I never thought I’d have a child with a serious food allergy, least of all a peanut allergy, given neither S nor I have a family history of food allergies.
We discovered N’s peanut allergy in the worst way possible. She had just turned 14-months, so I thought she was old enough to have her very first taste of a peanut butter jelly sandwich. The reaction was immediate. Hives first appeared on her face, then slowly spread down her neck and all over her body. Within 10-minutes, she had vomited her breakfast. I rushed her to Urgent Care, where they were able to give her an oral steroid and an epinephrine shot, then I took her home for a long nap. After that incident, we never dared give her peanuts of any kind. Our pediatrician said she was still too young to do an allergy test and recommended we wait until she was 2-3 years old… so wait we did.
We never thought we’d have to experience it again so soon. Last Friday, I got a call from her preschool. Her teacher had given peanut butter and pretzels as a morning snack, and N was breaking out in hives. I was in hysterics. After our very first incident, they warned us that a second trigger could be much worse. I sounded like a broken record as I rushed over there: “How MUCH did she have?! How MUCH?”. I was so upset. I had reminded the director and the teacher on the first day of school that she had a peanut allergy. It was also in her records. With only three other children in the classroom, there shouldn’t have been any reason for this kind of negligence. It could’ve meant the difference between life or death.
When I got to the school, I immediately gave N some Benadryl to calm the hives. She was also wheezing and coughing, indicating some closure in the throat and lungs. Shortly after, she vomited. It was like déjà vu. I took her to Urgent Care, where the doctor on-call wanted nothing to do with her. Instead, he directed us to the ER at a nearby children’s hospital. I was frustrated and really did not want to waste any more time, but it was obvious he did not want the possible liability. His words before we left were, “She could flip a switch at any second and drop dead. If that happens, I wouldn’t have the tools here to resuscitate her”.
Gee doc, thanks for making an already frantic mom even more panicked. Once we got to the ER, they admitted her right away. They took some vitals, and by the time the doctor was ready to see her, she was already getting better. Her wheezing had lessened significantly, and the hives didn’t look as bad. The vomiting and Benadryl must’ve helped. We spent 4-hours in the Emergency Room that day; they wanted to monitor her and make sure the steroids and epi-pen worked because apparently, the allergens can re-trigger anywhere up to 3-days post-consumption. We were sent home with a prescription for an epi-pen and steroids, and instructions to see an allergist.
First, we had a serious discussion with the school’s director to make sure there are more safeguards in place for kids with allergies; not only for N’s sake, but for the sake of other kids with allergies. They owned up to their mistake, and the scare obviously caused them to be hyper-aware. Its been decided that peanut butter would be banned from the classroom N is in, and they plan to completely eliminate peanut-containing products from their snack time menu. Although there is still some mistrust and worry on our part, we know this will never happen again.
Then, I signed N up for MedicAlert’s emergency alert network. It is a non-profit designed to come to the immediate aid of any member in need of emergency medical attention. N’s medical records (as much or as little as I choose to disclose) would be housed in a database; made available to medical personnel in the event of an emergency. There is an annual membership fee, and members are given a distinctive engraved bracelet widely recognized by medical professionals everywhere.
N will be wearing this from now on. There’s an engraving on the back with our names and numbers in the case of an emergency.
Finally, I am looking into a pediatric allergist to get N’s allergy test done sooner rather than later. She has eaten all the other Top 8 Allergen Foods with no issue (including other types of tree nuts), but knowing her sensitivities will give us a greater peace of mind after dealing with emergency peanut scares two times in less than two years.
No parent wants this for their child. I hope this never happens again, but there is a likelihood that it could. We need to take as many precautions as possible. As she grows I’ll have to teach her about the dangers of peanuts and the havoc it’ll wreak on her system. She’ll need to learn how to read food labels, and be extra aware of products that contain “traces of peanuts.” We will need to teach her how to use an epi-shot and she will have to carry it with her everywhere. There is a 20% chance she could grow out of this allergy, but we aren’t taking any chances.
Today, I am thankful she is well, and that we were able to make the school a safer place for all children. I am grateful that her allergy isn’t worse than it is (as in – she doesn’t go into anaphlylactic shock, and she is fine when someone is eating something with peanuts next to her, just as long as it doesn’t physically enter her system).
In a season of thanks, I am most thankful for her life – that she is here. Thank god she is here.