At the start of each year we have to:
1. Meet with the doctor.
We visit our GP and ask for our annual referral for food allergy testing at Sydney Children’s Hospital. Without it, we can’t even make our appointments for the year. This year Philip will be ‘food challenged’ to see if he can finally eat small amounts of egg.
We then ask for a prescription for the two government-subsidised EpiPens we are entitled to each year. The prescriptions means the first two cost only $40 each. But I have to buy at least one more which will cost $140. Coupled with each EpiPen will be a packet of chewable antihistamine at $30 each.
One emergency pack will stay with me, one goes to school and the other travels with Philip wherever he goes.
2. Spend a fortune at the chemist.
We buy three EpiPens and three packets of antihistamine at the chemist. As usual they are reluctant to sell me a third without a prescription before I remind them that I could buy ten if I wanted, the prescription just lowers the cost of the two.
So give me my bloody EpiPens please.
EpiPens expire every 12 months and also need to be replaced if, God forbid, they have been used to save your child’s life.
Click through our gallery of the most common allergies. (Post continues after gallery):
Related content: When food is a killer.
3. Lolly shopping.
Next, we pack 6-8 small lolly bags to be kept in Philip’s classroom that term. Every time there is a birthday or food event in class, Philip doesn’t participate and instead gets to eat one of his special lolly bags instead.
At first he used to feel left out, so I started trying to send in similar foods to those that would be in class that day like special egg-less pancakes on Pancake Day. But now he prefers the lolly bags, which he has designed himself to contain all his favourite lollies.
He is the envy of his friends.
4. Meet the teachers.
I organise a meeting with his teacher/teachers for the year. This year he is in an open learning classroom so I will request a meeting with all of the teachers in Year 5 that year. They all need to be made aware of Philip and his food allergies, what the rules are surrounding the management of his allergies and what to do if he has a reaction.
Despite strict school policy on allergies, meeting with teachers keeps it top of mind and opens up a dialogue about it which is very important.
5. Study the school calendar.
Get a copy of the new school calendar and search it for any and all events involving food including cake stalls and donut days. Jot them down in my diary so I can organise alternative foods or possibly volunteer to help run them so I can bring in something for Philip.
Then remember that the women who run the stalls don’t like me and instead plan to send him an alternate snack instead.
6. Excursions and camps.
Identify all excursions and camps and make inquiries about the food at these locations. Send the first of several emails to the principal asking if the kids will be eating there, what their plans are for the food allergy kids and ask if it is okay if I keep him home for those that sound particularly dangerous, which I did when his class visited a temple and cooked and ate fried rice, an egg-allergy parents worst nightmare.