Not too many years ago (I mean, it can't be too many, my kid's only five), we had to eliminate a whole pile of food from my son's life thanks to (confirmed) food allergies. Strawberries, tomatoes, dairy, soy, eggs, white fishes (all of them!), shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts... I'm not sure if there were more, but you get the idea. A lot. It sounds horrible, and you might wonder how we fed him, but you know what? There's a lot of food out there, and he did just fine. In fact, he was 26lbs by six months of age. Ha.
We used to see his allergist every six months. Young kids' immune systems change and develop so rapidly that allergies can come and go, so she kept a close eye on him. First, he could tolerate soy, then eggs when baked, or dairy in yogurt only. Even his white fish allergy, which our allergist was certain would stay for life, disappeared. But when those things all went away, he was confirmed allergic to tree nuts and peanuts. It was like a punch to the gut. How come everything else had gone away, but these things popped up? No fair.
Now, the thing with my son is that he was never fed nuts or peanuts because he was considered a high risk kid, given all his other confirmed allergies. But one day when he was around three years old, he was given a chocolate containing peanut butter by a family member. I'll never forget the terror in my daughter's eyes as she told me how that chocolate must be peanut butter, because she licked his fingers clean, and smelled him, and oh mommy, will he die? My heart in my throat, I cleaned his face and watched. No reaction. No hive, nothing. He had had a skin prick test that confirmed an allergy (with a fairly large hive, I might add) but here he was not reacting.
The allergist re-tested and his skin prick test was still positive. He had blood work, and it came back negative but because his skin reaction was still fairly large, we were told to continue avoiding peanuts and tree nuts.
That was two years ago now, and my son is used to wearing an emergency epinephrine auto-injector to school. He's just five years-old, but he tells people about his allergies, and explains why he cannot eat at certain places or share certain snacks. It's a big burden for a small kid to have to recognize that one mistakenly eaten candy could mean the end of his life. But this is our reality.
Last year, my son's environmental allergies were confirmed. This year he is officially asthmatic. I'm so done with all this junk. I wouldn't wish allergies on anyone. So at our most recent visit, I went in hopeful but understanding this is just our way of life now.
Here's Mason's back being prepped to test him for a tree nut panel (it's a bunch of nut proteins), and peanut allergy:
And here's the result:
Do you know what this means? Do you have any idea how this one little test could change my son's entire life?
This test shows that Mason's not reacting to the tree nut panel anymore. This means he can be referred to SickKids for the oral food challenge.
This also means that his reaction to peanuts, while still being positive, is fairly small. And given his history (the suspected ingestion without reaction), he could also be a good candidate for the oral challenge.
I nearly cried happy tears. Ok, I did cry them. And I might be crying them again now. But I don't want to get my hopes up too much. Our next step is another blood test where they'll test each protein in peanuts as well as almonds (because he tested positive to those in the past, but has had almond milk without issue). If his blood tests are negative, we will be referred for the oral challenges.
I can't imagine the possibilities, I really can't. The last five years of my life have aged me twenty with stress and worry.
Cross your fingers for us, will you?
Bookmark this list, you’ll thank me for it during your summer vacation, I promise.
1. Visit a splashpad — check your local town/city website to find out where there are free ones near you!
2. Visit a beach — even if it takes a couple hours to drive to one, this is a worthy day trip because who doesn’t love playing in the sand?
3. Go for a hike — find a trail and hike that trail. So much adventure can be found on hikes! Better yet, geocache while hiking.
4. Find a new playground — explore your town and find a playground you’ve never been to before. Even with all the same equipment, a new park is exciting.
5. Go swimming — local pools have inexpensive public swim times that are always worth checking out.
6. Write a diary every day — this is a fun way to recap what kids do every day, so they can appreciate all the wonderful stuff they experience. It’s so easy to forget.
7. Take a photo every day of something fun you did — and at the end of the summer, make a beautiful photo book of memories.
8. Do a nature craft — take a look at what’s around you (sticks? rocks? pinecones?) and google crafts to make out of them. You’d be surprised at how cool some of the ideas will be.
9. Visit a zoo (bonus if it’s free) — there are a few free and inexpensive zoos in the GTA, so check out what’s around you!
10. Visit the library — on a hot day, a cool visit to the peaceful library is a welcome activity that everyone can enjoy. For free!
11. Write and mail real letters to family/friends — everyone loves a surprise in the mail.
12. Bake something yummy
13. Cook a meal together — getting kids involved in the meal-making process is great for everyone. As little as two years old, they can offer input into meals and help out with preparation.
14. Pick up garbage in a public park
15. Take a road trip — hop in the car and drive to a new town and see what you find.
16. Have a picnic — even just taking lunch outside on the front step is a fun activity that shakes up the boredom.
17. Be dramatic — put on a play with friends or siblings, write a summer song.
18. Finger paint — even adults can get into finger painting when they let down the Mess Alarms. Dig out the paints and make a big mural together. Embrace the mess!
19. Run through the sprinkler
20. Walk around your neighbourhood — how many of us just wander our ‘hoods these days? I’m willing to bet not many.
21. Ride bikes
22. Make a piñata — then fill it with candy and break it, just for fun
23. Visit a museum — what’s in your area? Do you know the history of your town/city?
24. Find a free local activity — many towns and cities offer free summer entertainment and programs, you just have to look for them. Take advantage!
25. Go to the farmer’s market — support local (or local-ish). Get out there and enjoy the local tastes of the season, there’s nothing as delicious as the produce picked this morning!
