you that her allergies might give her hives. If you asked her the follow up question of, "What is a hive?" I think that she might or might not be able to answer that. But again, please keep in mind that she's only 2.

So, it's all very weird. Some days she'll say things that make me feel proud of our efforts, like maybe she's really "getting" it. She's pretty good at asking us, "Do you have the EpiPens?" when we leave the house. (Not because we normally need a reminder, but more so that if she is ever with a new babysitter or relative that she will hopefully ask them the same thing.) And then on other days, someone will ask her if she wants a peanut butter sandwich, and she'll answer yes without hesitation, which is disappointing. But it's not surprising that when you're two, and have relied on trusted adults to meet your every need, that you don't exactly stop to question, "Wait - is this safe for me?" at every turn. It takes practice to instill this behavior.

Once again, there is no particular conclusion to this post. Obviously, I do have a certain level of anxiety related to Georgia's food allergies, though I try to keep it in check. Maybe this blog is a good outlet for me to write things down and get them off my chest, rather than passing my worries on to my daughter? It all goes back to that whole Goldilocks Principle thing -- I hope we are teaching her enough to be careful, but not so much as to be scared.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Up in the Air

Remember how I was talking about flying with Georgia on a recent post about our trip to Florida? Well, as of then I was feeling pretty chill about the whole thing.

Now, the Department of Transportation is soliciting comments about what, if anything, to do about peanuts on commercial airlines. You can go here to read more or leave a comment if you have an opinion on the matter.

To put it bluntly, reading the comments of other people with opinions on this matter has left me feeling like I'm going to hyperventilate. Crap, can Georgia really DIE from airborne peanut dust in a plane? Should I not even be letting her fly? Someone please talk me down from the ledge now.

I didn't even leave a comment for the DOT yet because I don't know where I come out on the issue. Reading this formal response to the DOT from FAAN made me feel a lot better. I guess sometimes listening to experts and research results is better than letting yourself be inundated with personal anecdotes. I'd recommend reading FAAN's letter if you are looking for an educated, well written response from the "allergy community", especially if you would put yourself in the "I just don't get it" category or the "it should be your problem, not mine" category.

In other news, I had lunch with my friend Kim this Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed picking her brain about her practices living with a nut allergy for the past 30 years. Contrary to the whole DOT comments thing, talking with Kim had me feeling like if anything I could relax my standards a bit more. She always makes me feel better. I'll write more about all of that later.

As an aside...Kim flew into town for the weekend.
As a further aside...I'm guessing that Georgia is not so sensitive as to die from peanut dust on a plane, or she would've been screwed on our last flight. But with no tests for severity, and no real exposure history/ingestion reactions to rely on, I have no way of being 100% sure.
One more thing...I find it interesting that the DOT is soliciting comments on other issues like waiting on tarmacs and baggage policies, but this peanut issue is garnering about 6 times as many comments as any other issue. Obviously a hot button topic. You would think people would care more about waiting 8 hours on the tarmac than not being served their precious peanuts, but apparently not.

EDITED TO ADD: I think the DOT dropped the whole peanut ban proposal. Well, it wasn't even a proposal, really. They were just soliciting comments, and the peanut farmer lobbyists went nuts. (ha ha. pun intended.) It's a shame.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rhubarb Crisp

This isn't going to become a recipe blog. There are tons of existing resources for allergy friendly recipes out there already. However, as I was throwing together this rhubarb crisp tonight, it occurred to me that it's free of most allergens, and well, delicious, so I thought I'd share. It's very seasonal and easy to make.

1) Wash rhubarb and cut into small chunks -- about 4 cups worth, more or less.
2) Mix chopped rhubarb with 1 c sugar and 1/4 c flour and toss it all in a baking dish.
3) Combine the following in a bowl: 2/3 c brown sugar, 1/3 c butter (cold and cut into pats or smaller), 1/2 c flour, 1/2 c oats, and 1 tsp cinnamon. I mixed this all together using a pastry cutter cuz I own one and I'm cool like that. You could also use your fingers or two forks. Get it to a kinda crumbly consistency.
4) Shake crumbly topping on top of the rhubarb mixture in the baking dish.
5) Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. It should be bubbly around the edges, with the topping having come to a brownish crisp. (Mine took the full 40. Damn!)


Question is: will we share with our allergic daughter? Hmmm....