Living With a Peanut Allergy

It’s a good thing Erajh and I aren’t hopeless romantics who celebrate Valentine’s Day in a big way, because this year all those plans would have been pushed aside to spend the night in the pediatricians’ office during emergency hours.  It was about 6:35 last Tuesday night when Erajh caught Greenleigh with a Butterfinger candy bar.  Of course, I don’t mind Greenleigh having a little candy every now and again, except Greenleigh is highly allergic to peanuts.  She was diagnosed with a peanut allergy at 15 months when a parent at daycare brought in a “fun” peanut snack for the kids to share.  Just in case you have never seen an allergic reaction, this is what it can look like (and no, our carseat straps are never that loose, my husband was trying to move them for the picture).

July 2010

Poor baby.  It took about 4 days for her go back to normal after that episode.

Greenleigh’s allergy is a bit more complicated because she has asthma.  On a normal day, Greenleigh can have problems breathing and an allergic reaction can make it so much worse.  Dangerously so.  In fact, one of the doctors in the ER told us that the second encounter with peanuts can often be worse than the first.  Since the first occurrence in July 2010, we’ve been aware of the situation and carried an EpiPen.  I’ve read labels, intercepted goodie bags from well intentioned hosts at birthday parties, and let daycare know that under no circumstances should she have anything peanut based.

And everything was fine…until last Tuesday night.

The candy bar had come out of her Valentine’s Day goodie bag from daycare, and although I normally intercept and inspect her goodie bags for peanut based contraband, for some reason I didn’t this time.  I suppose I was still getting over the plague, and off my game.  Plus, everyone at daycare knows she can’t have peanuts or anything with peanuts in it.  There’s no way to tell how much of the candy bar she ate, but from the huge mess on the couch, it appeared most of the candy bar was still intact.

Denial set in right away.  “She probably didn’t eat any.  She’ll be fine”.  Then she started to rub her eyes.  She was probably tired I thought.  We just needed to get through dinner and everything would be okay.  She was nibbling on a banana when the repetitious sneezing began.  No, no, no this can’t be happening I thought.  “Just eat your banana, Honey” I said struggling with the idea that we were going through this yet again.  This can’t be happening, I thought.  It’s been over 18 months since her last reaction. I was hoping she would have outgrown it by this point.  Apparently not.  When she started itching her throat, I knew we were in trouble and called the pediatrician’s office.

The reaction spiraled out of control from there – her nose began to run like a faucet, red splotches appeared on her face, and her breathing became labored.  I didn’t know it at the time, Greenleigh’s tongue was swelling, which was making it impossible for her to eat that banana that I was so desperately trying to get her to eat.  This was also around the time that she started to panic.  Struggling to keep her (and myself) calm, we headed to the pediatricians office for emergency hours.  We were whisked in right away, Greenleigh was put on the nebulizer for a breathing treatment and lots of Benadryl was given.  I held them off from giving the epinephrine because she was responding so well, and I knew if they gave it, we would be off to the ER for monitoring.

It’s fair to say that she hadn’t outgrown the allergy.  Far from it.

Valentine's Day 2012

So I guess you could say that although we had no big plans, our Valentine’s Day didn’t really go as planned.  On a positive note, Greenleigh did fully recover in about 2-3 days.

If you had told me that I would have had a child with a peanut allergy, I never would have believed you.  I love peanut butter.  Almost in an unnatural kind of way.  And yet my child is allergic.  How can this be?  The fact that she may never know the simple deliciousness that is peanut butter sandwich, pains me to a certain extent.  But it really isn’t all that rare.  The number of kids with peanut allergies is growing at an alarming rate and no one can pinpoint the exact reason.  One source I found said the number of kids with peanut allergies nearly tripled from 1997 to 2008.  And as much as I wished and hoped in that moment that she had outgrown her allergy to peanuts, apparently it’s one of the allergies that tends to stick with you throughout life.  So much for that.

Now comes the hard part – We need to teach Greenleigh how to be her own advocate.  We are teaching her to say, “Peanuts make me sick” and teach her what foods have peanuts in them, but since she hasn’t had these foods before, it’s really hard to explain.  After all, she wasn’t trying to eat the Butterfinger because she knew it was tasty, she just knew it was candy in her goodie bag.  I guess we have a long road ahead.

Do you have a child with allergies?  How do you teach them to be their own advocate, especially at such a young age?

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  1. Heather Grant says:

    I have a 7 year old who is highly allergic to CHERRIES. Yes, we kow that it’s strange and rare….but it’s true. He was diagnosed on Chrsitmas Day when he was 14 months old. Since he was so young, he is EXCELLENT about double checking anything red or that says “fruit punch”. Since the first time, he has been exposed only twice because of his (and our) constant checking of ingredients. We have always checked his foods OUT LOUD so he can hear what we are saying and I believe that helped immensly.

