Dangers lurking in lunchboxes

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The first was when Cara was 2, and Susan bought sliced meat from a local deli. Not long after they got home, Cara ate the meat and began clutching her throat. Her mother immediately called her allergist, and was instructed to use the EpiPen and call 911. At first she couldn’t figure out what had caused the reaction, but it was eventually determined that the deli meat had somehow been cross-contaminated with a peanut-based product when it was sliced.

“It’s stressful,” Kelly said of caring for her daughter. “You have to be prepared, and you have to carry your EpiPen and know how to use it right away.”

Although she hasn’t yet had to use it, Kristine Franks, a mother of two whose son, Theo, a sixth-grader at Our Lady of Peace, is also allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, said she never leaves home without Theo’s EpiPen. Even on the rare occasions when she has forgotten it, Kristine said, no matter where she is, she heads home to retrieve it.
When Theo was diagnosed with food allergies at age 2, Kristine decided to be a stay-at-home mom. “I never went back to work because I couldn’t,” she said. “You have to make sure you’re always available for that child.” She is now a real estate agent, which allows her to have a flexible schedule.

Her daughter, Olivia, who is four years older than Theo, has always made a habit of looking after her brother. When he was in kindergarten, Olivia made frequent trips to the restroom because it was across the hall from Theo’s classroom — so frequent that Olivia’s teacher eventually phoned home to tell Kristine about her daughter’s missed class time.

Jean Reid’s son Owen, 4, has peanut and tree nut allergies and attends pre-school at Greis Park. Her oldest son, Garrett, 5, who doesn’t have allergies, is always asking which foods Owen can and cannot eat, and Jean always carries food and drinks for him. When other parents bring in food for birthday parties or other classroom celebrations, Jean reads the boxes of the ingredients that were used.

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