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?