Tag Archives: child safety

Raising Awareness – Pinatas, Peanuts & Epi Pens

With eight percent of children having some sort of food allergy, raising awareness is important. After all, you don’t want to be the one innocently giving a child something that could trigger a life threatening reaction.

It seems that food allergies are here to stay. A 2008 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed an 18% increase in food allergy between 1997 and 2007. Peanut allergy also tripled during that time.

Some kids can react to an allergen being in the air or a handprint on a play structure, others need to ingest it. For those who have more tactile allergy triggers, the world can be a dangerous place. I’ve heard of moms leaving playgrounds when they see kids eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Imagine peanut butter getting on one child’s hands and then transferring it or traces of it to the playstructure. Such a result could present a serious danger to some children.

A small number of foods are responsible for 80% of all allergies (milk, wheat, soy, eggs, fish and nuts). The most common childhood allergies are to milk, wheat, soy, eggs. These allergies are likely to resolve during childhood. Other allergies, like to nuts and fish are said to be more long term.

With food being such a part of our culture, a restricted diet presents challenges especially for young kids who are too young to regulate their own food intake. From birthday parties to playgrounds, the snacks offered can pose serious risks. For kids with egg allergies, innocent foods like French toast, mayonnaise, quiche, custards and meringues, are problematic.

Being the mom of a child with food allergies is a nerve wracking anxiety provoking experience. Bobby first showed sign of being allergic with a light rash on his face. As he got older his reaction intensified – vomiting, tongue swelling and trouble breathing. So, as his mom, I’ve learned to watch him like a hawk. You could say I am a helicopter parent on steroids.

When a piñata breaks at a birthday party, I have been filled with a sense of dread as I look to make sure I am able to monitor what candy my child eats. Of course he goes for the candy in shiny packages. Explaining why some kids are able to eat peanut butter cups or why the Easter Bunny would leave candy that can’t be consumed has been a bit of a challenge. The good news is that as he get older, he will be better able to understand the result of his allergies and self regulate his intake.

Not knowing when a new food allergy will show itself is a challenge and downright scary. Such has been my experience lately, requiring the inaugural use of the Epi Pen and resulting in Bobby’s first (and hopefully last) ride in an ambulance. Holding Bobby as he struggled to breathe was my worst nightmare. For seconds, I contemplated whether to subject him to one of the things he hates most – a shot. As much as I hated him having him the shot, I knew he needed it. I held him, my brave husband gave it. Within seconds, that shot somehow helped him breathe. After being able to breathe, he thought it was so “cool” an ambulance and a fire truck came to his house. I thought it was so “cool” that they arrived so quickly. But – Bobby, yes, this was an impromptu party.

For parents of kids with allergies, there are things we can do to. We can educate others about our children’s’ allergies. In fact, I hesitated to write this article as I want so much for Bobby to be treated just the same as the other kids on the playground. The reality is that he can be treated that way, but that the adults caring for him need to know how to use the Epi Pen should the need arise. On that note, Bobby’s school actually invited me in to talk to the teachers. They even practiced using the Epi Pen. Here in Sonoma, two schools are at least partially nut free – Valley of the Moon (entirely nut free) and Sunshine School. Old Adobe Preschool is also attentive to children with allergies.

There are little things we can all do to make the world a more allergy friendly place.

  1. Before giving a child a snack, ask their parents if it’s ok.
  2. Have kids wash their hands with soap and water or wipes after eating. There is research to suggest that hand sanitizer won’t get rid of trace amounts of food.
  3. When hosting a party, make sure food is on countertops out of the reach of young kids.
  4. When your child is done eating, make sure uneaten remnants make it into a trash can.
  5. Be supportive of parents whose kids have food allergies. If you think they are overreacting or being overprotective, then check out a video on youtube of a child having an anaphylactic reaction or just ask me what it’s like. I’m happy to tell you.
  6. Remain positive. Stress the strengths of kids with allergies.

So where’s the silver lining? Current scientific studies may hold promise for the future. For example, there are studies currently as to introducing trace amounts of foods to develop a tolerance. Also, kids with food allergies learn to be tough. Heck, I’ve heard of an Army Ranger who has a peanut allergy. So with the right support, our kids can have the option of being rangers too.

For more information about food allergies – check out FAAN (www.foodallergy.org), the Food Allergy Initiative (www.foodallergyinitiative.org) and the Food Allergy Project (www.foodallergyproject.org).

