By Rosemary Marchese
Physiotherapist and mum of 3 fit kids
Even as I write this I can feel my heart start to race. My son carries an Epipen, and has done so since he was 2 years old. But we’ve never had to use it. Until the last day of school last year. Nothing can prepare you for that phone call from your child’s school saying ‘We’ve just administered the Epipen’. What? He’s 10 years old. How on earth?
It was the last day of the school year. It was party mode. My son goes to a ‘nut free’ school. While we live in fairly healthy household I don’t deprive my kids of party food on party days. As much as I cringe at it all, my son knows that he can consume the food that have no nuts in the ingredients. But on this party day things went terribly wrong when a box of chocolates was opened to share and no one, including my child, checked the ingredients. Walnuts. They were clearly listed on the packet. He reported a ‘sensation’ in his throat to the teacher but he was not sent to sick bay. When he quickly started to deteriorate he ran to sick bay without permission (which I have always encouraged him to do). But noone followed him up. With laboured breathing and a swollen tongue he was given the Epipen by the wonderful school nurse. While we had to go to hospital for monitoring he got out of this situation so fortunate. He’s fine.
How does a mum cope when someone gives her anaphylactic child nuts?
Surprisingly, I wasn’t angry. I’m not exactly sure why. Possibly because the outcome was okay, or possibly because I’m in denial. What I found I was feeling was frustration at thinking he had to go to sick bay alone. Noone followed up. I’m convinced that there was no maliciousness in this. Quite simply, no one in his classroom fully comprehended the severity of his situation. Until the ambulance siren echoed through the school.
I decided that if anything, I wanted to spread a message of awareness to all parents and children. If not sending nuts to school is causing you such stress because your child can’t have the peanut butter sandwich I ask you to consider how you would feel if it was you. If it were your child who was minutes away from not being able to breathe simply because he or she consumed that food.
My son is getting older now and he is being taught to be even more aware of the food he chooses to consume. He has to. As he grows there will be more and more circumstances where he can be exposed to nuts and I am not there to double-check. But I do ask this of you. Please educate your children to be aware. Let them know which one of their mates is more at risk of a reaction and encourage them to speak up when he or she reports any sensation of an allergic reaction. In my son’s case, he had to run out to sick bay before even asking for permission. I’ve always told him he doesn’t need permission. Just go. But I would have loved to have heard that someone in the room would have noticed. Someone should have followed him.
Signs and symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction that need urgent attention:
- Difficult/noisy breathing
- Swelling of tongue
- Swelling/tightness in throat
- Difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
- Wheeze or persistent cough
- Persistent dizziness or collapse
- Pale and floppy (in young children)
Rose is a Fit Busy Mum of 3 fit kids. She aims to empower mums who are time poor. She acknowledges that mums are ‘busy’ but tries to inspire them to regain their fitness through simple everyday habits that she promotes through her book ‘The Fit Busy Mum: Seven habits for success’. Visit www.thefitbusymum.com.au