Potentially fatal allergies won't hold new student back
SENDING your child to school for the first time is scary for any parent, but when he could die from a bee sting, that first day at school is terrifying.
Candice Manteuffel's son Ethan is four years old and began school at Peace Lutheran Primary School in Gatton last week.
Ethan lives with rare medical conditions that cause anaphylaxis, first suffering a reaction when he was nine months old.
Insects, chemicals, multiple foods and even heat or cold water (for example, jumping straight into a pool) can trigger a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction in minutes.
"It was quite terrifying for us, but he was quite excited to start," Candice said.
It was not just a matter of making sure peanuts were off the menu at the school, as it was for children who had just one anaphylaxis trigger, Candice said.
Ethan's triggers number in the hundreds. He can't consume any chemicals, such as preservatives in food, and is sensitive to paint. It took a year's planning and numerous meetings with the school to prepare for Ethan's first day.
"They've been wonderful," Candice said. "The principal actually asked me to come in and talk to the whole staff."
Candice, who works at the school, explained to staff what the reactions look like so they can recognise the signs before a full-blown reaction takes hold.
"They were not fearful but they were certainly very apprehensive," she said.
"You can't do anything about insects - you can have the best policies in the world but obviously you can't avoid everything."
The school has been "absolutely incredible" and has agreed to educate all the children to not share food and to look out for each other and get help immediately if anyone looks unwell.
Someone essentially needs to be watching Ethan all the time, Candice said.
He wears his own hat so he stands out in the playground, and when he goes in the pool there's a process for easing him in.
"It's quite full-on, it's about keeping him inside as much as possible and when he has been outside, cooling him down," she said.
He had a moderate reaction on his second day, but staff were able to send a photo to Candice's phone and she advised what to do.
Candice has no formal medical training but she has had to memorise a lot of diagnostic and procedural information to help her son.
She has learned it is better to prevent than treat his reactions, so she's adept at seeing when he's "a bit off" and guessing the cause.
There was a lot of worry though, and Candice said she sometimes felt like she was on a rollercoaster.
Candice hoped Ethan would be able to enjoy school and not be defined by his condition.
"It's definitely not just drop him off at school and walk away. It's a team approach."