You may have noticed a surge of reports in the news about very avoidable deaths and serious injuries due to allergic reactions because somewhere along the line, someone was careless. It makes my blood boil and my stomach turn.
That level of carelessness and thoughtlessness affects people with allergies all the time and as a result, some people just don’t feel comfortable going to certain places.
My recent experience at a local soft play centre – one that previously made me feel very at ease compared to others – made me feel alienated more than I ever have before. Ultimately, it just hammered home that my little boy is different from other kids and that my experience of parenting has been skewed by that. I like to think it has made me more considerate but in reality it has just made me anxious and controlling.
So, what happened?
There is a small soft play area within the restaurant at a local garden centre, you pay for your soft play session with your drinks/food at the till and go around the corner to the enclosed soft play room. You sign in with a member of staff at the door and you get your wristband and in you go. This particular day was busy enough that I would have avoided it if I had known before I paid. I can’t stand busy play areas of any kind, it’s too chaotic for me. I entered the room with my son and a tray with my coffee on it and before I had even sat down I managed to cause a scene.
I didn’t set out to, but it happened and it was mortifying. I saw a grandparent give their granddaughter a bag of cheese and onion crisps and send her on her way. I tried to get their attention quietly but it was loud in there and it was urgent – the child would disappear into the climbing frame in seconds. So I shouted. The other parents in the room fell silent and stared at this woman who had only been in the room for three seconds shout at a perfect stranger.
What can you do?
- If you’re in a play area don’t let your children walk around with food, and if you are able to then wash their hands/faces before letting them play again.
- If your child has eaten in a shopping trolley or in a cafe highchair, wipe it down before you put it back.
- If you or your child drops food or drink on the floor where other children might play then clean it up.
- If you work in a food serving establishment be patient with allergy families and don’t ever answer questions you aren’t sure about – we’d rather go hungry than eat something that could make one of us incredibly ill. We will always be grateful for the honesty.
- If you work in a nursery, try and get all of the children to wash their hands AFTER food as well as before.
- If you’re hosting a children’s party try to cater for the allergy kids if you can and be considerate of cross contamination if you can’t – something as simple as slicing cheese rather than grating it so it doesn’t fall out of sandwiches makes a huge difference.
- If you see someone like me out in the wild, don’t gawk and mutter. Try and offer some friendly words and maybe even a bit of back up if things go even further south.