Perspectives on Food Allergy

Being on the other side.

As a pediatric allergist I hear the stories and share advice on how to handle situations. We need to keep the child out of harm’s way and we also want them to have the social interactions that they need and thrive on- an important part of a child’s development.

A few weeks ago Anna (my granddaughter) was invited to a ‘bounce house birthday party’. That in and of itself was a new experience for me. Her mom and dad were going out of town to a wedding so Anna and her older brother Calvin were on our watch for a good part of the weekend.

Tree nut anaphylactic Calvin was invited to the party- and our thanks to the family for doing that. A thanks for many reasons.

Upon arrival, we mentioned the tree nut allergy to the family. They were very responsive and checked the labels for us and assured us that the cake had nothing to do with tree nuts (my summary term for ‘contains, may contain, or made on the same machinery’).

So let the bouncing begin. A very active party, quite different from pin the tail on the donkey and games of that sort. My neck still hurts from watching two very active kids do the up and down thing on a host of bouncing opportunities. After the second room came the pie (pizza), the cake, and the ordeal.

All the parents were sitting watching the 10 children enjoy the lunch. I was looking for that cake.

The attendant brought it in. I spied the offering on the table and began to drift towards it, slowly. My intention was to analyze the cake (despite the father’s assurances). I did not want him to think I didn’t trust him, but I have always had families look for themselves and be wary-my usual words of advice ‘if you do not know for sure, do not let the child eat the food and never trust wait staff for guidance on ingredients’. I was experiencing the angst and the awkwardness that food allergic families have or may have. This was also an experience health care professionals should go through if they deal with children with food allergies.

I slowly crept towards that cake, a few steps at a time, watching parental eyes between moves.  I first got to the trash can- no packaging, no labels there for me to see. I had to see that cake.

A few more steps. Now I can clearly see the frosting, the sprinkles- no obvious tree nuts there. I needed to check the platter- perhaps the information that I sought was there. How do I lift a birthday cake (that belonged to someone else) high enough to discover that ingredient label? I turned my back to the crowd and looked- NOTHING- no label. Now what??

Back to my seat – about 10 feet from Calvin. Of note, if you ask him what his favorite food is, he will tell you cake. Favorite food and potential for a reaction. Of note, Calvin had a reaction to a purported tree nut free cake that may have been contaminated by tree nuts at the bakery. He was served a piece and made quick work of it. As a 5 year old will do, he ate, rolled his eyes to be silly which caused me to jump to my feet. All was good. He enjoyed the entire piece and did well.

For me this was like a laboratory practical examination- I know the literature on the problem, I have heard many stories from families, and now I was able to experience this first hand. It is a good life lesson and helps when you can share what you experienced. It does help to experience real-life situations- it makes you better prepared to guide a patient/family. I hope I can be more at ease for the next one.

FEL 7-20-2016



July 20, 2016 · fleickly · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Allergies, Family, Food Allergies

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