What does Valentine’s Day mean to you and your family?
To most families, Valentine’s Day is a time to share cards, candy, and/or having special meals. To most food allergy parents it means another day to navigate around food allergies and allergic reactions while keeping our child from feeling like an outsider or classroom nuisance. After 7 years of living with food allergies my son has finally come home and mentioned kids complaining about being forced to sit at the "nut table," because of his nut allergy. Our school kindly requests kids with lunches that contain nuts to sit at a separate table, now commonly known as the "nut table." More about that later.
With books fairs, school dinners, school restaurant fundraisers, silent auctions and other fundraising projects going on within a month of one another, in addition to kids after school programs, the thought of a classroom Valentine Party throws me over the edge. And to have the Valentine classroom activity turn out to be decorating cookies in second grade, I say:. Can’t we get more creative than decorating cookies?
In less than 2 minutes I have come up with Bingo, heart scavenger hunt, cupid says (Valentine version of Simon says), Red Hot (musical chairs), guessing jar, and word games. When posting my frustration on Facebook, mother of 3, Nancy Davis, mentioned that her kid’s kindergarten classroom does, "Hearts around the World." They write to families around the world and ask them to send in Valentines. When the class gets one, they learn about the geographical area and mark it off on a map. According to Mrs Davis, the children absolutely love it. Her kiddo comes home telling her about England, The Philippines, Guam, California, etc.
I often write about my frustrations with having food during classroom celebrations. I am not only against food in the classroom because of my kiddo's food allergies but because it is important to teach our children that food does not have to be the center of every celebration. I often mention the childhood obesity rate, *which has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years” but today I am sharing food allergy statistics. Jennifer Gordon (Dorr), with Chandler Chicco Agency, a full service global healthcare communications agency, recently mentioned some eye-catching information. According to results of a new survey by Mylan Speciality as many as one in three parents report that their children with life-threatening allergies have experienced anaphylaxis on Valentine's Day.
Let’s take a giant step forward this time to teach one another about food allergies and find new and fun ways for our kids in school to celebrate holidays. Here’s a suggestion.
Have a child? Take the time to explain to them the importance of not sharing food, washing hands after eating, and take the opportunity to teach them about compassion. Take the time to help your classroom mom and offer creative craft ideas that do NOT include food. Everyone is special in their own way. One child may be deaf, one child may have food allergies, or one may be dyslectic. It's not their choice, especially at an elementary school age where feeling “different” is so uncomfortable for youngsters.
Have a teen with food allergies? Take the time to remind your teen the importance of a "safe" kiss and the importance of carrying their epinephrine. Having your date avoid the food allergen is most ideal, but they may not have the full understanding of labels and cross contamination. FARE, formerly known as FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, suggests remembering, BRFW, B-Brush Teeth, R-Rinse Out the Mouth, F- Floss Between Teeth and W-Wait 4 Hours Before Kissing. It doesn't sound romantic but it's much more romantic than anaphylaxis, a hospital, or potential death. Key findings in the above mentioned survey found:
Teens that date were significantly more likely to have experienced anaphylaxis during Valentine’s Day than those who do not date (47% versus 13%).
Less than half of parents (47%) talk to their child about risks posed to children with life-threatening allergies from physical contact related to Valentine’s Day, such as being kissed by someone who has recently eaten food they may be allergic to.
Only 47% of parents tell their teen that when going on dates, they should tell their date about their life-threatening food allergy.
35% of parents did not indicate that they remind their teen to bring his/her epinephrine auto-injector on dates.
Stay informed, teach your child's caretakers, your child, and your family about anaphylaxis and the warning signs. Anaphylaxis (pronounced ana-fill-axis) is a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death