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Sunday, October 22, 2006

A bad nut

Today was Michael's Halloween party for his school. They combined it with the annual general meeting for the parents - smart thinking from our board, I must say.

The person in charge appeared to be a professional party planner. In any case, she was far too cheerful for her own good. I was avoiding her, because people with that level of forced frivolity are not good for my mental health. She divided the children into groups, and it soon became clear that she was in charge of Michael's group. In between her excited announcements, I managed to pull her aside for a few seconds.

"This probably won't come up, because I know this is a peanut-free event," I said. "But you need to know that my son has a severe peanut allergy."

Normally, this provokes a concerned reaction and some thought about whether there are any peanuts around. No such luck.

"Ah!" said Overly Cheerful Lady. "There ARE peanuts here!" She said this in the same tone that you might say "There ARE other kids here to play with!" Like it was a real selling point.


"In the candy!" She sounded like she was about to burst into song to celebrate the fact that she had brought along a product that could kill my child.

"Ohhhhh..." I made Michael promise NOT to eat any of the candy. I also brought his EpiPen down to the party and gave it to another adult who appeared to understand what a severe allergy is. I then spent the next two hours in terror that Michael would accidentally eat a peanut, or touch one, or touch someone who had eaten one.

My son's school has been nothing short of excellent when it comes to making arrangements to deal with his allergy. We have been fortunate and he has never needed to use the EpiPen. He's also never even tasted a peanut. Among other things, he has had reactions from:
1) a restaurant table that looked clean, but wasn't clean enough;
2) a kiss from one of his little friends who had eaten peanut butter toast several hours before our visit to his house; and
3) the air when I cooked Thai food when he was a leetle leetle baby.

So far, we have been able to keep Michael's reactions in check with Benadryl and explanations about his allergy. Most people understand.

Before I had Michael, I used to read newspaper stories about insane allergy moms who insisted that entire schools be made peanut-free. I used to think that they were on the far end of crazy. Now I'm one of them. And it doesn't seem so crazy anymore. I can't expect that other people will change their lives, but I can hope that they will understand when I ask them not to eat peanuts for the few hours they're around my son.

And I can hope they won't react with excitement when I explain that their candy can kill him.