As another school year kicks off, I emailed a list of reminders to keep my sophomore daughter safe. 3 out of the 16 were specific to her food allergies. While I am as concerned as other parents about sexual assault, party culture, stolen bicycles and driving safely, I look at this list and see that my top concern remains food allergy safety.
Does it bum me out that for kids without food allergies theirs would be a list of 13 reminders? Kind of. But more importantly, I have to continually drive into her brain the importance of eating carefully, carrying life saving medication and knowing when to use it, while incorporating advice based on new products that could cause a fatal reaction and recent experiences that landed her in the ER.
I know, I know. I need to let her fly and live in the real world. She does. So do I. A world where every week I read about date rape, fraternity hazing, car accidents, vaping and collapsed lungs. We all are fearing the same things for our kids. But as an allergy mom I also see the stories about the dangers of food allergies. I know she knows everything on this list. I’ve done my job but reminders never hurt. If anything, it shows that I care and that I'm thinking about her. The full list is at the end of this blog. Feel free to share it as it's a good list for students everywhere (at least 13 of them).
So let's break this down and take a look at these 3 extra reminders that as food allergy parents we all have to add to this important conversation, but that most kids or parents probably never even consider.
#1 - First and always, always bring 2 epipens and use them at the first signs of anaphylaxis.
Holding steady at #1 is access to epinepherine. My daughter is very good at remembering her epipens. Despite this, she has had 8 anaphylactic attacks. But because of this, she won't easily forget them. She knows what reactions are like and she knows how every single time an epipen has saved her life. Like, within minutes she is restored to health. It's not just mom nagging... she legit knows. Yet it's still at the top of my list. In my opinion you can't hear this one too many times. #epifirstepifast #toomuchisneverenough
#6 There are beers and vodkas that are made with peanuts, it’s a new trend. One of the beers is actually made by Planters. Stick to what you bring.
Debuting at number six, is this terrifying news flash. Peanuts are now in alcohol. Tucked nicely in between cautions about date rape drugs and kidnapping, is a word of warning about peanut flavored alcohol products. For parents of college aged kids, it's yet another serious drinking danger. Food allergy moms and dads are already hoping their kids are making good decisions and now this, when they may be intoxicated, not thinking clearly, inhibitions lowered, having a good time. Move over roofies, there is a new danger lurking in your shot glass. There is a Van Gogh peanut butter & jelly vodka. Yes, really! What college student wouldn’t want to drink that? (Besides ours, obviously). As a parent this is beyond scary. I have to trust my daughter. But I also need to make sure she knows about these products. #thanksplanters #thanksvangogh #sticktospikedseltzer
Note: for a list of alcohol containing nuts and peanuts check here: http://www.theallergyfreelife.com/alcoholwithnuts/. The Planters collaboration for Mr. IPA-Nut, featured in this blog’s photo, was launched in 2018 after this list was published. (I’m sure there are more but that’s a blog post for another day.)
#11 Eat before you go to a party or concert or football game. This will reduce your risk of getting too drunk or eating something you might be allergic to.
Eating before going out is solid advice. It saves money. It saves time. It will absorb alcohol. You won’t be hangry. The list goes on. But there is a different context for this piece of advice from me to my daughter. Eating your own food also means you limit exposure to your allergens. Being prepared and considering eating needs in advance might be a challenge for kids whose attention spans are the size of a gnat. But it goes a long way towards keeping someone with food allergies safe and is worth repeating. I know she knows this one all too well.
One year ago this weekend, my daughter completed her first week of classes freshman year at college, 4,000 miles from home. She was looking forward to the big opening college football game for the season on Friday night of Labor Day weekend. To say she was emotional and stressed already was an understatement. She was struggling with her course load and doubting herself. She called me in tears during the day and we talked about some options. Sorority rush was the following morning. Last but not least she had to do laundry before the big game because she had to wear white, but didn’t have the money loaded on the right card. Panic was already in the air. (I still think stress contributed to her anaphylaxis but that’s yet another blog for another day!)
Yada yada… she didn’t eat and instead opted to get nachos at the game. She shouldn’t be allergic to nachos, beef, tortilla chips, cheese or any of the usual toppings. To this day it is a mystery. She doesn’t know if there were chickpeas used in the chips, or maybe soy protein in the taco meat. Or if her histamine levels were already raised because of the crushed peanut shells all over the ground. Regardless, she started feeling sick and recognized the signs of anaphylaxis. Week one of her freshman year at college. Sigh. I don’t know if it’s fortunate or unfortunate but now she eats before games and concerts and brings her own food. It is what it is.
So while there are plenty of dangers lurking for our kids, those with food allergies always have a couple extra. Making sure I remind my girl helps me sleep at night. What she does with this advice helps her succeed in life. Here’s to keeping ALL our kids safe in this coming school year.
Here’s the full list: