Repeating Your Child’s Food Allergy Test: How Often is Enough?

My food allergic childHow often are you bringing your child back for yet another food allergy test? Are you finding that it is becoming a constant struggle to not only discuss the thought of the test let alone get them to the office without sending them into more than a slight panic? You are not alone in this effort. Chances are your family is very much like countless other families that have accepted follow-up panels and food allergy challenges as part of the new yearly check-up routine. But is having a retest done every single year overdoing it and how should we know when enough is enough? Does there seem to be more open-mindedness that gives you optimism? Does the doctor that your family chose seem to have your child’s best interest at heart? As a fellow food allergy parent, I wanted to share some of my thoughts:

Have a sit down with your child to discuss this first. Your child is a tiny sponge and is generally much more aware of whatever is going on within the household than you are even realize. What makes them most uncomfortable is not knowing and not having a say in what’s going on. As an adult, I’m sure you would also agree that anything surrounding tests on your self would surely not be done until you discussed all of the pros, cons and what the test would provide. This should not be any different for your child. Get your child’s thoughts on why they may not be ready to test again.

  • What is it exactly that they are afraid of- Is it the blood test, the food challenge, the needle? Everyone has fears so what can we do to make this a little less traumatic while also teaching them that these tests are a necessary part of keeping them safe and, possibly, offering more options in the future.
  • What does your child think will happen? Are they afraid of getting hurt or having a reaction? This is completely normal and needs to be handled with great care. After all, they have been taught to avoid foods as a matter of life or death and now, you are asking them to try a little bit of it. You know you would be afraid too.

As the parent, how do YOU feel about more testing? There are so many opinions flying around and it can be an enormous effort for any parent making literally any decision for their child. Rather than feeling obligated to go along with what everyone else considers to be the norm, stop and ask yourself if these particular events are right for your child’s needs. Not all food allergies are alike and neither are the needs of every family. Different dynamics means that you must also find your own groove and stay with the methods that work best for your child’s health and well being, nobody else’s. There will always be what-if’s but there will never be another one of your child.

Leave it up to your child. This may seem crazy, but this could be an option for your family’s future food allergy panels. As much as it an additional test may help your child & family, if your child is responsible for the decision, it might actually be the better thing to rely on. Why?

  • It may empower them to NOT feel as worried and want to proceed
  • It may show them that you are on “their side” and get them ready for the next go-round
  • It may even bump up their wanting to find out more about testing and how it could mean changes with their food allergies, good or bad.

Do what works for you. In the end, the frequency of retesting for food allergy levels and reactions should be what everyone in your family decides. If you choose to go yearly, once every few years or even decide that a food challenge is not something that is an urgent item on your to-do list, then be comfortable with your decision. You may get some resistance and most likely, you will have to sit through more than one lecture of another parent who chooses to retest their child more regularly. Remember to be polite but firm and offer to explain why your family has made their choice about testing. It should never be an argument- just an on-going discussion. I promise that you that somewhere along the way, you will also get symbols and signs to let you know that your decision was the right one. Your parental skills are what lead you to keeping your child safe in the first place so why should this be any different?

Tan for the Prom at 16, Skin Cancer by 26

Girls tanning at the beachRachel loved sunbathing – until she found an odd-looking mole on her toe. It turned out to be a malignant melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer.

“From the age of 16 to 26, I always went on holidays with the intention of getting a glorious tan,” Rachel says. “I always slapped on the factor 25 sunscreen for the first couple of days. But by the second week, I’d cover myself in oil because I wanted my skin to get really brown.

“In 2000, I discovered this funny mole between my toes. I’ve always had moles on my body, but none had ever caused me any problems. My doctor told me to keep an eye on it.

“The next summer, when I started wearing my flip-flops, the mole looked a funny colour. My doctor sent me straight to a specialist. Within minutes I was taken to the operating theatre, and the mole was whipped off.

“Back home, I rested my foot but I wasn’t worried. I thought, ‘I’m 26 years old; how bad can it be?’

“Ten days later, I got the phone call that would change my life. The mole was a malignant melanoma. The specialist was concerned that if the tumour was more than a millimetre deep, it could have spread to other areas of my body.

