Epi-pen on the playground

Posted on: Sun, 03/25/2001 - 3:02pm
carjen's picture
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Joined: 03/26/2001 - 09:00

pMy daughter is seven years old and allergic to peanuts although we have never used an epi-pen. My concern is that her school is insisting that she wear her fany pack everwhere even on the playground. She doesn't want to wear it at recess it is she feels uncomfortable and we have already had one broken pen. I feel the the supervisor could carry the pouch ( there are 4 other peanut allergic children) She has had her allergy since she was 2 she is very responsible, and has always been good about not eating anything without asking. Now that the school is making a issue about recess she is calling her needle stupid and not even wanting to take it to school. Any thoughts PLEASE!!!/p

Posted on: Sun, 03/25/2001 - 5:11pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

carjen, welcome! When my PA son started school at the age of 3-3/4 years old, his school also required that he carry his Epi-pen on him in a fanny pack. They understood that he could not be responsible for administering the medication but they wanted it THAT close to him should he have a reaction. A second Epi-pen is kept with his teacher. I immediately purchased a fanny pack.
He is required, as part of assuming responsibility for his allergy, to ask his teacher for his fanny pack in the morning and to give it back to her at the end of the day.
He just turned 5.
He actually has never complained about having to wear the fanny pack - and this does include ALL day - inside the class ("peanut free") and outside in the playground area, during recess and lunch. I think the school is actually most concerned that he does have it on at recess and lunch in particular when he is out in the crowd of children.
I never really checked the fanny pack all last year and was given it back at the end of the school year last June. I was shocked when I opened the fanny pack to find the Epi-pen container completely crushed and the Epi-pen actually sandy dirty from the playground.
Also, this requirement also saddened me when I received his school picture - the class picture. His fanny pack is on, as it "should" be and it is so "out there" in the class picture. If anyone didn't know beforehand who the child with the PA was, they certainly did when they received their children's class photo. I just wished that his teacher had placed it either under his shirt or twisted it around to the back so it wasn't so "out there". But, that's just me.
I don't think it bothers my son at all.
It did bother my son to be called up in front of his class this year to show his MedicAlert bracelet and Epi-pen. The reason it bothered him was that he does not like attention drawn to him unless he draws it to himself. He had also not been prepared for going up in front of the class. The teacher had not told me that she was planning to do this. Had I known, I would have been able to speak with Jesse and tell him what a special opportunity this was for him. He would have been fine with it had I been able to speak with him beforehand. But, because the teacher did this unexpectedly and drew unwanted attention to him, I had to deal with about a month's worth of what the teacher considered "behavioural" problems. I posted about it here and looked at other areas of our lives that may be causing stress and finally recognized where the behaviour was coming from. It was that very incident. How easily it could have been to not have had it happen.
Simply tell me what you plan to do and I'll speak with my son.
I had requested an article be printed in our local newspaper (I actually wanted it to be MY article that was printed). A reporter called me and asked if it was okay for her to photograph my son. I told her that I would have to speak with my son. I did and I was able to put it in such a way that Jesse was more than pleased to say yes, he would like to be photographed. He understood that he may receive extra attention when the article came out and why.
I know I have gone completely off topic here.
Recently, his teacher from both last year and this year went on maternity leave. He now has his new teacher that he will finish this year with. Each day when he comes out of school, I check with him to make sure that he has given the new teacher his fanny pack back (I still don't believe that a just turned 5 year old can be THAT responsible for both asking and returning a fanny pack each day). One day he hadn't given the teacher back the fanny pack. I looked inside when I was giving it back to her, and sure enough, there was another crushed Epi-pen tube and sand getting in there already.
I have purchased an epi-belt from MedicAlert which I hope to receive any day now. I believe it holds the Epi-pen more securely and gives it more protection. I also believe that it is less "out there" than a fanny pack. You may want to consider this option with your daughter.
Is the fanny pack that she is wearing now something that she considers "cool"? I know that Jesse's is colourful, but certainly nothing "cool". If you could find a Barbie or other one that your daughter thought was "cool" do you think that would break down her resistance to wearing it?
Also, you did express concern about the state of the Epi-pen. I wasn't able to purchase an epi-belt until just now so I had to make do with the fanny pack. I know a lot of children (from parents posting on this site) that are carrying their Epi-pens in epi-belts and it would seem without complaint.
I am not sure why my son's school made this request of me. I checked your profile first before responding and saw that you are also Canadian. I am not clear if by having our children wear their meds, in effect, this is a way of the school protecting themselves in some way (that's a really negative thing to think, I know), or if it has to do with their fear that it will take to long to reach an Epi-pen if and when your child should need it.
For me, I know that I felt completely comfortable with the school's request. It's only because of the condition of the Epi-pen that I bought the epi-belt and I will know in a couple of weeks I guess if my son feels okay about wearing it or not. I think he will because it is less cumbersome than a fanny pack and again, not so "out there".
Also, he started wearing it at 3-3/4 years old. Perhaps that's why he finds it so acceptable to wear and doesn't balk at the idea. Or, perhaps it's because he hasn't reached age 7 yet.
I hope you get some other response from other PA parents whose children are also wearing their meds in either a fanny pack or epi-belt.
Oh, also, are you a member of FAAN? The reason I ask is this - I just received the first kids newsletter from them. It shows pictures of food allergic children, gives their ages and they say what they don't like about their allergy and do like about it (or them). At any rate, one child in particular, made note of carrying her Epi-pen in her fanny pack and she seemed to think that was okay. I'm wondering if your daughter saw some kid oriented literature where she saw other children wearing their Epi-pens and not feeling "bad" about it, if that would help.
You may even be able to request a sample of the kids newsletter if you're already not familiar with them (please forgive me if you are and already get the kids newsletter). I just know that when I got mine for my son, I was really pleased with how food allergies were presented in such a positive manner for our children.
I am sorry to have rambled on so long to what would be considered a relatively easy question to answer. I do know a couple of PA parents off-the-board, with children about your daughter's age who do wear their meds. I would like to contact them and see if they could help you out in this thread.
Again, welcome (don't be off-put by the board by me responding with such a long winded response to your first post, please), and best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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Posted on: Mon, 03/26/2001 - 1:27am
Kathryn's picture
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Joined: 02/17/1999 - 09:00

My six year old son wears a fanny pack with his epi-pen all day, even in gym and at recess. He will wear an epi-pen for the rest of his life from age 6 to 96 and we have helped him understand that this is what he has to do. It helped to talk about the accommodations that others have to make: leg braces, wheelchairs, glasses, medications like insulin for diabetes and pills for epilepsy. Anaphylaxis is his thing and he is like many others who have to accommodate medical concerns.
In terms of the broken pens and safe storage I am looking at some of the items listed on the Products section of this web site so that we can find a waterproof, pressure/weight resistant container to hold the pen in his pouch or even attached to his belt. There seem to be some good choice in that area. Some of the items can even be worn under clothing and thus hidden from view.
Some of the books like No Nuts for Me or videos like It only takes one bite may also help show that there are others, both children and adults, who wear epi-pens.
Hope this helps.
[This message has been edited by Kathryn (edited March 26, 2001).]

Posted on: Mon, 03/26/2001 - 3:33am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Kathyrn, it was good to see you post again.
It's been awhile! Have you looked at the zoni belt for your son? I know that when I was looking for epi-belts the zoni belt came highly recommended by anyone I spoke with.
Then, I contacted another PA parent from this board and her daughter is wearing a zoni belt. However, she also knew about the MedicAlert epi-belt and she told me that when she orders her daughter's next one (when her size goes up), she's going with the MedicAlert one as she thought it was identical to the zoni. Do you want me to let you know what I think of the MedicAlert epi-belt?
Carjen, I contacted a few PA parents last night to see if they could come into this thread and help you out in some way.
Best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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Posted on: Mon, 03/26/2001 - 3:44am
marla's picture
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Joined: 01/15/2001 - 09:00

Hi, I don't really have a solution except to say that my son (now 12) would have balked at carrying a fanny pack, either when he was younger or now. As I noted in another thread I have major difficulties getting him to carry his backpack, and though I showed him the info on the epibelt and zonibelt etc., he thinks they're "dumb." So I can sympathize.
I am torn on this. I know it is a serious allergy but I also know that my son, like other kids, doesn't like to stand out like this and I don't think that he should. He's always been very athletic and loved recess when he was younger; I am sure that this fanny pack or even a belt would have upset him and made him hate recess. I think that the teacher in a preschool or primary school should definitely be the one holding the medicine. This is just not fair to the PA kid ( and no kid should have his school picture taken with his medicine/bag in the picture!)

Posted on: Mon, 03/26/2001 - 4:15am
California Mom's picture
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Joined: 07/14/2000 - 09:00

