Allergic Reaction

Every once in a while, particularly during the back-to-school season, we see a flurry of blog posts and articles about allergies.

The posts typically concern one of two things, depending on the proclivities of the author:

1) Please don’t bring [this thing that my child is deathly allergic to] to school, I’m begging you! or;
2) Whatever, I don’t care if your kid dies.

My son has a pretty severe tree nut allergy. Guess which category this post falls into?

I get it. I’m lazy and American too. But I’m not a sociopath. Or a freedom-hating communist. And you don’t have to be Mother Theresa or George Washington to realize that your middling inconvenience and absurd ideas about freedom and equal rights don’t stand up next to a child’s life.

It's like living with my own little Immortan Joe!
It’s like living with my own little Immortan Joe!

Yes, this is a free country. And yes, you have the “right” to feed your kid peanut butter (and tree nuts and eggs and cat hair and dust, if your kid likes to eat cat hair and dust) all the time, just as these kids have the right to live and you have the right to be an asshole. Guess what? You’re exercising it! AMERICA!

Is there anything more infuriating than someone whining about their “freedom” and their “rights” and “equality” in an attempt to explain why they should be allowed to flagrantly endanger another person’s life? I’m not even talking about guns (this time), I’m talking about PEANUT BUTTER.

I’m well aware that the burden should be on the kids’ parents. Read this post, from the mother of a little girl with an incredibly severe peanut allergy, if you question whether the burden actually is. And sure, for some kids, an allergy can be so severe that mingling with the public, at school or wherever, is fraught with danger. In those cases, it’s up to the parent to decide if the allergy is so intense, so difficult to manage, that they simply can’t take the risk. But if the reason that it’s too difficult is because your kid really loves peanut butter and/or you don’t have time to make something else for him? You are the worst.

My son can have peanut butter (peanuts are a legume!) but he has a pretty bad tree nut allergy. I don’t know if he’ll die if he eats one, but I do know that his reaction won’t be good. A few months ago he accidentally ate one and the dreaded allergic reaction kicked in. He vomited and his throat closed up and Mom and Buried and I shit our pants and called the doctor. He was okay but we were warned that the next time would be worse.

As relieved as I was at that moment, a lifetime of annoying, paranoiac vigilance flashed before my eyes. Visions of a lifetime of stressful, hyper-aware, super-annoying, high-maintenance attentiveness to every treat at every birthday party he attends, and every ingredient in every meal we order when we’re out to dinner, and constant pre-sleepover phone calls and pre-school year teacher chats, bombarded my brain. My shoulders slumped at the mere thought of it. They still do.

And yet that “lifetime of annoying, paranoiac vigilance” is exactly what I want. I pray to Jeebus that my life is inconvenienced with that constant double-checking, because if it is, it means my son is still alive. I want to be that overbearing, high-maintenance parent, because so long as I have that role, it means he’s still around to need me in it. That he hasn’t yet been felled by an errant almond in some generous, innocent little schoolmate’s amicably offered candy bar.

Even if you think that the parents of kids with allergies screwed up by not exposing the child to potential allergens at an early age, so as to prevent or reduce their kid’s susceptibility, that ship has sailed. It is neither incumbent upon you to step in and try to “help” the kid prepare for the real world and gamble with his health by refusing to eliminate the allergens from your kid’s meals, nor is it okay to “teach them a lesson” or punish them for “screwing up” by refusing to eliminate the allergens from your kid’s meals. I mean, listen to yourself. Are you insane?

I get it. I am always looking for shortcuts, especially when it comes to parenting. It’s a lot of work, any and all hacks to reduce that work are welcome. Pass them along! And we all know it can be hard to get our kids to do anything we tell them to do eat. But ignoring a school’s regulations, or belittling a child for something he can’t control, or endangering a child because you don’t want to deal with taking an extra 90 seconds to make lunch or because “it’s not my responsibility” to care for someone else’s kids or because “THIS IS AMERICA!” is not a hack. It’s hateful.

Yes, parents of kids with severe food allergies are seeking special treatment for their children, if you consider “offering a modicum of consideration for the well-being of other people in your community by having to delay your child’s peanut butter consumption until later in the day so that a classmate doesn’t lose oxygen to his brain and die” to be “special treatment.”

