Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Food Allergy Parents and the Dreaded "Phone Call"

My daughter is nine years old and has been in school since she was 3 (counting preschool). She also goes out a bit more on her own with friends than she used to. Since finding out about her life-threatening nut allergy when she was 4, I've come to dread unexpected phone calls from school.

Many of you can relate to the situation. Of course, when you see the number of the school (or the Girl Scout leader, or the soccer coach, or the band teacher, etc.) come up on your phone, you instinctively brace yourself for the worst. I have gotten a lot better about this, but an out-of-the-blue school phone call still has the capacity to chill my blood because I usually have "food allergy reaction" foremost in my mind.

I've gotten several school phone calls over the years--only one was for a suspected reaction. And that one, thank goodness, turned out to be a false alarm.

Now, this year in particular, I have received lots of unexpected school calls--forgotten gym shoes and library books, fevers, strep throat, and most recently this spring, (minor) bumps on the head during playground roughhousing.

Last week, the phone rang at about 11:15. It was the health aide. My heart started a bumpety-bump. What now??? The health aide is a kind soul so she prefaces her non-emergency calls to parents with "This is the school health office. It's not an emergency!" She then told me that my oldest, the allergic one, had a minor head bump and they had watched her in the office while applying an ice pack and then sent her back to class.

I got off the phone, relieved to hear my daughter seemed OK but then concerned because you never know with a head injury! I figured I'd have to keep an eye on her for the next 24 hours--I know kids who've gotten concussions so yes, it does happen.

But then I had to laugh at myself--I've probably spent most of my worrying hours on food allergy related issues. I realized that my daughter has the allergy stuff down--now I just have to remind her (again!) not to get too close to a moving tire swing. (The kids at her school are obsessed with the tire swing.) I don't even think about the tire swing. I've sure never worried about it. See, as my grandmother always said, it's the things that you worry about that never happen. (Most of the time, I've found this to be true.)

So if, like me, you worry that every school phone call could mean serious trouble, take heart--kids can get into lots of other hi-jinks besides a food allergy reaction. Remember that the next time the school calls, then take a deep breath and say hello.

Now that school is ending soon for many kids, the same goes for day camps or other activities. I've agonized (privately) each time I've sent my daughter to these things. Will I get The Phone Call this time?

A couple of years ago my daughter attended Girl Scout camp. She really wanted to go, so we researched the situation and then sent her. It was pretty close to home but she would be eating there--I sent her lunch, so that wasn't a huge issue. Peanut butter was not on the menu, and they had an EMT on staff at the camp so I felt pretty good. But I sure hoped she wouldn't need them.

Turns out she did--she scraped her foot on the bottom of the pool and needed a Band-Aid. So common. So simple! So much wasted worrying!

The last day of camp, my daughter's Brownie leader called. This had to be "the call!" I thought. And on the last day of camp! But again, no emergency. The call was food allergy related, though. The leader said my daughter wanted to know if she could have one of the treats on the cookout--I think it was a s'more. She apparently didn't want to eat it without me giving it the OK. (Well, at least she was paying attention when I told her not to eat stuff she wasn't sure about.) I had the leader read the labels to me over the phone and then gave the thumbs up.

As parents of children with a serious medical condition related to food, we always need to be cautious, of course. As a speaker at the recent FAAN convention put it so well: "Anticipate a reaction, but don't expect it." In other words, be prepared, then don't worry. Easier said than done but this year I'm going to give it a try.


Jane Anne said...

Don't worry- that's the extremely hard part. I enjoyed your words. So much for me to think about as I get ready for the upcoming year. My PA 5 year old starts T-ball today- his first sports activity. It's a whole new world for me as he begins school-age activities.

Unknown said...

This post really hits home. I know exactly what you mean about those school phone calls. I'm pretty good most of the time, but those occasional phone calls can really throw you for a loop, even for just a few seconds.

Anonymous said...

I got a phone call from the School Secretary in September "Your daughter fell on the playground, the nurse is with her but we think she needs to go to the hospital for a probably broken arm". So you know that as I was RACING to school, my thoughts were " thank god she didn't eat something... a bone can be fixed..."- only allergy moms would understand that type of thinking...