Tuesday, September 22, 2015

When Eating A NUT is Like Taking A BULLET.

The Headlines:


When all you want is protect your child...


Yet eating a tiny piece of food could kill them.

A reality for too many families.

An inconvenience for others. 




A few weeks back I saw a blog that another MOM had written... I never clicked on it because I knew it would infuriate me and I decided I would steer clear.  She wrote something along the lines of: your nut allergy kid isn't my problem so let my daughter eat a peanut butter sandwich in peace!

It was an interesting point of view but many other MOMS, even those whose child didn't have a nut allergy, were ticked.  They thought it was a small thing to do, not send your child to school with "nut food" of any kind, to help the health of another.  They got it.  Sometimes people don't.


Our journey into the nut free world started about 7 and a half years ago, when at the age of 1 and a half, I innocently gave my daughter a small scoop of peanut butter.  She didn't like it.  In fact, she hated it.  She spit it out... wanted nothing to do with it.  But I forced her to have the bite.  I thought it was such a good "kid food!"  I grew up with the protein - didn't we all?  Within an hour she seemed as if she was getting sick.  She was moody, her nose was running and she was going down hill fast.  Another hour or so went by and I fed her some dinner to hopefully pick up her spirits but she promptly threw it all up.  It was very apparent something was wrong.  Soon after, her eyes started to swell and she was getting a rash all over her body.



We headed to the hospital but on the way I called her doctor and they suggested I just give her a good dose of Benadryl.  We did and she got better.  Soon after, obviously, she was diagnosed with a nut allergy.  Not just peanuts.  Almost all nuts.  Peanuts and cashews are particularly bad.  Yet, Brazilian Nuts are completely fine for her to eat so as a general rule, we just say NO NUTS.   She's also highly allergic to shellfish - so we have to keep her off the Lobster!  Not too hard.  But a nut allergy, is a lot harder.

How hard?  Look at all the labels.  There's nuts in more things than I ever knew.  Not to mention almost every label says "processed in a facility blah blah blah" so I started to watch what she ate all the time and we talked about it openly.  There have been slips.  Teachers,  Restaurants (good, conscientious restaurants), Grandparents even I have made mistakes!  There was one Halloween when she had a tiny piece of candy which contains no nuts but she woke up in the middle of the night away with a terrible tummy ache and those swollen eyes again.  Or what about the time when I ate some cashews late at night, by myself, in my room.  I then used the remote.  The next morning so did she... she must have touched her eyes because they proceeded to get itchy inside and out.  I gave her some allergy medicine when it dawned on me what had happened.

All very close calls... all possible triggers that could lead to life threatening situations.  So, we carry an Epi-pen, we don't allow nuts in our house, of any kind, any more.  We have learned that a label that reads:  MAY CONTAIN NUTS is off limits.   She knows to always ask questions and, God willing, we will survive.

Many of you may be asking WHY?  Why her?  Why now?  Why anyone?  When there were almost no peanut allergies back in the 70's & 80's...?  There are different working theories.  Some say it's due to early immunizations that adversely affect a portion of the population into reacting to nuts.  Others believe nuts are in so many different food products that the number of allergies simply go up due to availability.   Another theory is called the "Hygiene Hypothesis."  It basically says that our environment has gotten too clean and therefore our bodies assume certain proteins, aka NUTS, are attacking even though clearly they're not.  Meaning, we should all live on a farm, in the dirt and perhaps our allergies will go away.  It's possible.  But I'm not packing up just yet.

For now, we go to the doctor once a year to have her re-tested.  They put pricks of different kinds of "allergens" all over her back and we wait to see what kind of reaction she will have this time.


When the skin elevates and reacts like below... she's allergic.  The bigger the bump, the bigger the allergy.


Of course the hope is that one day she'll have no reaction at all.  That at one point, this allergy will just disappear.  It hasn't happened yet.  I'm not sure it ever will.

And if you're wondering... yes... as a MOM you feel helpless.  You have to hope that others will understand the seriousness of the problem.  That your child isn't being picky... she's just choosing to live.  If my daughter ingests enough peanuts she CAN DIE.  It's serious and is even worse for others.  There's a child in my son's class who will react to the SMELL of nuts.  Now, how are you supposed to protect that?

There is also some guilt as the MOM.  I did eat a lot of nuts when I was pregnant with my daughter who has the nut allergy.  On the flip side, I did NOT eat any nuts when pregnant with my son.  He has no nut allergy.  We tested him too (pictured below).  So did I, inadvertently, do this to her?  We may never know...


Here's what I do know...  food allergies often go hand in hand with eczema and asthma.  It's the rule of 3's.  I wrote about her asthma, and the pill she was taking (Singulair ), earlier this year HERE (when I discovered it was making her depressed).  Bottom line, when you find one problem, there's a better chance you'll find the others.

Here are some other NUT FACTS (as reported by peanutallergy.com):

  • * More than 3 million people in the United States report being allergic to peanuts, tree nuts or both. (AAAAI)
  • * Less than 21% of patients with peanut allergy will outgrow it. (AAAAI)
  • * Peanut Allergy is the most common cause of food related death (AAFA).
  • * Four out of every 100 children have a food allergy. (CDC/NCHS Study, "Food Allergy Among U.S. Children...")
  • * From 1997 to 2007, the prevalence of reported food allergy increased 18% among children under age 18 years. (CDC/NCHS Study, "Food Allergy Among U.S. Children...")
I also know there are some "cures" which include treating subjects with the very thing they're allergic to - giving them tiny doses of nuts - daily - until the reaction is gone.  It doesn't give them free reign to then eat nuts all the time but the idea is that, if a small amount of nut finds its way into their food, they will still be able to live through it.  Which is better than the alternative.

My daughter could die if she eats nuts.
 It's weird to say but it's the reality we know.  There are worse things.  There are much much much worse things than a nut allergy.  What - you ask?  See, the difference is we have the opportunity to control this health issue.  Cancer patients don't have near the control.  They're at the mercy of the cancer.  That's often the case - typical of health problems.  Just not here.  If we do this together, parents of nut kids and parents of "NON-NUT KIDS" can get through this... but only if we all take note.  Friends, family and people like you need to understand that my little girl's eating habits, as well as the eating habits of other nut allergy kids, aren't there to inconvenience you... they're simply put in place to save some little lives that are just getting started.

I did a Periscope on this subject - my daughter joins me - to see it click below:



And if you agree with any of this... please share.  You'll help a child along the way.
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