You’re right, it’s not your responsibility to care for someone else’s kids, but doing your best to make sure someone still has their kids around to parent is simply the right thing to do, inconvenience be damned. It’s actually the bare minimum. We live in a civilized society, and there are some basic steps we need to take to maintain that. One of them is doing our best not to kill each other. allergies, peanut butter, lazy, parenting, dad and buried, parenthood, moms, dads, motherhood, fatherhood, health, funny blogs, humor, dad bloggers, mommy bloggers, kids, children, society

No, I don’t want to pay your kid’s medical bills, but taking a few extra minutes to potentially alter the food I pack in my kid’s lunchbox so that your kid incurs fewer of them is something I think I can handle. I’m a pretty big asshole, but when the stakes of my behavior include the potential death of children, I try my best to be a little more considerate.

For the love of Pete, people, it’s just peanut butter. I can’t live without beer but I can handle not having it for a few hours, until I get home!

Can’t you?


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51 thoughts on “Allergic Reaction

  1. Thank you so much can for sharing a link to my blog! I’m so sorry you have these challenges but I totally get what you mean about hoping you’re fighting the battle for a very long time!!

    1. I’m a do it yourselfer, honestly. My kids both have dyslexia, and rather send them to public school where I know they would not get the education they need, I keep them home and do it myself. I would probably do the same if I had a kid with severe food allergies. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world where people are considerate, and I know that there are too many people who are asshats like K who don’t care about anyone but themselves. Having said that, I do realize that many people are not able to homeschool and have to send their kids into potentially dangerous situations on a daily basis. I don’t know how you all do it, but God Bless You and your families.

      1. this article repeats a common error I see repeatedly. parents tell about how difficult it is to safeguardtheir children’s lives, then ask other parents to join in the effort baggy telling them it is just a minor “inconvenience”. what?! my son attends school with two severely allergic children. I follow all recommended precautions to the letter. it isn’t just “a few extra minutes at lunchtime”. its thinking carefully about lunch, snack, breakfast, birthday parties and playdates. I do not want my child to watch your child in medical distress, nor do I want his teachers to have to face this crisis. it should go without saying I don’t wish any harm on your child! I follow the same precautions you do, most of the time, most of the year. And peanut butter used to be my favourite food! I have never heard or seen a parent of a child with allergies express gratitude for all the parents who search out nut free/ dairy free/ gluten free cupcake recipes so your child didn’t feel left out, or a small thank you to parents who have made nut butter a summertime only treat. but, hey, you’re welcome. I also keep my CPR you to date and I know how to use an epipen.

  2. My 7 year old has a severe peanut allergy that involves a lot of prep work before the school year begins (speaking to school nurse and teachers) and throughout the school year. Every time the phone rings when he’s at school sends me into a panic. I pray that I never have to receive that phone call. I have come across a lot of inconsiderate parents even when I offer to pay to treat the whole class with treats for parties or rewards. Even when I go out of my way, I still get the looks and hear the whispers. I shrug it off to ignorance and it will not stop me from doing whatever I can to keep my son safe and also to not feel excluded from any activities. Best wishes to you and your family and stay strong! Thank you for writing this!!

  3. There are a lot of kids at my son’s school with peanut and nut allergies. Our local school board has guidelines in place to have a school be allergen free when necessary. I don’t understand the parents who complain. As if it’s more important for your kid to eat what they want than to prevent little Billy dying of anaphylaxis. I’ve got a cupboard full of peanut free stuff I send to school and my son loves Wow Butter and jam sandwiches. He’s happy, the school is happy and has to use and epi pen or call 911.

  4. This year is my daughter’s first year in a peanut free school.
    I was scared. She only eats pb and j. What am I going to feed her?? We talked about it and found things she actually likes better.
    Now I read all the labels to make sure but I’m constantly paranoid I’m going to mess up and cause someone to have a reaction. I couldn’t live with myself.

  5. Survival of the fittest. If your kid can’t survive in the world, lock him away in a bubble. Nuts and legumes will be eaten outside your bubble. Deal with it.

    1. It will be eaten in a mall or in public generally, but you don’t have to provoke it and you should do the best to avoid allergic reactions. Usually in public you are never as close to someone eating as in school.

      It’s not about survival of the fittest, otherwise a lot of grandparents and a lot of babies wouldn’t live. In your eyes everyone with cancer or a pneumonia should die because survival of the fittest? Bullshit.

