JEWELL BUENAVISTA, HOST: You’re listening to Faith and Family. A Christian family community that aims to provide Christian advice, and promote Christian values. I’m Jewell Buenavista.
Food allergies are on the rise. As a matter of fact, according to the study released in 2013, food allergies among children have increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011. Unfortunately, my own children are part of this statistic, especially my eight-year-old daughter, Jasmine. Jasmine has been dealing with allergies for pretty much all her life. We’ve literally tried everything, and so, we’re pretty experienced in this topic. Calling in today is, actually, my sister-in-law, Liz Correa, who also has children that have food allergies, and can share with you some of her experiences. Hi, Liz!
LIZ: Hi there!
JEWELL: So, tell me, why do you think that this is an important topic for parents to talk about?
LIZ: It’s definitely… like the statistic that you gave us, it’s definitely on the rise, and it’s something that, even those who don’t have kids with allergies, they should be aware of this rise, and how the effects can, you know, harm, especially children, that have these life-threatening allergies.
JEWELL: Yeah, as a matter of fact, you’re right! A lot of people don’t realize that some of these food allergic reactions can actually be fatal.
JEWELL: There are eight foods that account for 90% of all food reactions, and I’ll name them: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. You recently had an incident with your son, Brandon, tell us a little bit about that.
LIZ: Yeah. So, actually it was at the start of this year. We were given as a gift, this box of chocolates. And on there it had traces, you know, not traces but where it says manufactured on, you know, that could have traces of peanuts and things like that. Usually when they have that, it’s more like just an awareness that, usually, when Brandon eats something that has that inside, he’s actually okay. But this was a different brand. It was like European, and he had one chocolate and he was fine, but we didn’t know that there was an assortment? And so the second one that he had, he became… first, he was quiet, and if you know my son Brandon, he’s very active, and so I was like, what’s wrong? And when he looked at me his face had broken out in hives, and so I knew at once, okay, he’s having a reaction! So, the first thing we always do when he has a reaction, we give him the Benadryl.
We gave him the Benadryl, and this is when I knew it was bad, because he then threw up, and he never does that. Usually he’ll take it, and then the, you know, the symptoms will go down and then he’s okay but this time he keeps throwing up, and so I was like okay, let’s give it to him again. So he takes it in, and it wasn’t getting any better. Like, his lips started getting swollen, his hives were still coming out.
But, what was the, I guess, main factor that made us go to the next step, which was the EpiPen, was that he was complaining that his throat was hurting. And so, he was like my throat hurts, my throat hurts, and I was just like, oh my gosh! And so, you know, me and my husband were like okay, we need to… we need to give him the EpiPen. And so, this was Brandon… Brandon’s 7, and we knew about his allergies since he was four to six months. Four to six months. So, we’ve gone, never had to use an EpiPen for how many years, and it was this! This was the time when we had to use it! So, we gave him the EpiPen, and if anyone is unaware [of the] EpiPen, it is a needle. It’s an injection that you put on the thigh of the leg, you hold it down for 10 seconds, and it’s a… it’s a big needle! Because that needle is big, so that it can pierce through clothing to get to go through clothing, skin, and to get to the muscle for the medicine to work. And so, we did that, and the… the sound of him [crying], and that scream was just, you know, [emotional] I felt so bad for him. I’m actually glad I wasn’t the one who did it? I’m glad my husband did it instead of me, because it was just like, heart-wrenching, it was heartbreaking hearing him in that pain! But we knew we had to give it to him to help him. And so…
JEWELL: … especially you know that his throat is starting to swell or close up, almost…
LIZ: Yeah. Well, the doctor said. Well, actually we gave the EpiPen, we rushed to the ER, because after you give an EpiPen, I remember when we got training on on the EpiPen that they gave us at Kaiser [hospital], they told us, once you give it you have to go, still go to emergency, because that can subside. Like, the EpiPen can… you can still continue with the reaction. So, once we got there, they actually said that him saying that his throat is hurting, might have been the way that he was describing that his throat was closing up. And so, they said it was a good thing that we gave the EpiPen, that we went to the emergency right after, and it can also cause… the EpiPen can also cause, like, side effects. That there could be an irregular heartbeat, which he actually had, so we had to stay in the emergency for a good couple of hours until we got the clear to take him home. And even after that, he was on medication for 5 days to ensure that the allergy wouldn’t still be in him, that it was still under control, and then we had to go back for a follow-up appointment. So, it’s not as easy just to give an EpiPen and then it’s done. There could still be a reaction after that, so it’s always best to, once you give the EpiPen, go into emergency, and make sure that your or child is checked out.
JEWELL: Thanks for sharing that! Because it really, it really paints a picture for the audience, for our listeners, that something as… something like chocolate with nuts, can really bring a child to the emergency room!