Keeping Kids Safe In Public – Teaching Important Lessons

Recently, police reported another incident in which a strange man offered a ride to a child.  It was the third or fourth such incident in recent months in Sonoma.

Our idyllic town is so kid friendly that it seems shocking that horrible things could also happen here.  As a mom with two young boys, the recent incidents raised questions about when to start teaching about “stranger danger.”

Are children ever too young to start learning this concept?  After all, I hold childhood innocence as something to be guarded, nurtured and protected.  But my two and a half year old, Bobby, is quite friendly.  He loves meeting friendly folks at the grocery store, in the store and around town.  The recent happenings got me thinking though that maybe this is the sort of thing that I as a mom should be avoiding.

Since I am in no way an expert on the subject, I consulted with a few experts.  They had some great ideas.  First, explain to your child in a simple way what a stranger is.  A stranger is anyone who mommy and daddy do not know.  And, while not all strangers are bad, strangers require ground rules.  Then, explain some ground rules.  Children are to ask mommy or daddy first before interacting with a stranger. This can mean just plain conversations, taking something like a gift or a treat from a stranger, or getting into a car with a stranger.

Silvia Floriano the community outreach officer from our local Sherriff’s Office  put it best when she said that Children normally will not yell and run at the sight of a stranger when they are under 5 since they have started to be social, especially when they are with an adult they trust. But it’s important that they learn who they can go with and who they need to stay away from when they are alone or at a distance.  Especially since some kids, like Bobby, are very friendly and will talk to anyone in the grocery store.

Officer Floriano reminded me of the importance of us as parents understanding that young children may not be able to understand what we are telling them.   It becomes our role as parents to be patient, use simple words and be willing to repeating things over and over again.

Second, introduce the concept of a stranger to your child through Play.  Play is a great way to teach kids.   Make a game using pictures of strangers from the web, newspapers or magazines and those of family and friends.  You could even just save a few photos on your phone.  Have your child pick a picture of the safe adult (family/friend) and someone they don’t know (stranger).  When they do it you can reiterate the ground rules (i.e. ask mommy before taking anything from someone).

Third, explain to your child the appropriate response when they are approached by a stranger.  This can be a game as well.  When your child is approached by a stranger they need to run back to mommy, daddy or whomever is taking care of them.  They can yell, scream, kick, etc.  You can make this a game as well.  Role play with your child.  Have them pretend someone in the family is the stranger.  Then, when the stranger approaches the child, have the child run to find mommy or daddy.  You can also use this to teach how to respond if they are grabbed by a stranger – i.e., kick, bite, yell, scream.

Fourth, there are two other topics related to strangers that are important to introduce – secrets and appropriate touching.  As Officer Floriano put it “A good secret will not make you sad or make you feel bad.  Such as a birthday gift.”  Whereas, “A bad secret will make you sad, scared and will make you feel bad.  And can hurt you like bad touches.” Of course, it becomes important to teach children that bad secrets are not to be kept from mommy or daddy, especially if they hurt or make them feel scared or bad.  Someone may tell your child that you will get upset, angry, mad when your child tells you a secret.  So, you can explain to your child that you will never get mad or angry at the child for telling you a secret.

Fifth, teach them about their Personal Space (the space around them that only safe people can be in) also talk to them about the Safety Circle and the Safe Area.  Make it a game. Show them that they need to yell, run and tell.  You can do this at the park.  A child’s personal space is that surrounding them when he/she stretches out their arms.  A safe area is the area that is open and makes it easy for a safe adult to see and hear the child at all times and for the adult to see and hear them.  This is opposed to trees, bushes, buildings, etc., places where it is difficult for children to be seen.  You can explain the concept of a safe area at a park.  Have your child point out safe areas to you.

Lastly, keep in mind that potential predators know what they are looking for.  Officer Floriano explains that “a bad person, who will hurt children will look for the child that seems to be alone, isolated, quiet and is not making contact of any kind with the adults around. So event when your child is playing and you are just sitting on the bench watching… be watchful and always make sure your child sees you and responds even if it’s just a wave. Also being aware of who is hanging out and looks out of place is important.”  In addition, she cautions parents “When you are going to spend time at any public place with your child make sure that you pay attention to them. A simple distraction can have a devastating result.”

published also in the Sonoma Index Tribune, 5/22/2012