Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Reasonable Concern vs. Anxious Allergy Mom

When Overachiever #1 was younger, it was difficult for me to imagine him ever living a normal life.  How could my "allergic to the world" child ever survive in a world that revolved around food?!  I like to say that I was a bit anxious.  Those who were forced to deal with me at the time would probably choose a more colorful description.

With the help of FAAN (now FARE) and some seasoned allergy moms, I was quickly schooled in label reading, cross-contamination, the need to plan ahead for everything, to always carry an Epipen, and to actually open my eyes to my surroundings so that I could spot danger before my little man found it for himself.  I learned that reasonable precautions or accommodations can be determined based on medical data.  (When my baby ingests or has X rubbed on his skin, a watchful physician can note objective findings such as a rash, wheeze, immediate vomiting, etc.  Therefore, we insist that people wash their hands before holding baby and ask them to refrain from kissing him.)  Those are very different from the precautions that I may be tempted to demand based on my fear of what "might" happen.  (I've never actually seen it happen, but what if someone eats X and then breathes on my son and he has trouble breathing?!  My son cannot - under any circumstance - be around X!!!)

To help me figure out "reasonable" vs. "anxious" concerns, I imagine a line that divides the two.  That line is, of course, rather gray.  And its location is different for those foods that have caused breathing difficulties or multiple system allergic reactions than for those foods that cause only a mild rash with ingestion.  The line has moved over time.  A crawling baby is going to find more allergens than a baby content to sit in a swing.  A typical 5 year old is going to be able to take some responsibility for avoiding their allergens if they are given guidance and oversight by an adult.  An 8 year old can take on more responsibility.  I imagine the line will shift significantly in another few years, and I will continue to prepare for that.  But I am not going to worry too much about the future just yet.

As we head into a new school year, I find myself once again looking for that line between reasonable and anxious.  What accommodations are medically necessary?  Which ones can we relax a bit based on age, increased responsibility and some improvement to allergic response?  Those answers are not easy to come by, so we are scheduled to sit down with some trusted physicians.  Then we will meet with the school.  Despite feeling a bit anxious, I am confident that together - as a team - we can determine the vigilance necessary to keep Overachiever #1 safe in this world filled with allergens without establishing restrictions that are all about making the adults feel safe.

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