Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Traveling With A Food Allergic Child Part II

Last week I wrote about all of the food and prep work it takes to travel with your food allergic child (see Here). This week I’m writing about a more emotional side, about the constant worry of being in a strange and uncontrollable environment. Our hotel room becomes a safe a haven where our son can be safe from the outside world, but once we step outside, there are thousands of people around us who neither know nor care that he has life threatening food allergies. Unless I put a sign on him or get a bull horn, they will never know.
I posted a picture the other day from our amusement park trip of pistachio shells on the ground. These were also littered throughout the sand on the beach. I have no idea when pistachios became the “portable food”, but they seem to be every where. Maybe I just never noticed it before because they weren’t a threat to me or my family, but now I see them every where. I’m still not sure how you open them on the beach with sandy hands. It can’t be yummy. Yet there they were.
Also on the beach: Broken eggs. Like someone took a container of a half dozen eggs and just cracked them and left them lying there in the sand. Who brings eggs to the beach? I don’t know, but someone did and the broken eggs, shells and insides, were scattered on the beach.
These things were easily navigated. We just moved away from them and tried to inspect the beach around our blanket to make sure it looked relatively clean. As long as there were no obvious signs of things our son is allergic too we felt pretty safe.
One afternoon, the Little Man was napping and Hubby gave me break and said he’d stay with him and let me get some reading done by the pool. It was nice to have some time by myself and since I didn’t have to watch children, I was doing some people watching. What I observed was a family (mom, dad, little boy about 2 years old, and some random aunts, uncles and cousins) swimming in the pool and eating a giant family sized bag of Chex Mix in the pool (they were actually IN the pool). The little boy, over a period of 45 minutes, dumped about half of the bag of Chex Mix in the pool. No one bothered to fish any of it out. My son is allergic to wheat, rye, barley, egg, milk, peanut, and tree nut. All of those, minus the egg and rye, are in Chex Mix. So what would that have meant for my son had he been at the pool at this time? Would the water have been contaminated for him? Maybe just in that area? Would the water have diluted the allergens enough that it would have been ok? Would he have just had a contact reaction? They were sitting in the shallow end by the little kids slide were my son liked to play. I guess I would have just pulled him and took him to the beach. Was I the only one who noticed the mess in the pool? Would I have even noticed the mess if my son didn’t have food allergies? As I left the pool to see if nap time was over I had to step around a big pile of Doritos that some one had dumped on the ground and just left there. Another food allergy land mine.
The whole trip was one observation after another. People sitting next to us at the pool eating sandwiches over our pool chairs where our towels were sitting, giant gobs of ice cream on every bench of the boarwalk, little kids eating goldfish crackers and wanting to play with my sons sand toys. The list goes on and on. Of course the Little Man was oblivious to the whole thing because of his age. As his parents, we were on guard constantly and it was a little hard to relax. Thinking of him going through his whole life this way made me sad. Of course he’ll know nothing different. This is the way it’s always been for him and it’s the way it’ll always be. I also couldn’t help looking around and wondering what other people and families were going through. And what behaviors or actions that I was doing that was making them nervous or putting them on guard…. And I didn’t even know it.


allergicmom said...

You've hit it dead on with this post. The stress I feel when I take my son out of his safe zone is really high. On the other hand, I really want him to have a "normal" childhood and there is so much risk that comes with that.

What makes me saddest is when he's so resigned to being told that he can't have something because it might be dangerous for him. I've got to blog about the "safe" ice cream that ended up giving him an itchy throat, so he just gave it back to me with no complaints at all. What a brave little guy he is. I just wish he didn't have to be so brave.

Sue said...

Wow! I'm stressed just reading about your vacation! I always wonder how people can be just so ignorant about normal manners. Like WHY eat IN the pool or OVER someone's things or leave a pile of food on the ground. Add the food allergy part and it's terrifying.

A gf (who's so good where Kayla is concerned) actually somewhat debated me at her party when I mentioned something about how nice it would be to be able to take her out to eat. She was like - you can, just order certain safe foods. Oh, if it were just that easy. It actually got on my nerves, but she is so accomodating when we are at her house and out together that I am trying to let it go. How nice it must be for ignorance to be bliss!

It was very nice of hubby to let you get out alone for a bit. :)

andria said...

I have always been really cognizant of peanuts and nuts having taught at a school with a severly allergic child, but i never would have thought about the ice cream. I try not to even purchase nuts as lunch treats because you never know. I'll think about the dairy things now too.

Christie O. said...

Wow! Not only are people unaware, they seem to be slobs!! I am so sorry about the stress that is your every minute!!!

annie said...

Wow, that sounds stressful.
I can't imagine letting my child just randomly throw food around!

Gabs said...

Isn't it horrible the things we notice now? I almost feel like the Jaws theme is playing in the background when we venture out places with my PA daughter. I'm with you when you think "who DOES this? who eats chex mix in the pool?!?!"

Michelle said...

Food allergy or not, that's just disgusting to be eating your snack in a public pool like that - and then to let your kid dump it in the pool and not do anything to clean up the mess. That's just rude and disrespecful of the other guests.

I really had no idea all the little things you had to watch out for when you're dealing w/an allergy...I can see how it would make you more observant, and leery of being out in public. People can be such slobs.

Robyn said...

I can completely relate to your situation! People just don't get it. Most are so lucky to never have to live with a food allergic child. My son is allergic to milk, eggs & peanuts.

I was at a conference last weekend (45 minutes away from my f.a. son) and they began throwing peanuts at us to wake us up! I was petrified when I realized what was hitting me! As you probably know, all it takes is 1/120 of a peanut for a reaction. That's microscopic and could easily get on your clothes. I was mad. I worried the rest of the conference and had to change as soon as I got home.

The emotional aspects of having a f.a. child isn't talked about often enough. It affects both the child and the whole family. Thanks for sharing your experience. I know I'm not the only one that sees all the potential dangers that lurk around every corner and worry all the time about it!!

Allergic Girl said...

i love how you take care of your boys so much so im sure they dont even know they have special needs, you just take care it!

Jess Poskozim said...

I know exactly what you mean. I am amazed at how Cheez-its and Goldfish crackers are EVERYWHERE! Seriously, do they mutate & multiply when they hit the floor? Clean up after yourselves!

Thank you for writing this. I needed to know I'm not alone out there. :)