Well, I'm glad Marla posted just before me since my feelings are very similar to hers. I am actually dealing with this very same issue with my 6 year old daughter's school right now! (Cindy knew this, and kindly e-mailed me with a link to this thread. Thanks Cindy [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]) My husband and I are quite against the idea. My daughter does not like attention that she hasn't brought on herself, and she does not ever choose to bring attention to her allergies. We used to have major battles about bringing the epi-pen and benadryl with us everywhere; it really bothered Leah a lot. Now, she has come to accept that. She always has it in her school bag at school, (the school also has 4 other sets at various locations) and that way it goes with her if she goes to a friend's house after school. (Her friends' moms are all fully aware and trained.) I just do not feel comfortable with it being attached to her body, at this time. I figure that she will always have a way to carry it around: a backpack as she gets older and a purse when she's really big. I'm not sure that she does need to get used to carrying it around on her actual person. Some other points I have been pondering: Leah has had known anaphylactic allergies for 5 years, so we have been carrying an epi-pen this whole time. We have never had to use it. To have her carry the stigma of always being (literally) attached to the epi-pen just seems out of proportion to the likelihood that she will need it. (Again, I am obviously prepared, having 5 epi-pens at school - so I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea of what I'm saying.) I feel that if the school thinks they would need it so quickly that they wouldn't have time to get one from the classroom or the office, then a playground monitor should be wearing one around her waist; not Leah. I discussed this with our allergist just this morning: of course I did inform her of my bias right away; she agreed with me.
By the way: I am really basing my opinion only on my own child; knowing her temperament and the difficulties we have with her over so many routine issues. I think it truly is great if other kids do carry their own epi-pens on them without a problem. It probably would have made a huge difference if this had been something we had started when Leah was much younger.
The allergist brought up the idea that she would be concerned about Leah or other children playing with the epi-pen, too.
As it is, we are going to have to tackle the medic-alert bracelet issue. I haven't pushed it with her before, because she really hasn't wanted one. But, I'm going to have to muster up all my strength to go to battle with her over this one, because I have come to believe that it is a very good idea.
Good luck Carjen, and welcome to the board!

Posted on: Mon, 03/26/2001 - 7:34am
PeanutTrace's picture
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Joined: 03/14/2001 - 09:00

Yikes, your epi pen broke!! That sounds messy!
My 5 year old daughter always carrys her epi pen around her waist. She wears a zoni epi belt and I can't say enough good about it. The belt has like a hard case that the epi pen slips into, I don't think that a pen could get broken in it.
Personally, I think they are less cumbersome than the fanny belt which is quite bulky for little waists. I showed one to my daughter today, and she thought it would be uncomfortable to wear compared to her thin line belt.
She is very use to wearing her belt and no longer notices that it is there. When I am purchasing clothes I always think about the epi pen and whether the top would hang over the belt so that it isn't so noticeable. To be quite honest I don't think that the kids in the class even pay the slightest attention to it. On most days, you can't even see it because her clothing hangs over it and she is still wearing the hip and cool styles that are out there.
Now, I know she's only 5, so perhaps I'm in for it when she gets older, yikes! I hope not.
I like to know that it is with her always. When you get into trusting that everyone is going to remember it for every playground recess and every field trip, it leaves too many situations where one could forget about it. I feel it is very important to have very close, when a situation arises that you have to use it, you wouldn't want to be running for it!
Again, that is just my opinion and what works for us, we're all different in our thinking as you can see with all the different posts.
...good luck to you though in finding a solution that works for you!

Posted on: Mon, 03/26/2001 - 9:58am
BCUZILUVHIM's picture
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Joined: 03/17/2001 - 09:00

Wow this is a first for me. In my state, my son is not allowed to carry it. It must be in the nurses office. Now of course I'm not a jerk so I have a secret deal with the nurse. She has one and my son always carries one in his backpack. She thinks it's nuts that he can't carry it so she agrees with me putting one in his bag. I think the school is afraid that other kids would play with it and accidently inject themselves...thus possible law suit. My son goes to private school so I'm not covered the laws governing public schools. It has been 4 years in this school without any incidences. B-well!

Posted on: Mon, 03/26/2001 - 1:46pm
carjen's picture
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Joined: 03/26/2001 - 09:00

Hi, thanks everyone for your thoughts on the epi-pen at recess. It's great to hear from other parents who understand what we are going through. I talked to my daughters teacher last night and suggested that the playground supervisor carry the epi-pen. She said that she didn't know how comfortable they would be because they don't all know how to use it. I couldn't believe it. They would have to run back into the school and get someone to administer the pen. I will be going to school to talk with them tomorrow. I also have a few epi-pens and school one in the office and two in the back pack. I don't want to sound like I'm not concerned about a reaction at school. I'm terrified!!! I don't feel that it's likely that she is going to have a reaction at recess she will not eat anything outside. Also i should mention the town we live in my friends pa child goes to public school ( my daughter goes to Catholic) and they are not required to wear there epi-pens. Thank you for all your responses.
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Posted on: Mon, 03/26/2001 - 2:33pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

