Stressed, Scared,Traumatized kids

Posted on: Fri, 07/13/2001 - 6:35am
washingtondad's picture
Joined: 07/13/2001 - 09:00


How many other kids, teens, adults out there have had a severe psychological reaction resulting from a food allergy?

I'm new to the list. I have known for the past 5 years that my 7 year-old daughter is allergic to most nuts and is asthmatic. She has had several accidental contacts with nuts over the past, and we have been able to treat her effectively with benedryl-although we do carry epi-pens. She has grown to be reasonably cautious and has been able to lead a fairly normal life until this spring.

The past few months everything has really fallen apart. First, there was the tragic death of a local 3rd grader (Nathan). My daughter suddenly realized that peanut allergies are deadly serious things. Second, three days after Nathan's death we bought a package of Ritz Bitz cheese crackers. This has been a staple "SAFE" treat for her for the past 4 years. We carefully read the ingredients of everything we buy, but not every time we buy it. How were we to know they have changed the processing and packaging and have now included peanuts as the final ingredient? I am so mad at the cavalier attitude of Nabisco I could scream! READ the label EVERY TIME!!! At any rate, She had another reaction, another big dose of benedryl and another few scary hours.

She now knows two things. 1. Peanuts can KILL! 2. Mom and Dad can't always protect her from nuts. This new realization has thrown her into a complete psychological tailspin. For a month after this she really quit eating. Even "safe" foods scared her to death! She lost about 7 pounds and became weak and lethargic. She was afraid to go to bed at night because she thought she might have gotten into nuts and not wake up in the morning. She would cry and scream every night until 11-12PM! She had severe separation anxiety and missed most of the last two weeks of first grade because she was afraid to be away from Mom and Dad.

Since that time we have been through several sessions with a child counselor, and have a session scheduled with a psychiatrist. She is on anti-anxiety medications now and is in a very fragile mental state. She has begun eating severely limited list of "Safe" foods and she has regained some of the lost weight. So, we are beginning to make some progress and have some faith that we can dig ourselves out of this somehow. The doctors are indicating she is going through something like post-traumatic stress: a term usually reserved to war veterans, air-crash survivors etc

Posted on: Fri, 07/13/2001 - 6:54am
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Hi Washingtondad - I'm so sorry that your daughter is having such a hard time right now.
My PA son is only 3, so I don't expect to face this issue for a few years. However, I know I will. The PTSD is a very real aspect of life with PA. While there are plenty of good child psychologist out there, there are very few dealing specifically with food allergies (in fact I only know of one).
I've been thinking about this a lot. In fact, I'm thinking of returning to school. I have a BA in Psychology, and am thinking of getting my MA in Counseling Psychology. I would love to work specifically with PA - children, teens, adults, families, and schools (raising awareness). There is a tremendous emotional impact and a huge potential for depression and anxiety.
Thank you for bringing this up. I know as parents on this board we often talk about the stress we deal with daily, or that our children deal with, but for right now it's difficult to point people in the right direction for help.
Hugs to you and your daughter,

Posted on: Fri, 07/13/2001 - 9:02am
Jandy's picture
Joined: 05/21/2001 - 09:00

Hi WashingtonDad,
Hope your daughter is doing better now. I think FAAN did a pretty good segment on stress /trust / psyhological aspects of having food allergy(ies) at one of the conferences. L isa Cipriano Collins book Caring for your Child with Severe Food Allergies talks about making fear your friend(being very careful in management of food allergies.)
Our child entering the 5th grade and has dealt with food allergies all his life- and he's known he could die from this since about the first grade. Somedays he handles it better then other days but so do I- (I confess I some times tire of fixing extra foods though I usually enjoy cooking) son is very picky-lots of severe allgeries-in all high risk factors etc. we didn't tell him about Nathan since we live in Maryland so far from you. I sure your daughter probaly heard much about Nathan since it was local.
I let my son vent his anger about all his health problems- and help him plan what to do if... so we have several game plans I'll post them later as family are going for walk about our historic town.
Take Care,

Posted on: Tue, 07/24/2001 - 8:03am
williamsmummy's picture
Joined: 03/26/2002 - 09:00

washington dad, how is your daughter?,
been thinking about her ,(while trying to get my 5 year old son to eat. )
what ways have you been able to help her? , does she feel more able to cope lately.
for goodness sake keep in touch,! i know i live in the uk mate , but your post worried me, how is she?
bye ever concerned if not my own children, but someone elses,