LIZ: Mhm. And even, too, like, something as simple as you know… this happened with my youngest daughter. She was at camp, and one of her friends, she [Liz’s daughter] is allergic to nuts, and especially hazelnut is I like her biggest allergy. And so, I guess one of the kids had eaten a Nutella sandwich. And, I guess, the child didn’t wash her hands properly, and she touched Leana… just touched her on the face? She had welts on her face, and that wasn’t something that was consumed, that was just by touch! And so, you know, just being aware to like, when you’re around those that have allergies, to wash your hands and wipe your mouth if you had something, because even with our kids like, if we eat something that we know they’re allergic to, like I’m always washing my hands afterwards, or wash my mouth before I go and kiss them, because I know even a kiss would cause a welt on their face. So, it’s being aware of that, too, that it’s not only something consumed, but even by touch for some kids can cause a reaction as well.
JEWELL: It’s really hard to see your children in pain. So, it’s good that we… that our kids are trained? But it’s also important that the adults around are really aware that even if their children don’t have allergies… Liz, talk about how did you prepare Brandon? Knowing that he had allergies, what kind of preparation did you do before he went to kindergarten?
LIZ: Yeah. So, before he went to kindergarten, you know, everyone’s trying to teach their kids to make sure they know their ABCs, their 1,2, 3’s… Well, for me it was okay, what are you allergic to? [Laughing] And so, I would go over that with him! Okay, what are your allergies? And I’ll let him, like, peanuts, eggs, you know? He’ll start naming them off, because I wanted to ensure that he knew how to communicate that to someone, or you know, ask questions when it came to food. That was one way I had to make sure that he knew all of his allergies. I spoke to the teacher, I spoke to the school nurse, I spoke to all of them, and depending on, I guess, what school you go to, and I think this may be standard? They normally have like, a special form for parents to complete, that talks about like, the allergy reaction plan. So, in our particular school, the doctor actually has to complete the form, to say if there’s a reaction, what should be given, what medicine should be given at the school, and I had to make sure I had that with me that first day. I had all of his medicines in a baggie to give to the nurse, his EpiPen, his Benadryl, and I’m grateful that, you know, the school does have like a process in place, and it’s always good to, you know, speak to the school nurse or the teacher, just to give the extra communication…
JEWELL: Although they do have these processes in place, to not do anything to make the children feel isolated. I want to share a quick story that happened with Jasmine to our listeners, which to this day, makes me sad to think about it.
So, for a whole entire year, there was this one time, it was already like a month before school ended. And I visited her during lunch. I was going to drop off something, and I noticed she was sitting by herself at the lunch tables. And I was thinking as I was approaching her, I’m like oh my gosh, did she get in trouble or something? And so, I went over to her, and I said, sweetheart are you okay? Did you get in trouble or something? And she was like, oh no no, this is where I sit. This is the peanut free table. And so I’m like, well, why don’t you go sit with your friends? She goes, oh no, they won’t let me. I have to sit here.
What I didn’t like was that the school actually isolated her. So, I went ahead and communicated to the principle, the school, the nurse, the teacher… and helped them understand that, as much as I appreciate that they’re creating awareness, they also have to think about the psychological and emotional effects that something like that would do to the children. Because that can lead to so many other things like, for example, the rise of bullying, you know? There are bullying of children with food allergies! There are many stories that you could even read on the internet about children with food allergies being bullied upon. So, I want to bring to the point… bring back to the point of the importance of building our children up, for those that have allergies. So, Liz, what have you done to help build confidence in Brandon and Leana, you know, so that they don’t feel like an outcast or something?
LIZ: I guess one of the things that we try and do is, you know, we let them know that they’re not alone. That there are other kids that have the same allergies, like their cousins that have it. And that, you know, not to feel that they are lacking in somehow because of their food allergies. That they can do everything else, like other kids can do. It’s just, they just have to be more careful, you know? I think, instilling in them, once you know that there is an allergy… they have a food allergy, it’s just kind of not trying to shy them away from everything? But just to grow to accept it, and there are alternatives that they can eat, that they can have, so they don’t feel completely left out.
JEWELL: So, Liz, aside from building his confidence, what else do you feel he’s learned from these experiences?
LIZ: You know, from these experiences I have felt that Brandon has truly understood the power, you know, of God to heal him. He’ll say things like, okay mommy should I, I’ll just pray, and then God will make it go away, and I’ll ask him to make sure the medicine will help heal me? And I’ll say yes, that’s what you do. So, it’s, you know, uplifting that he has taken that, and has learned that at a young age.
JEWELL: I love hearing that. You know, just just like Brandon, I remember… I believe Jasmine was only 4 years old, and you know, she was just learning how to pray. One of their first times she prayed about her food allergy reaction, and all she said was, you know, “Dear God, please please help me stop being itchy.” You know? And I mean just her saying that on her own, it is really… It’s like she knew that only God [could] help her with her itchiness at that time. I love that they’ve learned to call unto God for these imperfections that they have, but it makes them who they are. And so, and it just makes them more prayerful, and it really built them up, and that’s what also helps their confidence! Because they know that God is there for them. And so to all of you parents out there with kids who have allergies, you are definitely not alone. Please, send those questions, or if you have your own suggestions, let us know! Thank you for joining us on this Faith and Family podcast!
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