Hand Washing?

hand washing

Who invented hand washing?  Not the ‘was playing in the mud’ hand washing, but the hand washing that happens when your hands look clean but apparently are not.  I’m all for this hand washing, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t around when I was young.  Some things were better ‘back in my day’, but not this.  I think we only washed our hands when they appeared grimy.  In the 1912 home I first lived in, the room with the toilet didn’t even have a wash basin and I’m pretty sure I didn’t make the trek to the next room to wash my hands. I know you’re thinking “Ew, gross!”, but that’s how it was.  Wipe your hands on your Wranglers and you’re good to go!

I’m fastidious now.  I have to be.  Having a child with food allergies means I wash my hands so often throughout the day that a casual observer might think I have OCD.  When cooking dinner it’s not uncommon for me to wash my hands 10-20 times.  I wash them between every task.  With all this hand washing you’d think that I never get colds, well at least I think I should never get a cold, yet I seem to pick up the same number as everyone else.  No justice.

Hand washing is also really important for the food allergic child at school; not just their own hands, but their class mates as well.  That is, it’s helpful if their class mates wash their own hands too.  In primary grades this really helps accidental exposure to an allergen.  In case it’s been a while since your squeaky clean children were young I just want to remind everyone that kids are messy when eating, really messy.  Yogurt splotches on the table, dropped cheese stepped on, crusts left in desks, jam on cheeks, butter on fingers.

In most kindergarten classes students wash their hands before snack.  At our request, the students in G’s class also washed their hands when snack was finished.  This might sound like a huge rigmarole, but since the kindies finished their snacks at different times, there wasn’t a line up at the sink and it was a routine that was established on the first day so for the class it was normal.  As part of this they also learned about being considerate of others and helping keep G safe.

This dual hand washing was established in each of G’s classes throughout his primary grades and by the time he was in grade 4, so many of the children had been in his class before that most of them continued this washing after eating all the way through elementary school.

If you have a young food allergic child, I recommend talking to your child’s teacher about the possibility of including this routine.  It’s not as big a hassle as it might seem (if the classroom has a sink) and kid’s hands can be sticky after eating so it helps keep the classroom and the supplies clean as an added bonus!

Hand washing is such a simple thing that has so many benefits for your own health and the health of others.  It helps stop the spread of all sorts of things.  Who ever came up with the idea of frequent hand washing was on to something.  We all know now that a good hand wipe on our jeans just isn’t good enough.


Classroom Letter Home

Adults do not like being told what to do yet we constantly boss our children: put your shoes on, brush your teeth, no chips before dinner, no more screen time.  Imagine sitting watching TV and your spouse/partner comes in, shuts off the set and says “That’s enough TV! Go outside and get some fresh air!”.  HA! No, we do not like being told what to do!

As a parent of a child with food allergies, I think this is particularly important to keep in mind at this time of year.

With back to school comes the plethora of notices home from the school and classroom.  There is the student information forms, the media/internet permission forms, the insurance forms (does anyone buy this insurance? Just in case your child loses “dominant arm below the elbow and left leg above the knee, parent receives $6000”).  Lost in all of these papers may be the letter which tells the classroom families about a food allergic child in the class.

Often times this is written by the classroom teacher, but I have always appreciated having input with the wording of the form that goes home.  I believe it more beneficial to be positive with the letter rather than negative.  Like I said, adults do not like being given directives.  It can get people’s backs up and a first reaction can be to push back.  Things like saying “Don’t bring nuts to school” are negative and are often read in a negative frame of mind.  I have found it more helpful to explain my son’s allergy situation and ask the families for their help with keeping the classroom a safe place.

Which sounds better:
– Keep off the grass
– Help keep our park beautiful, please avoid the grass.

Either way, it’s inevitable that some clod will traipse across the grass, but we can not control the actions of others no matter how much we want to.

It’s the same with the allergy letter home to classroom families.  Be negative and you risk a negative reaction.  Be positive and you are more likely to get people on your side.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter we sent home to families when G was in grade two:

A boy in our class, G, has severe allergies and cannot be exposed to dairy, egg or peanut.  Please be sensitive when sending lunches and snacks containing these foods. G has his own desk and we are very careful to wash hands before and after eating.
    Some alternative foods to consider might include fruit, fruit-leather, fruit cups, crackers, cookies (without peanuts), rice cakes, veggie sticks, sesame snacks and sandwiches (without peanut butter or dairy products like cheese, mayonnaise etc.).   We are not banning any foods from our classroom, but we would like everyone to be aware of the risks to G when foods may be spilled or left around the classroom or hands left unwashed after eating.
    Please feel free to talk to me for more input on this, or if you wish, you can also speak with his Mum, ________, before school, or by phone at ###-####, for ideas of food that would work well.  I certainly appreciate the kindness and consideration that I know you will show G to ensure that he can attend school safely.
    Thanks so much for your support on this,

It was signed by the teacher.  A letter similar to this was sent home every September to the classroom families G was with in elementary school.  We were happy with they way it worked for us.  I know that classes ban peanuts and that works for some people.  We chose to rely on the kindness and understanding of other parents.  Happily, over the years very few clods chose to walk across the grass.  Most went out of their way to accommodate G and we avoided the unpleasant push back that can come from trying to tell adults what they can and can not do.  Now, leave my TV alone.