Posted on: Wed, 08/01/2001 - 1:15pm
dzentil's picture
Joined: 07/30/2001 - 09:00

I hope your daughter is doing better now. This is one aspect of PA that we haven't really reached yet -- but I would love to hear how other parents have dealt with the stress on the child. My daughter's first skin test was a 18 months. That was bad enough. Now, the allergist wants to do another (at 2 yrs.), because she believes it will be more accurate. But I keep wondering what will go through her little head when Mommy holds her down so that the doctor can prick her back, causing painful reactions. She's a bright child, and we explain eveything to her, but how can a child so young understand that? How do we provide a sense of security for our kids? For that matter, how do we provide it for ourselves, as adults dealing with this?

Posted on: Thu, 08/02/2001 - 2:13am
Liane's picture
Joined: 07/27/2001 - 09:00

This is one thing that I really worry about with my son growing up PA. As he gets older, will he live in fear of eating? DH and I love food and like to explore, eat out and try new recipies. I feel deeply saddened that my son may not be able to enjoy life and food like we have been able to.
I feel that this really takes a toll on adults, too. Last Friday I was so depressed and frightened of eating anything that would upset Vince that I avoided eating all day until my husband came home and could give me some moral support. It sounds so silly now, esoecially when I know most of what I have here is safe and I've been checking our pantry and getting rid of the stuff that isn't safe - but to be terrified of eating anything? I think it shows how much of a toll it takes on us.
Rosemary N.

Posted on: Mon, 08/13/2001 - 6:22am
washingtondad's picture
Joined: 07/13/2001 - 09:00

Thanks for all of your kind words. It really does help to have someone to chat all of this over with.
Last month was very scary because my daughter lost 7 lbs and only would eat two different things. She is now on high doses of antianxiety medications, and has regular appointments with a psychiatrist, but she has begun to gain weight and eat a more varied diet. She has regained her original weight and no longer has panic attacks. But she is still extremely selective about what she is willing to eat. One thing has worked extremely well, her older brother challenged her to eat several new things each day. For each new "safe" food he would pay her 10 cents (heavily subsidized by mom and dad). This has worked very well the past two weeks.
She has also begun to be very proactive about her food. She has us read the label of each new food with her. She is still quite worried about eating out (which troubles us because we like to), and about eating baked goods and processed foods (which troubles us a lot less). In fact part of her regular diet is bread machine bread that she can watch us make. At least she is making some progress though, and that's what we need most!
Our next major task is getting her through the transition into second grade next month. Last year she has terrible separation anxiety and screamed and cried each day as she was being dropped off at school. That lasted 2-3 weeks and about broke our hearts each day. She was OK going to school after that until the last two weeks of school when Nathan died. We went through the whole ordeal all over again after that. We pray that the first few weeks of second grade are a little better.
All the best to each and every one of you!

Posted on: Mon, 08/13/2001 - 7:50pm
williamsmummy's picture
Joined: 03/26/2002 - 09:00

dear washingtondad,
thanks for updating us. its good to hear that your daughter is eating , even though you have to bribe her(well if it works do it!!). the summer break from school is making things better for us here too. william is eating, wait for it....3 yes 3 meals a day. plus plus snacks. he has a almost balanced diet. so until the beginging of september when he goes back to school and faces a new teacher we are going to pack as many calories in to him as poss. perhaps one day he will weigh more than his 3 year old sister!!!.
my son spent last spring term watching me make his packed lunch for school and watching me put stickers on all his food so that he knew it was safe, so much stress for a child of 5 .
still, we are still here and time away from school must help by giving our children a break and time to gather strength for the coming school year.
I hope that if your daughter is eating better that she will be able to cope with school , everthing is a little better if the children have eaten and are not faint with hunger. keep in touch ,
bye sarah

Posted on: Tue, 08/14/2001 - 12:23pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Jacob is only five years old but he has also experienced a situation similar to this. What truly helped for him was using those red and green stickers that FAAN has. You put a green sticker on foods that are safe and red on ones that are not. Now we are very strict about reading all labels and do not allow may contain in our house but, for some reason, seeing the green sticker reassured him that it was safe. Please keep us updated about your daughter.

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