I have friends with children that have serious life-threatening allergies. I listen to them talk about ordering special candy for Halloween and lobbying for Epi-Pens at camp with wide-eyed fascination. Even beyond my friends, I am pretty obsessed with the lives of all allergy moms, reading with gaping mouth the cries that children with peanut allergies shouldn’t be able to fly or with tears in my eyes at the mothers who tried so hard to bake an allergen-free cake, and one kid ended up in the hospital. So when my son’s school called and told me he was having an allergic reaction, I totally freaked the eff out.
I recognized the school’s number and answered on the first ring. The teacher started with, “Let me first tell you that your son is fine.” Right…so you are calling just to say hi? She went on despite my silence. “He seems to be having some kind of allergic reaction.” I immediately stood up at my desk, having no idea what that would do, but feeling compelled to do it anyway. Ohmygod, is he dying? What’s happening? Panic rose instantly in my throat.
“He doesn’t have any allergies that we are aware of,” I offer lamely wondering if she’s checked his breathing.
“Has he eaten anything unusual today?” She’s been his teacher since September and should know by now that my son doesn’t eat anything that isn’t fruit or slathered in cream cheese. The truth is I can’t say with 100% certainty that he isn’t allergic to peanut butter because he’s never touched the stuff. So eating something “unusual” was pretty much an impossibility.
She asked that I come pick him up right away, although didn’t she realize I was at work and ohmygod I don’t have the power to zap myself there in an instant to save my baby’s life! “He seems ok, but we take allergies very seriously here,” she said.
He seemed ok? I wanted to ask her if she had seen that article where the girl was fine one minute and then DIED after a bite of a Rice Krispie treat even though she had Benadryl and three Epi-Pens and her father was a doctor and there with her the whole time?!?!?! But clearly she hadn’t or maybe she was just trying to act cool, but I decided it was best not to waste time explaining.
Instead I hung up and called my doctor, asking if I could bring my son in immediately. As in immediately after I got on an express train uptown, picked up my kid and then got on a train downtown to get there and ohmygod I hope he doesn’t die by then! The receptionist didn’t pick up on the terror in my voice. She said they had an appointment at 2:30 (that was four hours later).
“Aren’t allergies serious?” I begged. ”Like potentially life-threatening?”
“Is your son allergic to anything?”
“Not that I’m aware of — though all evidence to the contrary.”
“We’ll have the doctor call you back and she can decide if you need to take him to the ER.”
The doctor called by the time I got to the school and got a look at him. His face was swollen like a chipmunk and as red as a Santa suit, but otherwise he seemed ok. The doctor asked me a bunch of questions and we decided the best course of action was to give him Benadryl and watch him. So I did. I watched him like he was Pitch Perfect on HBO, never taking my eyes off him. The swelling and redness went down with every dose of medicine and he was fine the next day, but I have a whole new level of empathy for moms who know their kids have allergies and worry about this kind of stuff day in and day out.