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School and Allergies, Asthma

It’s Off (Gulp) to Kindergarten

The start of kindergarten is bittersweet for most parents. On one hand, we’re excited for the new experiences that await our youngsters as they begin their school careers; at the same time, we mourn the passing of the baby years. How quickly they grow up.

While our first-born child, Julian, is now in university, I clearly remember the day he started junior kindergarten. He was so proud to be going to “the big school”, carrying his new backpack and wearing the outfit that his grandmother had given him to mark this special occasion.

Me, I was ready to cry. Not just because JK represented a new milestone – my 4-year-old was growing up – but out of fear that he might have an allergic reaction at school.

Julian had been diagnosed with peanut allergy only six months earlier. My husband Victor and I were still getting used to the routine of reading food labels, preparing safe meals, and remembering to carry an epinephrine auto-injector everywhere.

Now, as our son moved out of our protective bubble and the watchful eyes of his babysitter, we had to advocate with more people to ensure that he would be protected at school where he would soon spend the better part of the day.

Our journey into the brave new school world began with registration. Victor and I met with the principal and the teacher to review some basic measures that would help to keep Julian safe.

Though we were reassured that the staff would do its best to safeguard our son, I continued to feel anxious every morning as I handed him over to his teacher, breathing a sigh of relief at noon when I was greeted by his smiling face at pick-up time. My son, meanwhile, loved his teacher and enjoyed his new friends and activities.

That first year was very difficult. Every time the phone rang I was afraid it was the school calling to say Julian had had a reaction.

Already stressed with the burden of trying to anticipate where food might pose a risk, my anxiety escalated when the mother of a peanut-allergic child said, in a judgmental tone: “I can’t believe you didn’t know peanut butter is often used as bait in mouse traps! Haven’t you asked the school to remove them?” What an irresponsible mother I was. How could I not know this?

Next: Minimizing the risks



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