All this “Back to School” talk is giving me a little anxiety. Is it because I can’t picture sending my little girl off to school in the next few years? No. Is it because I hated school and I’m feeling the pressures for these kids? Nope, I LOVED school.
Is it because my daughter has a peanut allergy? Yup…that would be why.
Picture this: A cold Saturday morning in January 2012 and we have a scheduled oil change and play date planned. We have to leave the house in an hour, which you know with an 11 month old is pushing it. The king gets in the shower, so I decided to feed the nugget. At 9 months old our daughter was really good at eating solid foods. She was 11 months old and a master at eating Eggo Mini Homestyle Waffles with butter for breakfast. I figured that she was bored and slapped some peanut butter on one of the four mini-waffles. I literally used the SMALLEST amount, like pencil eraser size. I actually was about to slather all four, but thought “what if she doesn’t like the texture?” The thought NEVER crossed my mind, “what if she has an allergic reaction?” My hubby and I are not allergic to anything and she ate whatever we put in front of her. I wasn’t the worried mom afraid to introduce peanut butter.
Well, I handed her the Eggo’s and continue to wash some bottles (not even 3 feet away) and I look over to her and thought, “Woah girl, you must be doing a big poop”. Her face was red and looked like she was struggling to squeeze one out. I immediately approached her and realized she had a huge hive on her chin and all her face and neck were breaking out and internally freaked out but kept Mrs. Cool Calm Collected. My gut reaction was to get her out of the high chair, get her naked, and throw her in the shower with hubby. As I took her clothes off I watched the hives travel down her little body.
Yup…I thought to myself we have a f-ing peanut allergy, SERIOUSLY?!?
I was very lucky for a few reasons:
1) The doctor was open on that Saturday morning and the nurse instantly told me what dose of Children’s Benedryl to give her for her allergic reaction and what to watch for, which put me at ease.
2) I actually HAD Children’s Benedryl in the house! I received a shower gift that had a variety of “must have medicines” for children and LUCKILY it was in there. If not, it would have been 30+ minutes by the time I got to/from the store. The Benedryl helped almost immediately; and there was no change in her breathing. My advice: be sure to have Children’s Benedryl on hand prior to giving your child peanuts!
3) I was with her when this happened; I would have freaked out getting that phone call from someone else.
4) She didn’t go into anaphylactic shock.
5) As you can see above, I took a picture of her after the allergic reaction and giving her Benedryl to show the doctor next month at her one year appointment. At first when I told him what happened he wasn’t too concerned with her “episode” and my husband was convinced it was a “fluke”. When I showed the pediatrician the picture he instantly changed his mind. He said normally that he didn’t send kids for blood tests before the age of 2, but the picture concerned. There are a few allergies you don’t mess around with. After having an allergic reaction like she did, I KNEW she had a peanut allergy or was allergic to tree nuts. With us living so far away from a good hospital and living in the boonies, I wanted an EpiPen to ease my mind. He wrote us the script before I even had the chance to ask and before the blood test results.
The next step-blood test! Seeing her get her blood drawn was sad and I felt for those who have children who routinely have to go through it. She had 3 people holding her down and I was shoveling a lollipop in her mouth. The staff was excellent and I was very impressed. They got her vein first shot and we were out of there in less than 10 minutes so I can’t say it was THAT bad. I was actually RELIEVED when I got the results a few weeks later. My “mommy gut” told me the day it happened I was going to be dealing with a peanut allergy, so I had already made those adjustments. The reason I was relieved was because she has JUST a mild/moderate peanut allergy. At least she could have tree nuts, which I’ve still been a little reluctant to give her, and we didn’t have to get rid of daddy’s first love-our cat, Rhodie.
Here’s what has been on my mind recently:
Guilt: At first, my head was spinning thinking it was my fault. Was she a fussy baby because when I was pregnant I would pound bags of peanut M&M’s and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? Or when I was nursing and pumping I ate tons of peanut butter since it was easy to slap on a piece of bread and gave me protein I needed? Does this mean if I get pregnant and breastfeed again, I should not consume peanuts? Does she have reflux because of this? Does she have eczema and sensitive skin because of me? Should I have waited until she was two to give her peanut butter?