26. Clean out the closets — no time like the present to get rid of last year’s outgrown wardrobe.
27. Purge the toys — ditto for the toys, get rid of whatever is broken or unused!
28. Try a new hobby — there’s no time like summer vacation to pick up a new hobby. School’s out, so why not learn to make beads with clay? Or learn about local trees?
29. Check out a farm
30. Watch a movie outside
31. Make gifts for friends/family — make a necklace for nana out of beads, or a paper weight for papa out of rocks.
32. Play outdoor twister with chalk — or hopscotch
33. Set up a lemonade stand — unless you live in this woman’s ‘hood
34. Take a drive through the country — have your kids ever seen cows? Cornfields? Wild turkeys and coyotes and deer? Mine have, because we frequently drive through The Country to search for such things. It’s pretty awesome, really.
35. Take a walk in the city — being suburbanites, this is a thrill for my kids
36. Go somewhere new for ice cream
37. Draw pictures of your day, every day — at the end of the summer, have them bound in a nice book
38. Have a scavenger hunt — it’s not hard to set up a hunt for the kids outside that’ll keep them occupied for awhile!
39. Pick your own…whatever — see what’s coming up for picking and get out there. Kids will love picking raspberries, etc. then eating them all on the drive home.
40. Stay in your jammies all day
41. Get together with friends
42. Eat dessert first — because why not? Sometimes it’s fun to live on the edge.
43. Turn those old pants into shorts — remember when I suggested purging those old clothes? Take all those flood pants and cut them off… now you’ve got more shorts.
44. Get crafty — search Pinterest for summer crafts. There are a gozillion of easy, fun ideas on there.
45. Make a summer playlist — and play it wherever you go as a family!
46. Have a yard sale
47. Paint a t-shirt — this is so fun for kids as little as toddlers. Get some cheap t-shirts and a few fabric paints and go to town.
48. Grow some food — nothing’s more rewarding than eating something you’ve grown! My kids love growing herbs (and I do, too, since they’re so easy!) and eating them.
49. Dig in the dirt
50. Paint some rocks
51. Play a board game
52. Fly a kite
53. Kick a ball
54. Check out a cool part of town
55. Be bored — it’s ok to not have something to do every moment of every day. Kids are programmed to say, “I’m borrrrrrrrrrrred”, and they’re also programmed with amazing imaginations when left to use them. Let them be bored and see what they do.
56. Donate to a food bank/shelter — take the time to teach kids about supporting their local community.
57. Sleep in a tent — even if you can’t get camping, pop a tent in the backyard (or even just hanging some blankets or making a fort) and camp out there.
58. Read outside — it’s a special kind of wonderful to read outside in the summer warmth
59. Call in the reinforcements — when all else fails, reach out to family or friends to babysit (and maybe spoil) the kids for awhile.
60. Spend a night at a hotel — we often check Hotwire for cheap hotels to stay at for nights away, just for fun.
61. Check for events in towns nearby — don’t forget your neighbouring communities, they may have awesome things for you to check out, too.
Recently my five year-old son was admitted to hospital due to a severe asthma attack. We hadn't even known he was asthmatic. It was scary, exhausting, and even though he's fine now, I'm finding myself a bundle of nerves and emotions in the aftermath. It was such a blur, really. I noticed he was struggling to breathe, and off we went to a local emergency room. I threw a few things into a bag, but when we got there I realized there was a lot I'd forgotten and I wish I'd had a list to make it easier during that stressful time.
So here's a handy list of things you'll want to pack. Since you won't know if your child will spend a few hours, or a few days in hospital, expect a longer stay and be prepared.
• Money for Parking
The hospital we first went to accepted only cash for parking (crazy, right?), so bring change with you just in case. And bring your credit cards, in case that's the kind of machines they have for parking.
• Health Card
This goes without saying, but bring your child's health card with you. I know you may be flustered, but you'll need it.
If your child is on regular meds, bring them. We had my son's Allerject, and my regular arsenal of allergy mom stuff - Benadryl, ventolin, etc.
My son is allergic to peanuts and nuts so I threw a couple lunch snacks into our bag for him, and his school water bottle with cold water. I wish I had packed food for myself. Once admitted, they fed my son but not me, of course. Some hospitals offer "compassionate meals" for caregivers if you buy them, but I didn't know this until it was too late. I was starving, and sadly under-caffeinated. My son was too afraid to be left alone, so I wasn't able to run down to the hospital food court.
• Activities for Your Child and Yourself
Pack your phone, charging cable, iPad, whatever. Make sure you have something to keep you and your child occupied because an emergency room wait can be hours just to be seen, and if you end up admitted, you'll be thankful you have entertainment. Crayons, a colouring book, a favourite book to read, electronics - whatever it takes to stave off the boredom.
• Toothbrushes and Toothpaste, Other Toiletries
Oh how I wished I'd thrown those in our bags!
• Diapers/Pull Ups if Required
• Changes of clothes
A fresh pair of underwear can make even the worst day tolerable. Throw some pajamas and fresh clothes in a bag before you leave, just in case. My son threw up all over his clothes in the emergency room, so spent a few hours mostly naked until my husband could bring a change of clothes, so it would've been better to have an extra set.
• A Favourite Toy/Stuffie
In the ambulance from one hospital to the next, my son was given a stuffed toy that was donated by a local charity group. He loved it, and it gave him much comfort through his stay. If your child has a favourite toy or stuffie, pack it, because if you end up staying awhile, it'll be great to have
Do you have anything helpful to add to the list?