  6. thank you for this. my children don’t have food allergies (that i know of yet!). I really don’t understand how parents of kids with severe allergies feel but this helps.

    my daughter’s teacher sent home a note that my child couldn’t bring any nut in of any kind. but i heard mixed messages that they could bring it in just for lunch but not snack. unable to get a clear policy from the principal or the teacher, i’m just not sending her with anything nut. and yea the other day when i had NO food in my house and wanted to make a pb sandwich i didn’t let myself. i don’t officially know if there is a kid with a severe allergy in my daughter’s class and i don’t want to be that parent that doesn’t care. is it annoying sure – but is it worth endangering a child? NO. never. and if parent have a problem with it, they are awful people.

    a little human decency is hardly too much to ask…

  7. This is perfect. “I can’t live without beer but I can handle not having it for a few hours, until I get home!” – made me laugh, but it’s so true! Thanks for writing this- on behalf of all food-allergy parents, and compassionate people everywhere! 🙂

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  10. I never understood the dept a family must go through to keep a child safe. Until I had one of my own with severe nut allergies.
    Then I realized how inconsiderate I was. It truly breaks my heart. I wish we, as a society, had better humanitarian skills. We are not instilling enough values into our future leaders.
    People need to look belong there own gratifications to notice others suffering.

  11. In response to K. Who won’t ever return to post. I wish I could keep my son in a bubble and with all his life threatening food allergies I have to deal with it. But if something were to happen his mommy should be there that’s y school should be safe so deal with it

  12. Why don’t the parents of children with severe allergies educate their children instead? Communicate to them that they’re not allowed to share food? I would understand if it was something that was brought for the whole class, but why restrict what kids bring in their own lunchboxes? C’mon.

    1. Because its not that simple! Adults die because they ate something mislabeled or didn’t have any apparent nuts in it. It’s tricky! I’ve been fooled, allergists have been fooled. You don’t deal with this so you don’t know.

    2. Have you ever gotten peanut butter on your hand? It’s oily and sticky and it gets everywhere. Kids get it on their hands and touch everything. Door knobs, the water fountain, their friend’s pencil… Then a kid with a peanut allergy goes to get a drink of water and they have a life threatening reaction.

      Would you send your kid to school with a loaded gun? Of course not. What if there was only one bullet in it, and the safety was in. It’s probably won’t go off. And even if it did, he probably wouldn’t hit anyone. And even if it did, it probably wouldn’t kill them. Besides, you kid loves his gun and he should be able to take his favourite gun to school. It’s his right. It will hurt his little heart and damage his tiny feelings if he is told that he cannot bring his gun to school.

    3. I live in China, my son is 16 months old. We must carry an epipen always (FYI- they don’t even HAVE them in China, we bought ours in Canada, where he first reacted on a visit home.) He has severe peanut and egg allergies. I’m not sure how the hell you tell a 16 month old to say “no” to offerings from other children (or adults). And because he stands out in a foreign country, we are constantly bombarded by attention and people sneaking food to him as “gifts”. At playgrounds I never know if the kids approaching him for hand-holds or kisses have just eaten nuts or hard boiled eggs (a common street food). Basically, ignorance is bliss, And it’s just not black and white, my friend.

      And to DAB, great article. Made me emotional and that pic of Detective Munch broke my heart. ♡ I’m so glad he is okay.

  13. My son has a severe food allergy and the best advice I can give is to teach your child how to be accountable for it rather than put it on other people. He knows to use his own Epi pen and knows what is in food. I know he can choose wisely in situations and doesn’t have to sit at a separate table ( which is lame).

    1. I’ve seen people have reactions so severe the epi pen proves useless. Usually when it’s an airborne trigger and people don’t realise so the person isn’t removed from the area where it is lingering in the atmosphere. One case was oranges- it was just in the air from someone having eaten one before the allergic person entered the room. She collapsed almost instantly and was in the room for several minutes (unable to speak having used her epi pen to no effect) before someone realised what was causing it. Luckily in this case (it was a colleague) it happened while she was working in the hospital. Unfortunately the boy I knew who was allergic to peanuts and reacted while in the forest while on an excursion wasn’t so lucky, despite using his epi pen (which he always had with him) his being totally clued up and responsible when it came to his own health made little difference. They weren’t even sure exactly what he had reacted to. The orange thing could have been avoided, as we were all aware of her allergy, but someone “forgot” (or maybe thought it ought to be her responsibility, not theirs!)

  14. Believe me, allergy kids know what they can and can’t eat. My daughter knew at three she couldn’t eat peanut butter and would never share another kid’s lunch or snack. The problem is another kid eats a peanut butter sandwich, gets peanut butter on his hands, touches a door knob, then an allergy kids touches the door knob. Boom – allergic reaction. We know we can’t keep them in a bubble but shouldn’t we do all we can to protect them? Wouldn’t you?