Her age: Since she is so young she doesn’t understand why she can’t eat certain things, she cannot verbalize to others that she can’t consume peanuts, and obviously she’s too young to determine what she can and cannot eat. I will feel much better when she can actually say, “Does this have peanuts in it?” or “I cannot have peanuts, I am allergic”.
Holidays and Special Events: The thought of taking away her candy with peanuts on Halloween and Easter breaks my heart. (But I know deep down I personally will enjoy it). I feel like I’m being annoying, always having to ask everyone at a pot-luck or dinner if anything has peanuts in it. You can’t assume everyone knows or remembers.
Wanting to protect her: I’m scared she will feel like the “odd man out” by saying no to food at birthday parties/slumber parties that have peanuts in it, even if it is a slight possibility. It does put me at ease that school teachers are very conscious about food allergies, especially peanut allergy or tree nut allergy. Most have changed their policy regarding bringing foods into class, due to the fact there are so many allergies they have to watch out for.
Awareness of others: I know having a peanut allergy is pretty common; however, prior to my experience I would have never thought to ask a child if they had any allergies before I served them a piece of cake (FYI deserts and candy scare me more than anything!). What if she is at school, party, sleepover, or somewhere without me and someone doesn’t realize the food has peanuts in it? What if they are scared to administer the Epi-Pen?
Why it’s important to try to stay focused on the positives:
To those who just had a child diagnosed with a possible peanut allergy or tree nut allergy-it WILL BE OKAY! Facebook kept me sane when we first thought she could have an allergy. I had SO many friends reach out to me to share that their child too was allergic. Most actually had children with severe allergies, and they promised me it won’t be as bad I thought it would be initially.
At the end of the day, things could always be worse. In the grand scheme of things, I have a beautiful, healthy daughter and life without peanuts is NOTHING compared to a child who has a “real illness”. I am SO thankful that she does not have a severe peanut allergy; as of right now it is a mild/moderate allergy. We shall see when she is two what her blood tests determine. Fingers crossed she outgrows the allergy, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
It isn’t that tough of an adjustment. We have not had to change our day-to-day lifestyle as dramatically as I originally thought. Other than not keeping any candy with peanuts in it in the house, it hasn’t been too bad. Except for when I have killer PMS and I would do anything for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. She’s at the age if she sees us eating something; she wants a bite so we don’t keep any possible temptations around.
Cooking at home is still simple. Just read nutrition labels! It spells it out right there or simply “Google It” or some peanut free recipes. We have tried other “alternates” such as cashew butter and Nutella but she really isn’t a huge fan.
Going out to eat shouldn’t be stressful. Honestly, we do not eat out that much, and if we do, most restaurants offer their menu online. I typically hop on the internet beforehand to see if the restaurant lists their allergy info (which most do). I like to be sure there are options for her to eat and also emphasize to the waitress she has a bad peanut allergy when we get there.
Avoiding Cross-contamination isn’t life or death with a mild allergy (NOTE: I SAID MILD, severe is a different story). At first I won’t lie, it scared the crap out of me! My doctor brought to my attention that her even having plain M&M’s could pose a risk because they could be made on the same equipment as Peanut M&M’s. He also said to be sure an ice cream scooper is cleaned or newly used. That way she won’t be at risk if she were to get vanilla ice cream after someone who had Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream. Most places I have found have a separate PB Free scoop/section. We have tried avoiding items that were “produced in a facility that also produces nuts” or “may contain nuts” until she is two years old; however, I know she has had a few times.
Let me close by saying to those of you who read this and your child has ANY food allergy, I feel your pain.
For those of you who are fortunate enough to NOT deal with it, I ask you this: Don’t roll your eyes at numerous reminders/requests from a parent to keep certain foods away from their child who has a food allergy. Even better, don’t assume and be sure to personally ask if anyone has a food allergy, just in case.
Sure, I’m hoping and praying she grows out of it. I mean seriously, how much does it suck she may not be able to enjoy the delectable combination of chocolate and peanut butter? Or how bummed am I that PB sandwiches will not be served in our house? (the easiest, cheapest, least perishable sandwich of course). I think what bothers me the most is I don’t want her to feel left out-no parent wants their child feeling like the outcast or being made fun of. And of course, I’m just praying I never have to use the EpiPen because it scares us half to death.