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 Post subject: Educating others...
PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 5:53 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6476
Location: Ottawa
I thought that I would share with you a (long) letter that I have sent to the chair of our schools parent council (of which I am a voting member).
Our school does not have a complete ban of allergens but rather asks parents to refrain from sending foods which contain peanut butter. Our school has also discontinued Pizza Days. It is felt that these two foods are so easily spread that the school could not reasonably reduce the risk of exposure to the allergens especially when almost the entire school would be eating the pizza.
This is a sore issue with many parents and I was asked by the principal to reconsider Pizza Day this year if each child used a wipe afterwards. After meeting with her she decided not to pursue the issue.
Now they want to initiate Movie Night...with hot buttered popcorn. As the school custodian would have already left for the day, some parent offered to clean up. After a heated discussion and much research into a safe microwaveable popcorn (I was not able to find one), it was decided to go with potato chips instead.
The chair's daughter is in my daughter's class and was invited to her birthday party. It was a movie party. (Do I like controversy or what?)
Following the party I received an e-mail asking me to explain myself which I am taking not as an attack but as an opportunity to educate. I do feel that to the uninformed we seem to contradict ourselves. When it is explained to them, they can see that what they originally thought were equal situations, are not at all.

Quote:
I have found that with food allergies, there is a very big learning curve. Much of what I have learned has been through trial and error and I don't claim to be 100% knowledgeable nor 100% perfect about how I deal with this situation. I am simply doing my best. Before I answer your questions I have to explain what it is that we are talking about.
Because R--- has asthma, this puts her at higher risk during anaphylaxis reaction. But in order to have a reaction, she would need to ingest one of her allergens. By ingest I mean the allergen getting into her bloodstream where the IgE antibodies recognize it and start the reaction. (Eating, breathing or absorbing through mucous membranes or through a cut in the skin.) If she comes in contact by touching the allergen she normally will get hives but this can be resolved by washing the area with soap and water. A hive by itself is not serious as long as she doesn’t rub her eyes or somehow get it into her mouth. (One trip to CHEO was because something she came in contact did get rubbed into her eyes)
So you can see that there are many things to worry about. We need to take a few extra precautionary steps. With every situation, we need to do a risk assessment.
Who is there- Is there someone who can administer the Epi-Pen? What is their understanding about anaphylaxis? Are there small children who cannot be expected to understand and who may inadvertently cause cross contamination?
What is there- What foods will be served and what is the risk of exposure to allergens?
What is the activity- Will the activities contribute to the risk of exposure? Will the activities exacerbate her asthma? Will I be able to stay with her?
Where is the activity- Will I be able to bring safe foods? Is there telephone reception? What is the proximity to a hospital? (Epi-Pen = 15-20 minutes)
So finally to answer your questions….
What is the difference between serving popcorn at the school on a Friday night and you having R---'s birthday party in a movie theatre?When R--- goes to a movie theatre I have already contacted the theatre to inquire about the popcorn. If there is no risk of exposure, there is no problem. If there is a risk, containment steps are taken. This means that R--- will wear long sleeves and long pants. This also means that I will wipe down arm rests and cup holders etc to the best of my ability. We use a lot of wipes!
After the movie, we wash her hands and change her clothes as soon as possible. Through out this scenario, either I or her father is sitting beside her, fully aware of the risk and alert for symptoms.
If the school was to serve popcorn that contained one of her allergens, my concern is not that she would react during the movie. If I brought her, I would use the same containment steps as above and I would be with her. I am more concerned about a reaction occurring some other day.
Protein is not like germs. You can kill it with alcohol, heat or time. If her allergen is in the gym, it would have to be washed away. This doesn’t mean sweeping the floor but washing the floor with soap and water. As well, any other surfaces that came in contact would need to be washed. With several families of children using the gym, I would imagine that the benches, mats and walls could conceivably become contaminated.
It only takes a small amount of allergen on the floor to get on to a ball, to be passed to the hand, to be rubbed in the eye or to lick the finger to turn the page in class later on. No one would be thinking about the popcorn a day or two later. This is my concern.
Is the popcorn that the Ottawa Family Cinema serve, milk and egg free? If it is, do you know if we are able to purchase it from them for our movie nights?I have contacted the Ottawa Family Cinema and to the best of my knowledge, their popcorn is free from dairy, egg, peanut, tree nuts and legumes. They are not able to sell it to us in bulk unfortunately (I tried).