  15. I send my kid to school with peanut butter bars, trail nut bars and protein bars with nuts, I am pretty sure that does not make me “The Worst”. I love kids and would never hurt a child.
    My personal take is that if you have a child with a nut allergy, alert the teacher, school and educate your kid what to stay away from. I have a nephew with severe allergies to nuts/ peanuts and asthma and he stays with me all the time. He is 8 now and has no problem with others around him eating peanut butter. He stays safe and always carries an epi pen with him in the event of an emergency and is well aware of what he can/ cannot eat.
    I don’t want schools to ban one of the best protein packed foods a child can eat – one of the few they will actually eat- because a handful of children can’t, there are so many other alternatives besides the easy “let’s just ban everyone” approach. Communication and education is a better alternative to banning foods.

    1. Yes my kid almost dies because of something like this last year. Now the school and the district is peanut free. Parents still tried to send peanut stuff with their kids and they were automatically charged with reckless endangerment

    2. I sincerely hope your child never has to live with the guilt of knowing that a trail bar they brought into school was what killed their friend.

    3. And what if the lesson doesn’t stick? Kids are responsible for their own life starting at age 5? Would you say this about anchoring bookcases to the wall, or covering electrical outlets? Kids are kids for a reason and we are their custodians. You teach YOUR kid that their snack is not more important than another kid’s life. And then learn the lesson yourself.

    4. Stacy – you are the problem. Thank you for putting my allergy kid in danger for his life because you are too lazy/selfish to come up with something else for your kid to eat. Honestly, what is wrong with you?

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  26. I have two nephews who are allergic to peanuts and my youngest is allergic to fish so I understand the concern but sometimes a family may not have a choice. Growing up both my parents worked full-time. They made to much for us to qualify for reduced or free lunch. Peanut butter helped make sure me and my brother had an affordable protein for lunch. We ate it with no jelly. We had a fruit usually apple or oranges unless something was on sale and a water bottle. I’m fortunate enough as an adult to be able to send my kids to school with more choices. But remember sometimes it’s not about “my rights” but parents trying to get by with what they have.

  27. If you ‘can’t live without beer’, that would generally make you an alcoholic and an unfit parent, let alone someone who has the moral high ground to try to verbally bash people into submission to match your views.
    While I have no problem with the idea and practice of temporary change for the sake of others (i.e. self sacrifice), I’m not willing to drastically change my way of living to accommodate (the parents of) those who won’t do what they demand of others. Though the occasional venting is understood & expected, if you change your tone, you are more likely to be heard more receptively. “Please” & “Thank You” go further than “Fuck You, Obey my commands!”

    This is a case where (a parent) being an asshole (to everyone) could have unintended consequences – That said, I have 2 children, and I’ve been a Volunteer EMT for 17 years. In the VFD for over 20 years in 3 states.

  28. My son is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts….we found out when he ate something containing cashew/walnut aged 2 and went in to anaphylactic shock.

    That moment will stay with me forever.

    Him not being able to breathe, his throat closing, tongue swelling, getting drowsy. We live next to a hospital so we took him in there and they gave him his adrenaline and antihistamine…. I held on to him for the rest of the day. When you have a child with life threatening allergies it is terrifying. You have to let them live their lives and you rely on other people to help keep them safe when you’re not able to be around (like when they’re at school). Doesn’t it take a village? I don’t understand parents who think their child’s peanut butter sandwich trumps my child’s life. One mom at school (after being told the class was a nut free zone) said “oh but nuts are my daughters favourite”….. I mean, they’re just not. No 4 year old’s favourite food is nuts and they’re only at school for 2 hours and 40 mins so if nuts are her favourite- give them to her for breakfast and dinner…… seriously, Wtf. I will never understand…..

  29. Our third daughter has a life threatening allergy to peanuts, cashews and pistachios. I 1000% understand the fear, anxiety and anger towards those who just don’t get allergies at all. I used to dread everything we did, everywhere we went, spending time with family, etc. Then we found a doctor who does Oral Immunotherapy and we spent a year doing food allergy treatments and now our daughter has increased immunity to her allergens and eats them daily to maintain it. It was a miracle for us and have seen it change many others lives. She can go to school, play at a friend’s house! Eat someone’s birthday cake, play on a playground. And I’m not afraid of her dying anymore. I encourage you to look at oit101.org and see if it would work for your family. If you have questions I’m happy to help you out. Best of luck. I hope school goes well for your son this year and that the school is able to help keep him safe.

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