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Wake me up Sunday, when it’s safe to come out of hiding

Submitted by on Tuesday, 27 October 2009 No Comment

Times like this, I am so glad Al Gore invented the Internet. How else would I know that, as the parent of an allergic child, I should find a large closet and hide there until Nov. 1.

Come to think of it, a closet probably isn’t safe enough. Wonder where the nearest fallout shelter is.

Judging from the articles that shows up in my Google reader on a daily basis, I’m just not normal if I’m not scared out of my wits about Halloween.

“For the parents of kids with food allergies, the scariest thing about Halloween is the trick-or-treat bag,” reads the headline on one news release that keeps getting copied and pasted into at least a blog a day.

“A less scary Halloween for kids with food allergies,” promises another blog.

Personally, the scariest thing about Halloween is two wild children walking around jacked up on sugar for the next two days. And since Halloween is on a Saturday this year, I can’t even pass them off to their teachers.

Maybe I don’t feel the anxiety because we’ve never had an allergy-free Halloween – Big Guy had been diagnosed with his egg allergy at 10 months and his peanut allergy not long after. Maybe it’s because he was diagnosed at a young enough age that I could implement safeguards that became routine before he was old enough to question them.

Whatever the reason, “scared” is just not a word I’d use to describe the day.

Annoyed? Yes, because I have to take food if there’s a social event. Lucky me, he has a school party and a carnival this year.

Hassled? Yes, because we buy candy to give out to trick-or-treaters, plus enough to trade Big Guy for the treats he collects that aren’t safe.

Prepared? Definitely, but no more so than any normal day. Epi-Pen: Never leave home without it.

According to the news release, I’m in a minority. The release cited a poll in which 80 percent of the mothers of allergic children said Halloween causes “great anxiety.” Forty percent said their children feel alienated because they can’t “participate fully” in Halloween.

If Big Guy feels alienated, he’s never let us know. Once in a while, he misses ketchup when we’re dining out and occasionally he’ll pine for pepperoni. But otherwise, he simply accepts allergies as a part of his life. It means he has to take a little extra care, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to miss out on the fun.

He’s been able to recite a list of what he’s allergic to since age 2. He knows to never, ever, ever, ever touch a goody bag unless someone has checked it first. Just today, his PE teacher gave him a lollipop and said it was safe, but Big Guy had his regular teacher check the bag the treat came from because that’s what we do: We read labels.

He knows I’m going to go through the trick-or-treat candy before he dives in, but he also knows he’s going to get one back for everything I confiscate. He knows he’s going to lose the chocolate except for Tootsie Rolls, but he’s fine with Nerds, Smarties, Twizzlers and Dum Dums.

And he knows that if a weird contaminant shows up where we don’t expect it – such as the cereal bar that didn’t have a warning, but clearly had peanut, last year – I’ll have his back.

That’s why I’m so surprised that 80 percent of the moms – and I wonder why we’re talking to moms and not parents – are so anxiety-ridden.

Yes, there’s more stuff out there on Halloween, which I suppose mathematically creates a greater risk. But we do what we do every day – keep the environment as safe as possible, make sure Big Guy has alternatives and be prepared in case something slips in somewhere.

If we keep following those simple steps, we’ll be OK. At least, we will until people start bobbing for peanuts or eggs instead of apples.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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