carjen, I did contact a few PA parents last night to see if they could come into this thread and help you. A couple of them did.
Also, another PA parent e-mailed me. She indicated that her son, 7 years old, would be extremely uncomfortable with the idea of having to wear a fanny pack or epi-belt in the playground.
I do think that fear on the part of the school plays a big part in their asking that our children carry their medications so close to them. Having said that, I did not feel uncomfortable at the school requesting this of me. Jesse at the time was too wee to really discuss this with. I would like to note that he is an extremely active, energetic, social child and he has never complained to me about wearing his fanny pack. I do know that it is cumbersome and that is why I am pleased that I have finally been able to buy an epi-belt.
I'm really not clear about this, as I said in my original post, I may have a 7 year old son with a totally different attitude, as Peanut Trace also noted about her daughter, but I really think because we introduced wearing of fanny packs/epi-belts and MedicAlert bracelets at a young age - this would be myself, Peanut Trace, and Kathyrn, they accept it as easily as strapping on their knapsack each morning to go to school. It is just part of their being. I would actually like my son to always feel this way.
Now, as I noted in my first post, he was extremely uncomfortable when the teacher asked him to show his MedicAlert bracelet and Epi-pen to his class at the beginning of this school year. However, this is only because Jesse was not spoken with about this. He did not realize how important it was and how special and proud he should feel. If his teacher had told me she was going to do that, I know that my son would have felt that way.
When I presented the newspaper article to him in an extremely positive way, he felt the same way. He was also very proud and happy to see his picture in the local newspaper and both his Father and I told him how proud we were of his decision and why.
If you look at FAAN's study on deaths due to anaphylaxis, most of them occur in teenagers or young adults. I would suggest that it is because they are uncomfortable with their allergy and do not carry their Epi-pens or wear their MedicAlert bracelets. The study also does indicate that most people that died had consumed food they thought was safe but they were not prepared for a reaction should it occur (i.e., they did not have their Epi-pen with them).
I know I have begun to empower my son re his PA and I am hoping against hope that he will continue to accept his epi-belt and MedicAlert bracelet as part of who he is and recognize that both of those items on his body could potentially one day save his life.
Another PA parent recently posted on this board about an article on her PA/TNA daughter which also included an article with two other people featured. The teenage boy in the article was ashamed of his allergy, embarrassed to ask his friends to stop for a "safe" fast food for him and chose to eat pizza and wake up with a rash the next morning, just so that he would not feel out of place. I was horrified when I read this because I thought, okay, he always wakes up with rashes, but what if one day it's not a rash reaction he has? What if he has an anaphylactic reaction because he was too embarrassed to suggest to friends that they stop someplace "safe" for him to eat and then join them while the rest of them ate pizza?
In my son's schoolyard at recess there would be 560+ students. I am not clear how many people are out there watching the children.
I should really ask. Should my son have a reaction in the schoolyard (which is possible due to a contact reaction with playground equipment), I do want his medication on him.
By the time someone has recognized that something is "wrong" with Jesse it may be too late for them to run into the school to get the other Epi-pen. Or, it may be too late for them to run to get the person who was wearing the Epi-pen around his/her neck. I do want his meds on him.
Also, I believe any of us who have children wearing their medications on them have instructed our children about the seriousness of the contents of their fanny packs/epi-belts. When Jesse had to show his MedicAlert bracelet and Epi-pen, it was during a teaching session his teacher was doing for Jesse's classmates. They watched an Alexander The Elephant Who Couldn't Eat Peanuts video and discussed the severity of food allergies. I really don't think I have to worry about the children playing with his fanny pack and even less so when I receive his epi-belt.
Along with empowering my child re his PA, I have begun, through another PA parent's goodwill to be able to empower his classmates. She sent me FAAN's BE A PAL stickers and an Alexander the Elephant Colouring book. The children were each given a copy of the colouring book to take home - to thank them for bringing "safe" food into their class and hopefully to raise the awareness of their parents if their parents were looking at what they were colouring and they were given a BE A PAL sticker and explained why they were being given it (for bringing "safe" food into school and thereby Protecting a Life - my son's). You would not believe how many happy children came up to me in the schoolyard after this happened. You could see it in their faces - they were very proud that they were doing this for their classmate Jesse and very happy that they had been recognized.
It's quite obvious that there are different opinions on this. I guess, for me, because the school basically demanded a fanny pack when he originally started school and I was not on-line where I could come to this board and question their request, I felt comfortable with their request. Again, I'm not sure if there isn't something in it to do with an extreme fear the school personnel have. Regardless, I know my son's meds are on him should he need them and, as Kathyrn noted above, I am hoping he will choose to have it this way for the rest of his life.
Best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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Posted on: Tue, 03/27/2001 - 1:24am
Donna Fitz's picture
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Joined: 03/11/2001 - 09:00

We have a small purse, fanny pack or small backpack type purse that our 6yr old dd wears at all times in school with her epi and benadryl in it. The school requires her to have it on at all times and they also have one in the staff room. We let her pick out from the store what she like's and that has seemed to make her willing to wear it. We have done this since she started school and she really hasn't questioned it yet.

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