Thursday, September 13, 2007

How Would You Feel if I Sprinkled Rat Poison on the Climbing Structure at the Baldwin School?

Seriously, how would you feel about that? You'd probably think I was a monster. But these are strange times when many children have anaphylactic allergies not just to peanuts but to dairy and eggs as well. Children's Hospital estimates 1 in 80 children have celiac disease, and auto immune disorder that makes you unable to digest gluten. Gluten is the protein found in all wheat, rye and barley. Even the smallest particle of gluten ingested by a celiac kid causes several days of stomach pain, intestinal damage and diarrhea. I know because my four year old son, Eric is one of these kids. I know three other boys who can potentially go into anaphylactic shock from touching dairy or eggs.

I was in the park at the Baldwin school on Oxford Street in Cambridge recently with my (so far) allergy free daughter. I watched, cringing while a couple were a sharing a bagel with cream cheese with their young son while he sat on the swing and climbed up and down the toddler structure. The child was around 2 and the cream cheese was all over his hands and the crumbs from the bagel fell willy nilly around the platform he was playing on. I watched cringing thinking that my gluten intolerant son would likely be playing there later that day.

No, this child was not sprinkling poison on the structure in the traditional sense, but those bagel crumbs are poison to my child, and that cream cheese is poison to somebody else's.

Parents, please keep in mind the parks are for everyone, and they all have picnic tables and benches for snack time. There is no reason you have to feed your child while he or she is playing. If your child isn't hungry enough to sit and eat at a table for five minutes, then perhaps he can eat later in his stroller or in the car.

I urge all parents to keep all food off the play structures at public parks. Because as far as I'm concerned, you are sprinkling poison on that slide, that swing or those stairs. We do what we can with hand washing. But sometimes, like any preschooler, my son will randomly put his fingers in his mouth. And if you've been feeding your child where he is playing he could be in pain for days.

I don't know what it is in our environment that's making kids so horribly allergic to such common foods. But these allergies and food intolerances are out there and they're very common. So please, show a little compassion for these children and keep your food in the designated areas. They just want to play at the park like everybody else.

I submitted this to the Somerville Journal today. The editor wrote me back within about two minutes and asked if she could print it. So, yaay!


Blogger Downpuppy said...

I don't get something: When you first got the diagnosis, wasn't it a surprise? Mild, persistent symtoms & stuff. Did it blow up into a full blown allergy, or does he still have to eat a significant amount of gluten to suffer? Is the relief of not suffering coloring your view of the bad times?

Anyhow, if you're around Conway Park between 10 & 11 am on any of the next 8 or so Saturdays, throw out some chum. The Sharks are gonna rule. Pity though, the other teams are the Zebras, Blue Jays & Huskies - no Jets.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

Once you start to heal, the smallest amount of gluten can have you doubled over in pain.

He's gotten really sick from play dough under his nails at school, an ice cream scoop that wasn't completely cleaned and other cross contamination issues. We had to get him his own water pitcher at school because touching the same pitcher as the other kids (who were eating food with wheat) is enough to get him sick.

The more healed you are, the sicker you get if you get any gluten at all. It's a very frustrating disease that way.

So, crumbs on a play structure are enough to make him sick if he ingests any.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Downpuppy said...

Scary. Hope they don't bury you in Speak Out.

They cancelled the game today, despite perfect soccer weather.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

Of COURSE they'll bury me in Speak Out. You can't say anything remotely controversial in a public space with out pissing people off. It goes with the territory.

If one less family leaves crumbs all over the local playground equipment, I'm happy. That's all I could have asked for.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Downpuppy said...

Crumbs draw rats, ants and worse... (shudder) SPARROWS!

We got buzzed by a gorgeous red-tailed hawk today in the Fells, that had run into a problem with a flock of bluejays.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

I saw a family throwing razor blades and crak around at Palmacci park last Tuesday...

The sparrows were smoking the crak and then they dropped the razor blades onto loaves of bread, and then the hawks strew the bread all over my kitchen!!! That's my subject of my next editorial.

Seriously, I saw some kind of hawk flying above the Graham and Parks school in Cambridge last week.

Most cool to see these huge birds in the city.

8:24 PM  

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