“Hang up and call 911.”

by Carmen Kubista

“Hang up and call 911.”

We were on the road, about 45 minutes from home, when our 2-year-old son started coughing and screaming in the back seat. I thought he was throwing a tantrum. When I realized his eyes were red and we couldn’t calm him down, I thought maybe he had gotten something in his eyes. We stopped alongside the road and when I got out of the car and saw his little face puffing up, I knew it was an allergic reaction. We called the nurse line for help. The nurse asked me only a few questions and said, “Hang up and call 911.”

I went into robot mode. Hang up. Dial 911. “My son is having an allergic reaction to nuts.” Ambulance sirens. Wheezing in the lungs. Epi-pen. Still wheezing. Steroids.

Thank God, after a trip to the ER, Dane recovered just fine that night, and he was no worse for the wear. Tim and I, on the other hand, were in disbelief. But luckily, Dane’s allergies have turned out to be more mild than many others’. And while we are very grateful for that, we have so much love and empathy for those who are severely allergic to foods.

May 9-15 is Food Allergy Awareness Week. Our lives changed in the blink of an eye. So please be aware…of the signs of an allergic reaction; and of those around you who might be dealing with a life-threatening allergy and need your compassion.

These are the signs of a severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis). Please don't assume that it can't happen to you or someone you love. (Researchers estimate that 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.6 million children under age 18. That’s one in 13 children, or roughly two in every classroom.)*

 

Signs of Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction)*

A person has symptoms that involve the skin, nose, mouth or gastrointestinal tract and either:
      • Difficulty breathing, or
      • Reduced blood pressure (e.g., pale, weak pulse, confusion, loss of consciousness)
A person was exposed to a suspected allergen, and two or more of the following occur:
      • Skin symptoms or swollen lips
      • Difficulty breathing
      • Reduced blood pressure
      • Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., vomiting, diarrhea, cramping)
      • Reduced blood pressure, leading to weakness or fainting
A person was exposed to a known allergen, and experiences:
      • Reduced blood pressure, leading to weakness or fainting

 

Listen, previous to our experience, I didn't fully "get it." And let me tell you, it was a head-slam when I became the mom that had to beg the preschool staff to put up a "no nuts" sign on the door to keep my kid safe.

I remember shortly after Dane's ambulance ride...we were walking into church and the family in front of us was noshing handfuls of nuts as they waited to take their seats. When I realized what they were eating, I instantly wanted to rip their heads off. IN CHURCH.

But in that family's defense, they of course had no idea that our son had a tree-nut allergy, nor that their snack could be dangerous for him. And that's ok... I have learned that unless it directly affects you or your family, it's just not something you think about all the time.

This is the compassion part. I have read and heard stories upon stories of people viciously attacking a school, a family, or worse – a student, because they can no longer take peanut butter for lunch.

How dare you infringe upon our rights? It's not our kid who has the problem. Birthdays can't be birthdays without treats in the classroom! What, no Halloween candy at the Halloween party?! You've got to be kidding!

Here's some quick facts for you:

  • Most fatal food allergy reactions are triggered by food consumed outside the home.
  • More than 15 percent of school-aged children with food allergies have had a reaction in school.
  • Approximately 20-25 percent of epinephrine administrations in schools involve individuals whose allergy was unknown at the time of the reaction.*

    Now imagine being the mom or dad that sends your kid to school, knowing he or she could inadvertently eat, or be exposed to, the one thing that could end his or her life – and you're not there.

    Thankfully, our elementary school, admin and staff, and our friends and family have been incredibly gracious, compassionate, and careful. But I know that's not the case for every person with food allergies. And that hurts my heart.

    From this mama, I'm not asking you to change your habits or your holidays. I'm not asking you to not be frustrated by changing classroom rules. I'm not asking for you to feel sorry for us or any other family with food allergies. I'm just asking you to be empathetic and compassionate – and teach your kids to be empathetic and compassionate. And we will happily return the favor ;-)

    One more note. If you or your child have been newly diagnosed with a food allergy, I want you to know this: this kid of ours – Dane – now 10, is sweet and smart and funny. He loves airplanes and garbage trucks, and he's a great little brother. Yes, he has tree nut allergies, but those allergies don't define him. He lives a perfectly normal, healthy and happy life, and I'm absolutely certain he is destined for greatness.

     Carmen

     * Source:  https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/facts-and-statistics



    Carmen Kubista
    Carmen Kubista

    Author

    founder of story skin care, wife & mom



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