(By the way, I did call the company and the microwave popcorn I thought I had found does contain traces of milk. I’m going to pop some this weekend in the pot to see how efficient that would be. I really think it’s our best option.)
If the popcorn is not milk and egg free, then how was R--- able to be around it? From my understanding of what you said at the council meeting, it was the grease from the popcorn that is the problem but there would have been as much risk to R--- at the movie theatre as there would be at the school, probably less because there would be fewer people in attendance. You are correct in that foods that are greasy are more easily spread that dry foods. Greasy foods tend to be smeared about rather than picked up when cleaned with a damp cloth. Our goal is to avoid life-threatening reactions as much as possible but that is balanced against quality of life. It is not realistic to think that R--- will live in a bubble. She is after all, a normal 7 year old girl. She will grow up and have to function is this world. That means that she needs to have the same experiences as her friends and classmates. It is our challenge to keep her safe by reducing the risks when possible.
R-- is aware as much as a 7 year old can be. She knows what her allergens are and that her parents read all labels to make sure that what we feed her is safe. She knows what the symptoms are and to tell us if she suspects she is having any symptoms. She knows that means she will get her Epi-Pen, go to the hospital and have to stay there 8 hour s or so. She knows that there is a chance she could die if she had a reaction and did not take all of these steps. She knows dead means forever.
You may see us at a birthday party in which pizza is served. We will have made a special food (maybe a safe pizza for R---). We will have lots of wipes, several Epi-Pens and a fully charged cell phone with us. We may be happy and snapping pictures but we are nervous all the while.
I understand that you are speaking not just as a parent but as the Council Chair and you have parents come to you and ask why we can’t have Pizza Day or some other food event. I spoke to R---’s Allergist on Wednesday about Pizza Day and he told me that it is best that we continue to not have Pizza Days. He reminded me that the reason we have legislation about anaphylaxis in Ontario schools was as a result of the death of a girl in Pembroke who died from dairy residue at her school a few years ago. Just 2 weeks ago Manitoba passed legislation to enact the same laws for their public schools.
I don’t know why food allergies are so much more prevalent these days but they are. It isn’t just peanuts that can be life threatening. For R---, all of her allergies are life threatening.
I know what a drag it is to have to make lunches everyday. I too get the old “not sandwiches again!” I have to go to several stores to get a safe margarine or a safe mayonnaise. I have to spend twice price of milk for soy milk and 3x the regular price for her mayonnaise. Shopping takes longer because we need to read every single label, every single time sometimes the ingredients change. We don’t eat out much as you can imagine.
If I could pay a couple of bucks and have a lunch that was safe for my child delivered to her class, I would jump at the chance. But I can’t. So it’s hard for me to hear from parents who’s excuse to increase my child’s risk of death is that they are too lazy to make their child’s lunch when they have so many more options available to them than I. But, I can handle this. I know how lucky I am, that my child’s medical condition is something that we can avoid. Other conditions are much more serious and I am so thankful that we aren’t dealing with those.
In the past, on the advice of her Allergist, we kept R--- home on Pizza Days as a way of avoiding it and the custodial staff spent extra time cleaning her classroom. But it was hard because every Pizza Day was a special event. It was Jersey Day or Pajama Day or Red and White Day or the Halloween Party. She wasn’t just missing the day’s lesson or the pizza. She was missing the opportunity to be involved in her school spirit building events.
So, if you need additional information to explain to other parents why we aren’t having Pizza Day, you can point out to them that the OCCDSB’s policy on fundraising states, “Participation of students in fund raising in schools will be voluntary, and consideration will be given to factors such as the age and safety of the students:
Fund raising activities will not interfere unduly with the learning experiences in the curriculum. “
http://www.occdsb.on.ca/policy.php?poli ... ShowPolicy
I’m sorry this is so long. I worry about saying too much but also not explaining sufficiently. It is a very complex issue. I want to work with St. --- Elementary School and community to R---’s primary academic experience the best it can be. This means that she feels a part of the school community and that when she is in class, she can focus on the lesson and not be concerned that she is going to touch something that is going to make her sick. I don’t want her ostracized with no friends because they blame her for missing out.
I really appreciate you asking for details. I know what a hot topic this can be and how difficult that e-mail was to write. I want you to feel comfortable asking me anytime you have a question. You will not offend me. I welcome the opportunity to explain the situation. It is an emotional issue for me because it is my child’s life. So if I sound emotional at a meeting talking about it, it isn’t because I’m upset, it’s just so close to my heart.
If you would like more information about anaphylaxis allergies, here are some excellent websites:
http://www.aaia.ca/en/aboutAnaphylaxis.htm
http://www.allergysafecommunities.ca/pa ... p?catid=13