    • Wow! I can’t imagine trying to keep a child from fruit punch – it seems to be everywhere! Checking ingredients out loud is a great idea though, I think I might try that. I mean, I’m reading the labels anyway, why not read them out loud?

  2. Poor baby! The oldest kid I tutor (6th grader) just recently ate a Butterfinger not realizing it had peanuts in it and had a similar reaction. It’s not a candy you associate with peanuts! I hope Greenleigh is feeling better. Honey sends hugs and kisses too.

  3. How scary! My daughter had a slight peanut allergy when she was younger, she is 3 now and appears to have grown out of it. We still watch her for signs though, just to be on the safe side and I have not given my 18 month old any peanut product yet, I’ll try when she is two and see what happens. I can see where it will be so hard to teach her the things that have peanuts in them, a Butterfinger is a hard one because kids probably don’t even realize it has peanuts in it. I would guess even some adults are not aware it’s peanuts. I think what Heather says is a really good idea, to get used to reading out loud the ingredients in things, then when she is old enough to read she will know what to look for.

    I think I found you via a FB page of another blog that you are following. Seems our kids may be close in age? Right there with you in those toddler years. Fun times.

  4. Im so sorry, that is incredibly scary! My daughter is extremely allergic to peanuts and almonds and all tree nuts, also tomatos and peaches and pretty much all plants (or so it seems). We have an epi pen the school has one and my parents have one just in case I forget one. It is the worst!! I have no allergies so it is so hard to get used to having to check everything. The school is aware that she is allergic but at holiday parties she gets something different then the other kids and I hate it. I feel so bad for her I want her to be able to have whatever and not have to worry if it has been exposed to something she is allergic to.

  5. Poor baby is right !! I have an 11 month old and thank god haven’t experienced any allergic reactions yet but this is bc he is just trying out new non baby foods now so I am on my toes with everything !! I used to babysit my little cousin who had peanut allergies and just thinking of using the epi pen on him gave me nightmares !! I give you and your family alot of respect !! It’s not an easy task especially when they are so little !!

  6. I have a 14 year old that has the peanut allergy. She is also allergic to many other nuts which was determined by the RAST blood test. I would recommend you get that for your daughter as well. As far as your question about how to teach them to be their own advocate. I remember having the same concern with my daughter and much of the teaching has already been done. You’re daughter now knows what happens and she knows its not good and fun. I can honestly say my daughters best teachers were her experiences, she naturally developed an instinct to smell peanuts when even I couldn’t, she instinctively checked every candy bar/cereal/treat she was given and this just became natural for her. I surprisingly didn’t have to remind her most of the time because she just knew what she had to do. I guess I’m trying to say, it was more natural for her than me. We had accidents and made mistakes but I don’t regret them really because that’s what taught her to be more careful than ever. Now as my daughter is about to turn 15, I have the concern with her having to also one day ask her bf what he has eaten before she touches him. But instead of lecturing her and bombarding her all at once (when she has a bf), I have started to slowly send her little articles about that topic. Good luck and you can email me anytime

    • Hi Laurie! Thank you so much for your advice. I’m just worried that she is too young (not even 3 years old) to really understand cause and effect. We have been talking about peanuts and what happened when we had to go to the doctor…and that she understands, so I guess we are headed in the right direction. I’ve also been reading ingredients out loud. We are definitely getting a blood test done too, I just need to schedule the visit for a time when the lab is open. I’m going to hold on to your email address though – I feel like there could be questions in the future!

  7. It was pretty apparent early on that our youngest daughter was allergic to peanuts. Around 2yrs old she would immediately spit out anything that she tasted peanuts in, which was our first clue. She would cry and scrape her tongue trying to get it off. One time her older sister gave her one of those sneaky peanut filled pretzel bites…that came out after a few chews and I had to pull the car over and help her get the rest out. The skin where the peanut butter touched turned red and actually dried out and peeled after a few days. We went to the doctor and they did an allergy test (pricked her up and down her arm) :(. The nurse tested her for tree nuts and accidentally pricked her with string beans too. She ended up reacting to almost all of them including the string beans. So she’s been diagnosed with the tree nut allergy and we have to watch foods that come from the legume family. The doctor said we we’re lucky that she is smart enough to spit food out as soon as she tastes peanut. They did say that its an allergy that will affect her for life and its one that gets more sensitive as you age She very quickly learned to ask if food has “peanuts or peanut butter” which she learned to ask all on her own. She’s 4 now and tries to be very aware of food/candy given to her. She can even smell peanut butter on your breath and is repulsed by it. Thankfully their little bodies seem to naturally assist in this detection and protection. Hoping the best for your little one! God Bless!!

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