School Debacle Sparks A Food Allergy Debate

This post has weighed heavily on my heart for a while.  While the situation as a whole is negative, it doesn’t mean the general public can’t pull something positive from it.  (For those of you who haven’t heard about the food allergy debacle in a school in Florida, please visit the following link for more information:  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/42247030#42247030.)

Every family handles food allergies differently…and so it should be.  I believe whole-heartedly in working with your allergist and your family to identify and implement a food allergy plan that works for you.

However, I think there are some especially important points to consider when you are talking about pediatric food allergies. Children are children…pure and simple.  They live to run, play, laugh, and learn.  There are children all over the world who are children first, but also have unique circumstances that shape their life experiences (food allergies, diabetes, cancer, and the list goes on).

It is my personal view that a child is still a child, no matter the circumstances.  Right now there is a precious little girl in Florida who had the misfortune of being diagnosed with food allergies, a circumstance she didn’t ask for and can’t control, and is being unfairly ridiculed and scrutinized because of it.  She has been absent from school for the past week to avoid the mobs of protestors.

To be fair, I think the ridicule and scrutiny are a product of actions from both sides of the fence…parents of the child and those that are protesting.

There are things a school can and should do to accommodate a child with food allergies…period.  Hand washing and wiping of the mouth takes only minutes and is a proven, effective way to decrease exposure to food allergens.  I also believe making a classroom a peanut-free or nut-free zone and having an allergy friendly lunch table to be fair requests.

The problem, I think, comes when parents raise a child to think they are always safe from allergies at a certain place.   Accidents happen and mistakes are made, and it is unrealistic to think a child will never be exposed to an allergen…even at a so-called “safe zone” outside the home.  Even if a child was lucky enough to find such a safe zone outside the home, that kind of allergy-safe bubble will not be available from childhood through adulthood.  At some point the child will be forced to venture out on their own.  There is a whole big world out there and our children will be productive members of society in it.  We need to equip them with the tools they need to live a happy, healthy, and safe life in a variety of circumstances.

On the other hand…

There are the protestors in Florida who are the picture of ignorance.  Please note, ignorance doesn’t have to be a dirty word.  For example, I can honestly say you and I are ignorant about some medical diseases…meaning we don’t know much, if anything about them.  Should the subject come up, you can bet you or I would adequately educate ourselves on the subject before daring to contribute anything to the conversation.  Unfortunately, not everyone shares that sense of responsibility or commonsense.

As I watch the above report, I see parents in the street belittling a family because of a little girl’s health circumstances…which she did not ask for and cannot control.  If the amount of education their children are receiving is truly the issue, they might do well to consider the first-hand education they are providing their own children with…bullying.  As a nation, we have worked tirelessly to educate young school children about the damaging effects and consequences of bullying.  So why should we expect any less from their parents?  Bullying is bullying no matter the time and place and is absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable across the board!

The one who really loses out is that precious little girl who has absolutely no control of any part of the situation…and unfortunately, she’s the one suffering the most because of circumstances beyond her reach.

I wish I could reach out to her and give her a giant hug and tell her she IS loved just the way she is.  No child deserves this kind of heartache and bullying…no human deserves this kind of heartache and bullying.

So, what can you do…right here, right now?

Step 1:  Take your children and gather them in your arms.  Hug them tight and tell them that you love them just the way they are and that they are truly precious in your sight.

Step 2:  Think of 2 things you can do next week to help positively raise awareness about food allergies in your community.

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