“I went back to hospital. They cut out a larger area of my toe, then they checked to see whether the skin cancer had spread to my lymph nodes (the glands that drain away toxins from the body). Two in my groin and two in my thigh had to be removed.

“I had to wait two weeks to find out if I was in the clear. Thankfully, they’d managed to take out all the malignant cells and I didn’t need chemotherapy. I was monitored for any recurrence.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky. If my cancer hadn’t been caught early, it could have spread to organs such as my liver and brain, and I may not be here today.

“I now look at the photos of me with my tan and think how silly I was. I have to be incredibly careful if I go out in the sun now. I always cover up with long trousers and long-sleeved shirts and a hat.

“When I want a tan now, I use fake tan. My advice to anyone is to stay out of the sun: just cheat and keep safe and healthy.”

Mole alert

Any changes to the size or consistency of skin moles should be considered suspect. Read more about the signs and symptoms of skin cancer. If you have any concerns, see your GP.

Photo credit: Alex Proimos; CC license

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 04-27-2015 to 05-03-2015

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Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 18 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Pediatric wheezing: read about pediatric lung diseases that present with asthma-like symptoms

Summer + Kids = Swimming Lessons + Fun

 kids-swim-lessonsSummer is fast approaching. End of school concerts and events. The trees and flowers are blooming. Remember how you looked forward to that long summer break? No school! Twelve long weeks of sunshine and fun!

And then I became a mother. Suddenly 12 long weeks of summer became more of a challenge. The first couple of weeks are always great, everyone needs a break from the over-scheduled frenetic school year schedule. An exhale from the 6am wake-up calls, packing lunches, and scrambling to fit in homework, soccer practice, violin lessons around life’s other commitments. Home all day becomes bored all day. Bored kids = cranky kids. Cranky kids = cranky mom. Which is why as soon as spring break ends I’m grabbing my calendar and trying to schedule the right balance of camps and activities to keep my kids and myself happy, active, and engaged so that we really do enjoy summer and still like each other by the time school starts again.

Topping your list should be time in the water, because water makes everything about summer better. It cools you off, lifts your spirits, wears you out in the best possible way, is a great way to hang with friends, improves health, and is just plain fun. Here are some ideas for summer water activities to add to your calendar:

  • Put those year-round swim lessons to use and enroll your children in a local swim team, which is usually a fun and social manageable level of competitiveness for even the most cautious of swimmers. That nudge of racing with all your friends cheering on the deck can make a child realize that yes, they have been learning to swim, and they are actually a better swimmer than they thought, and it’s fun! Swim team can build confidence and make a child more interested in continuing in swim lessons. Make sure you find a team that fits your child’s level of competitive spirit. If they have a relaxed spirit, stay away from the Olympic hopeful team, but if your child has a competitive streak, find a more competitive team. The goal is to strengthen their swimming skills, not make them hate swimming.
  • Take swimming lessons. If your school year schedule is too much for swimming lessons, summer is the perfect time to get your child into swimming lessons. Even a few weeks of regular lessons makes a huge difference with skill and confidence. No child wants to be the one sitting by the side of the pool or the lake while their friends all splash and have fun. Knowing how to swim opens social doors, not just being safer around water and learning a lifelong skill.
  • Explore a new water sport. Snorkeling. Scuba diving. Water polo. Surfing. Paddleboarding. Junior Lifeguards. Once you know how to swim, the possibilities are endless. Reinforcing to your children that knowing how to swim makes so many more fun activities available to them will really cut any resistance to continuing swim lessons. My kids are at the point where they are happy to continue swim lessons because they are seeing how many things they can do with that basic skill. Neither is into competitive swimming, and both are already strong swimmers, but they have seen how many cool things they can do in the water. They understand that the stronger a swimmer they become, the more fun activities are available.

Like reading or math, swimming is a skill that becomes stronger and more exciting and fun over time. Take advantage of summer to keep the momentum going by showing your kids the world of possibilities that comes from being a strong swimmer. Your kids will thank you for many years, and you’ll be able to look back at the summer with fonder memories.