May 2, 2012
Life with a Peanut Allergy
The peanut hung over my son J’s lip while chocolate drool poured down his chin.
“Mom, I did something…I accidentally ate something with a peanut in it.”
Speechless, I couldn’t remember what to do. I barely knew how to use the EpiPen in my purse, and I didn’t want to jump the gun and shoot him up with the pen before I tried Benadryl first. Unfortunately, I’m not the type of mom who carries tissues and snacks, so I’m lucky I even had the pen with me. Sometimes, I even forget to carry money. I made a mental note to put some Benadryl in the car.
We were at a birthday party and goodie bags were distributed. At each party and Halloween, I repeat the same instructions ad nauseam: Don’t open the bag or unwrap any toys or candy until we go home. I don’t like sticky hands and party trinkets scattered everywhere. Also, I worry that J will inadvertently eat a nut-filled candy.
When he informed me about his mistake, I dropped everything, rushed to the bathroom and made him rinse his mouth out. Then I raced through goodbyes. Once home, I gave him Benadryl and waited for the reaction that thankfully never arrived.
A week before J turned 2, he tried peanut butter and broke out into mild hives. When the pediatrician examined him during his annual check-up, he suggested we try it again next year. We chickened out. Although I was somewhat concerned, we ate at places like Chik-Fil-A and Five Guys where they use peanut oil, and he never experienced an allergic reaction, so it couldn’t be too serious. After confirming his allergy later on, the doctor explained that the peanut protein, not the oil, usually causes the allergies to act up.
During his first year of preschool, I decided to get J tested. I couldn’t expect anyone else to be as vigilant about what he ate as I was, and we needed to acknowledge his potential allergies with proof, instead of supposed theories and fluke reactions.
A Prickly Allergist
We went to an allergist who prepped his back for a skin prick test. From the test of about eight possible allergens, she determined that he was allergic to cats and grass as shown by the individual wheals on his back. The nut test proved inconclusive, so I brought him back later for a peanut butter test where he would eat a spoonful.
At the office, she scolded me for failing to bring peanut butter to the appointment. She claimed she informed me about this, but my date book said otherwise. Was this like a neglected urine sample? Should I bring my stethoscope next? We rescheduled the appointment after she refused the nurse’s offer to retrieve a tub at the local bagel store.
The next time, I struggled to get J to eat the peanut butter. “I don’t like it!!!” he shrieked, crying and spitting out the offensive spread. Fearing the doctor’s irrational wrath again, I held him down and spooned it in. She entered the room and told me to stop forcing him. Was this more torture for him or me?
“See, nurses, this is what an allergic reaction to nuts looks like!” The allergist bombastically proclaimed. J’s eyes bulged, and the hue changed from white to a vile, egg yolk yellow. He broke out into angry hives, red and blotchy. He didn’t seem uncomfortable, just slightly confused at the excessive attention. They watched him for a short interval before quickly administering Benadryl, an EpiPen shot and Prednisone to relieve his symptoms.
Life with a Nut Allergy
Since his allergy confirmation, I carefully examine the contents and pore over the ingredients of anything we plan to feed him or he plans to eat. Just last Halloween, we had to tell him to back off because he loudly reminded everyone how he couldn’t eat candy with nuts. We didn’t want him offending the candy givers.
At lunch, he sits at the nut-free table with other allergic kids, one who has become a good friend. Non-allergic classmates even throw out their garbage for them! Hopefully, he won’t take advantage of that…
Now I hesitate to eat anything with nuts even though his is not an airborne malady. I sneak peanut butter when he’s not around and carefully wash away the evidence. When my husband B brings home these scrumptious almond-encrusted croissants filled with sweet almond paste, instead of enjoying them with my coffee, I worry that a stray almond may graze his plate. It’s almost silly! You do realize I just jinxed his clean record with this post…but now I’ll be armed with Benadryl, the pen and maybe a few tissues.
M.B. Sanok is a South Jersey mom and a blogger for JerseyMomsBlog, where this post originated.