Childrearing

My Name Is Gloria And I’m A Peanut Allergy Mom

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allergies in childrenNobody wants to be a Peanut Allergy Mom. You know, the ones who are always asking about ingredients, carrying an EpiPen everywhere and ruining birthdays and snack times at school. (In addition to constantly fearing that your child will eat a peanut and die, of course.) Although I always saw myself as more of a “chardonnay-in-sippy-cups” kind of mom, I was thrown into the world of Peanut Allergy (PA) Moms five years ago, and I had a lot of learning to do.

When my twins were 16 months old, I was getting tired of cooking and pureeing all their meals, and I wanted to make lunchtime easier. The thought of making a few PBJs for the three of us sounded like heaven, so I decided to introduce peanut butter even though it was a little early. I had no reason to think my twins would be allergic to peanuts since no one in my family or my husband’s family has allergies.

I fed a tiny bit of peanut butter to my daughter and she said, “Num-Num!” I gave the same small amount to my son, Nick, and he made an “Ew!” face and tried to get it off his tongue. Within seconds, he was swollen and covered in hives. I had no idea what was going on.

I’d been cautious with all the foods I had introduced and luckily had Benadryl in the house. I gave Nick a dose and called my pediatrician, who asked if he was having problems breathing. I remember thinking, “Breathing? What the hell is she talking about?” He was breathing fine, so she advised that I just keep an eye on him and she’d give him an allergy blood test during our next check-up.

So I knew my son was allergic to peanuts — but that’s about all I knew. The term “allergic” is a bit misleading, because “allergic to peanuts” doesn’t just mean you’ll get a rash and sneeze a lot —i t means that you could die if you eat a peanut. That’s one hell of a difference.

Our pediatrician put off Nick’s blood test during our next two appointments and I didn’t question her, because I believed she was the All-Knowing Baby Expert. Things changed when my husband and I returned home from a kid-free trip to the Bahamas. We had eaten peanuts on the plane, and when we kissed Nick’s cheeks four hours later, his face flared up with hives. I got on the phone and demanded a blood test to see how allergic Nick actually was.

Sure enough, my son had a severe peanut allergy. The pediatrician told me that he’d need to have an EpiPen with him everywhere he went, and the next reaction could be anaphylactic.

Anaphylactic. I couldn’t pronounce it, much less fully understand it. That week we learned more about peanut allergies than we ever wanted to know. I was horrified thinking of the many times Nick had been exposed to peanuts and probably had just gotten lucky. To make our home a safe haven for Nick, we threw out jars of peanuts, peanut butter and any foods that might contain traces of nuts. Sunbutter became a staple in my pantry (you get used to it – I’d even say we like it now). I packed Benadryl and an EpiPen in a small backpack with “Nicholas” embroidered on it to make it easier to find. We take this with us everywhere because in the world of children, peanut butter is everywhere. Then we started explaining Nick’s allergy to our family, our friends and his school.

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