I'm not a doctor. I don't play one on TV, and I don't profess to have any great knowledge beyond my own experiences. But here's what I know: vaccines have saved the lives of more babies and children than any other medical intervention in the last 50 years. Let that sink in a bit.
Vaccines don't cause diseases. Vaccines can't cause diseases. Most are made from weakened (or dead) viruses and it's because of these vaccinations that we've been able to reduce the risk of death from infectious diseases (which were the leading cause of death just 100 years ago) to less than 5% of all deaths in Canada now. That's amazing. That's science. I like science.
When my son was born, he had multiple food allergies including eggs, dairy, white fishes, nuts, and more. His little body was susceptible to everything, it seemed, and he was hospitalized with a really severe case of bronchiolitis at about 4 months of age. It was terrifying to see how quickly a virus could invade his little body and cause damage. We were advised to strictly follow the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care publicly funded immunization schedule, to let the vaccines help strengthen his immune system. And we did. Both our kids are fully immunized. Both started receiving their vaccinations at just two months of age.
I know a lot of parents of allergic kids have reservations about immunizations, but before relying on internet advice (including my own!), I encourage you to speak to your family health care provider about the risks and benefits of immunizing your kids. Even when my son was allergic to eggs, we vaccinated (after our family doctor checked and double-checked the latest information regarding egg allergies and vaccines). And since our son is asthmatic, we've also chosen to give him the flu shot every year, to minimize the chance of him being hospitalized with flu complications.
But don't take my word for it. I'm just another concerned mom doing her best over here. I rely on medical professionals. Talk to your health care provider, and read the Public Health Agency of Canada's (PHAC) advice about these concerns.
We all want to protect our children, and I know there's an awful lot of speculation out there, but the facts are the facts: vaccines are tested to ensure safety and effectiveness, and we have the privilege of having them available to us here in Canada. We are lucky.
Vaccines work hard to prepare little bodies for the possible invasion of diseases, giving them the chance to build up their defenses in case they contact the virus. Side effects are rare, and for the most part, I would say that the result of contracting the disease would be far, far worse than the effects of the vaccine.
Did you know that kids attending Ontario schools need to show proof of certain vaccines? The reason? To protect our kids’ health and reduce risks of disease outbreaks in schools. You can read more about immunizations on the Public Health Agency of Canada's site, too.
I know it's a scary world, and it's hard to know for sure if we're making the right decisions, but my choice is to err on the side of science.
Getting your family immunized is an important part of creating a foundation for a healthy life. If you’re on the fence about immunizing, here’s the information you need to make an informed decision for your family.
My son turned five in December, and is in senior Kindergarten at a school that's literally a stone's throw from my back door. I work from home, and have always felt so relieved that I'm here whenever I get a call from the school saying he needs me. Last year there were bumps to the head, a swallowed plastic fork tine, changes of clothes needed, and more. Every time that phone rings, and I see the school's name on the display, my heart sinks and my stomach turns. I always answer with a timid, "Hello?" hoping it isn't the call that tells me my son has had an allergic reaction.
This Is What It's Like Parenting An Allergic Child
Mason has always been socially reserved. His transition to school was rough, and he doesn't want us to drop him off at friend's birthday parties. He likes us to stay close by so he can feel assured he's not alone. He's basically the opposite of his big sister who has been happily independent since she burst forth noisily from the womb. And honestly, we have been totally okay with this because really, as allergy parents, we worry constantly about his safety so being in close proximity helps ease the worry.
Mason self-carries an Allerject around his waist, and is aware of the symptoms of anaphylaxis. He's also really good about declining offers of food from anyone but us, and it's important to us that while he's aware, he's not fearful. We try to instill confidence in him, with the understanding that it's up to him (and us) to protect him against his allergens, not the world around us.
And you know what one of my biggest worries has been? Playdates.
10 Tips for Successful Playdates with an Allergic Child
We've always had his friends come to our house to play. It's Mason's comfort zone, and mine too, to be frank. I know the foods here, I'm comfortable with the kids playing out of my site because I know it's safe here. But he's five now, and it's time he spread those little wings, isn't it? So when he met a new friend at school who wanted Mason to play at his house, I swallowed the worries and followed my own advice. I spoke to the mom beforehand, and told Mason's little friend about his allergies, too. We talked about the Allerject, and why he wears it, and about foods he can't eat.
Mason was apprehensive when the day came -- he didn't want me to leave. So I stuck around for a chat with his friend's Mom for a little while, waiting for him to feel confident there. And you know what? He totally rocked that play date! After an hour, I told him I was leaving, and he was a-okay.
When he came home, he was so full of pride, it brought tears to my eyes. He had stayed alone! He had politely declined a snack, citing his food allergies! (I had checked out the snack and approved it, but he decided on his own that he would decline it.) He had thanked them for having him over!
Letting go is hard, and even harder when there are additional worries. I'm proud of myself for letting my little guy learn and play on his own, and I'm super proud of my brave little kid.
Markham teen Ben Stanton died on Tuesday, and though his cause of death has not yet been released, his volleyball coach did say the student had come into contact with peanuts before his death. His mother has mentioned he had a lifelong cardiac condition, saying he could have died of heart failure. I'm not sure what the condition was, but I do know that anaphylaxis can cause the heart to stop, so perhaps this is the case? The mere mention of peanut contact in relation has the allergy community talking, too.
I cannot explain how his death makes me feel. It is unfair, it is awful. I cannot possibly understand the utter tragedy of losing a child, and my deepest sympathies are with his family right now. Regardless of the cause, this is utterly awful.
The Eye-Opening Truth About What It's Like To Parent A Child With Allergies
Being the parent of a child with life-threatening allergies is hard. It's hard when they're little because they don't fully understand the severity of their allergies. We feel like if we just get to "that" point, maybe they'll be ok. We're told we're bubble-wrapping them by implementing food bans in classrooms, and often we overreact because, well, deaths happen because of allergies. How can we be expected to take it easy when our child's life is at stake? Is this what happened to Ben?
It's so difficult being a parent at all. We carefully dole out little bits of freedom and independence. We think once they're teens they understand how to keep themselves safe, we hope they make good choices, but still, deaths happen.
This news makes me so sad for Ben's family and friends, and so scared for my own little son who has to navigate a world where a food can so suddenly snatch his life from him.
Sometimes it's easier to just never read the news.
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