Hello everyone! I’m Jen Seiderer and this is my first post for CT Working Moms. I’m so excited! Many thanks to Michelle for inviting me to join your lil’ community here. You can read a bit more about me on my bio page. For my first post, I thought I would talk about a topic that had never really crossed my mind before I had kids: food allergies and anaphylactic shock.
My older son, whom I’ll call Big and who is now three (“and a half!”), has a serious peanut allergy. When I tell people this, the number one question is, “How did you find out?” Well, friends, I’ll tell you. The day after his twelve-month checkup I gave him peanut butter. Now before you yell at me, let me just say: This was at my pediatrician’s recommendation. Big’s lip immediately started to swell and I could hear his throat getting raspy. Because our doctor’s office is right down the street, I rushed him there. They gave him a few shots and some Benadryl and got the allergist on the phone. We had to stick around for a few hours to make sure that his breathing went back to normal and that the swelling went down. We were sent home with an Epi Pen Junior and an appointment with aforementioned allergist. A couple of hours later, Big started to break out in hives. We paged the on call doctor and were told to take Big to the ER right away. As we got our shoes on, the doctor called back to say that one of us should ride in the back with Big and we should make sure to have the Epi Pen handy. Yikes! By the time we got to the hospital, his little body was covered with huge, blood-red hives. My poor baby was such a trooper, he didn’t fuss for the several hours we had to hang out in a small ER room while they gave him more meds and monitored him. We finally went home with an exhausted and starving babe who was now officially allergic to peanuts.
Of course I beat myself up about what I might have done to cause this. I used to eat peanut butter like nobody’s business, right from the jar, using a tablespoon. I did this the whole time I was pregnant with Big as well as the whole time I was nursing him. In fact, I went from peanut butter addict to cold turkey teetotaler the day he had his reaction. My mister and I joke that our idea of a vacation would be to take a weekend and hole up in a hotel room with jars of peanut butter. Romantic, no?
Our second son, Little, is now twenty months and is not allergic. The allergist wanted us to introduce him to peanuts at age one and we have thus far refused. You can’t make me completely paranoid about exposing Big to peanuts yet then expect me to regularly (not just once) give them to his brother! I can’t wrap my brain around that, the risk is too big. If the doctors could tell me for sure what does and does not cause the allergy then I would be more likely to follow the current advice, but even in the scant few years we’ve been dealing with this issue, theories and opinions about the cause have varied.
What have I learned from all this?
1. I have to read labels on EVERYTHING.
2. My son cannot eat anything that his father or I have not approved. Big has missed out on nearly all of his friends’ birthday cakes. I wonder what school will be like for him.
3. Surprisingly, most restaurants are very accommodating and can talk to you about the ingredients in the food.
4. Sadly, most people in our personal lives are not so accommodating or accepting of the seriousness of the allergy.
I’m telling you right now in case you haven’t figured it already, it is very easy for me to go all Mama Grizzly on people who don’t respect my child’s life-threatening allergy. Here’s what it boils down to: If I knew something could potentially kill your kid, I wouldn’t serve it when your kid was around. Period.
But there’s good news! Here are some resources that have helped us, whether for support, information, products, or just a little bit of levity about a weighty subject:
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) is an awesome, valuable trove of information about all types of allergies, not just to peanuts. “Alexander, the Elephant Who Couldn’t Eat Peanuts” is a series of books and DVDs about Alexander and his other food-allergic friends. We bought the whole set from FAAN and Big really likes them. I highly recommend this series for little kids who are just learning what it means to have a life-threatening food allergy. There are other food allergies incorporated, too, though Alex is the main character — Lenny the Lion is allergic to milk, Sally the Seal is allergic to fish, etc. Really great for making them understand the seriousness of the issue and teaching them to not share food, to always have their bracelet and medicine kit with them, and what happens if they DO have a reaction.
CNNHealth reported on a study showing that food allergies are now more common and more serious in children. Scary stuff but I sent this link to all my friends and family.
Here’s an interesting little article about desensitization that appeared a while back in “Mother Jones” online. We knew about this study because the doctor quoted here is actually Big’s allergist. Guess we’ll be keeping him! I especially love the Lego picture that accompanies the article.
The Allerbling medical alert bracelet seemed like just the thing for a toddler/preschooler. It’s made of rubber so it’s light and waterproof and easy to clean (plus it comes in Mama’s favorite color: orange). Big’s has charms for peanuts and tree nuts (because of the risk of cross-contamination).
The Nut-Free Mom by Jenny Kales is North America’s leading nut allergy parenting site for families living with peanut and tree nut allergies.
Here’s a funny/ironic essay by Joel Stein of Time magazine. Apparently, Stein wrote an essay a while back that mocked the issue and basically claimed that nut allergies weren’t real, it was just the parents wanting attention. His one-year-old son was then diagnosed with a nut allergy and so in this essay, he’s eating his words. Karma’s a bitch, Joel.
Does your child have any serious allergies or do they have any friends who do? If so, what tips, stories or resources can you share?