_________________
Moderator
Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:15 am 
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Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:21 am
Posts: 687
Location: Cobourg, ON
I know you will not want to bring this up but what is the value of a movie night? Most children already spend so much time in front of a screen. It is not interactive or a social event. Our parent council brought this up last year and I tried to avoid the whole movie issue entirely and suggested a more interactive night instead like a family games night at the school. I talked about our role as parent council supporting the efforts of the school in educating our students. Family games promote reading, math and social development. As if turns, out we didn't host it but I plan on organizing one this year. Our plan last year was to set up a variety of games in the gym and library for all ages including bingo and physical activities. We were going to host it in the winter when most families are often stuck inside. I will have to bring this up again at our next meeting.
The other problem with movie nights, is finding one that a range of ages will enjoy. We are a K- 8 school so we have a big age span.

_________________
13 year old daughter -- lives with life-threatening allergies to milk, tree nuts and peanuts; seasonal allergies (birch, maple, ragweed); pet allergies; asthma; and eczema
10 year old son - no allergies


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 2:37 pm 
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Site Admin

Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6476
Location: Ottawa
I'm on the parent council and the rationelle is that they want to try to get the parents into the school in the hopes that they will become more involved eventually.

We have a hard time attracting volunteers. I think a large part of this is the fact that many families are two income families and parents have little time to volunteer. But we're determined to try.

The movie is free and the only money we raise is from the purchase of snacks. We are not trying to raise money this year as we don't need anything (we've done well in the past years) and everyone is feeling the financial hardship of the economy.

This is a year of giving back and trying to establish a bond with the families.

_________________
Moderator
Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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 Post subject: Re: Educating others...
PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2010 9:56 am 
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Site Admin

Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6476
Location: Ottawa
Just want to add a note to this to say that movie night has become a tradition at our school. It is held the last Friday of most months. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Theres is no popcorn-just liquorice nibs, skittles, plain chips and Kool-Aid Jammers or water. All snacks are 50 cents and admission is free. Kids often come in their pj's and the atmosphere is casual chaos.

Movies are usuall the most recent release on DVD of a popular kids movie. Often, we have a 50/50 draw for the local food bank.

Dd loves to go!

_________________
Moderator
Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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 Post subject: Re: Educating others...
PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 8:10 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:40 pm
Posts: 2034
Location: ottawa
Great letter Susan, I used to instinctively become angry, now I really realize that others truly are confused over some allergy issues and are glad for the explanations. I am glad this parent did ask for an explanation and gave you the chance to explain/defend yourself instead letting things brew and having others talking behind your back. To others who don't deal with allergies it might seem like the 'same' issue attending a movie or having movie nights at school with popped corn. Your letter was good at helping others understand the difference.

I have told family many times that DS couldn't have ice cream or chocolate...I knew I meant certain brands. Then when I some family saw pictures of DS eating an ice cream cone or with a chocolate Easter bunny they almost sounded like I lied to them and told me they thought I said he couldn't eat any.
I had to explain that it was a specific product from a safe nut/peanut/sesame free facility bla bla bla.

_________________
DD 12 yrs -no allergies
4 yr old DS - asthma/eczema Anaphylactic to Peanuts, all tree nuts, sesame , all pea/lentil legumes, gelatin.
Allergic to trees, grass,ragweed, feathers, dander, mold and dust.
Outgrew eggs, fish, shellfish


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