Teamwork to tackle son's deadly allergies

Last updated 06:00 12/11/2014
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ALLERGIC: Lisa's son's wheat allergy was the first of many.

Does an allergy rule your life?

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Does an allergy rule your life?

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My son's first allergic reaction was to wheat at the age of 5 months.

Like most parents who have children who have never suffered from food allergies and anaphylaxis, I was completely unaware of how easily it could happen and how devastating the effects could be.

My son is now 5 years old. We have had many close calls and a few more trips to A&E. Some due to me not knowing the vast array of foods my son is allergic to, some due to the kind intentions of others. He has a very long list of allergies.

Our most recent challenge has been starting school. Something I have had to think long and hard about. How do I keep my innocent, but very aware 5-year-old safe in a class full of kids eating things that quite simply could end his life?

The school has been amazing and together, we have implemented an approach which takes into consideration my son's allergies and the other kids in his class. It has been a team effort and I feel very proud of what we have achieved together.

For a mother of a child with life-threatening allergies I have had to come to terms with the fact that it involves me asking other non-allergy sufferers to change their ways ... and come to terms with it I have.

I make no apologies for asking for a nut ban in my son's classroom. This, among a few others, is high in the list of concerns.

He has previously reacted to airborne particles and so it seemed the sensible approach for his first few years at school, so that he and his friends, hopefully, would not be put through the trauma of him having a reaction. It is, quite honestly, shocking to the core to witness and I would not wish that on any child.

For those people who would disagree with this and who would say my son should be able to look after himself, this is what I have to say to defend my decision: I am currently my son's teacher aid, which has given me a birds eye view of what goes on in the classroom.

My son's current best friend is a girl. She is very keen to help because he's new in the class and she can do so many things he can't yet.

She's such a sweetie and loves to help my son write, point to things he's written on his text book and give him hugs when he's saying goodbye. While I love her enthusiasm, my emotions are mixed and I often feel like taking him home to protect him from the things that his little friend has no idea could cause him immense harm.

Often she will have her fingers in her mouth and then pull my son's hand or touch something he uses. He has his own pens, books, ruler, reading cards etc, which he does not share with anyone, but currently the kids are learning that they can't touch my son's things or my son. Often they do, so I have to get up, remove and clean them, several times a day.

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The other day my son's little friend sneezed, full on in his face. I remained impassive on the surface but underneath I was praying nothing would happen.

When I read about parents suggesting we should teach our kids to look after themselves I wonder ... What do these parents honestly understand about the daily struggles we, as allergy parents, go through?

Why should you care? Do you teach your kids not to put their fingers in their mouths? Do you teach your kids to wash their hands and face after eating? Do you ask your children to sit down when eating? Quite simple stuff you would think, but it has taken me years to teach my child to do it and I still teach him every day. I tell him how proud I am that he can look after himself.

I consider myself a compassionate person. I care greatly about the wellbeing of other kids and will often go out of my way to try to understand families suffering from different conditions to ours.

I am asking the same from others. To consider, my child is 5. When he is older, and when your kids are older, if we can work together we should be in a better place. No need for food bans because we all know that 'practice makes perfect' and we can all find some common ground so we can survive this current allergy epidemic until someone clever finds a solution.

Quite simply, as the Wonder Pets say it best, teamwork. This is what will get us through. Us allergy parents can't navigate our way through this without all those 'other' parents, no matter what anyone says.

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