Who Moved My Groove?

Archive for February 2011

Peanut allergies are hard. Peanut allergies suck. My child has a peanut allergy. Dealing with peanut allergies.
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My son was diagnosed with a peanut allergy on his first birthday. For weeks, I had planned a special party for him. He is my first child, and as is usually the case, the first birthday party for the first child is pure perfection. It was a Martha Stewart production right down to the hand stamped, under the sea themed invitations.

When the day arrived, we were decked out in nautical attire to match the aforementioned theme. I had Goldfish crackers on the table, a fish shaped birthday cake, assorted adult foods and Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream. Family and friends crowded our kitchen. It was to be the happiest of days. The house was sparkling clean and drenched in sunshine, all of our favorite people were in attendance, Ian was excited to be crawling around with his little buddies… it was everything we had hoped it would be.

Ian snacked on quite a few of the special party foods throughout the afternoon. He helped himself to fistfuls of just about everything on the table. All of my crazy first-time parent rules such as scheduled nap time, scheduled snack time, scheduled everything went out the window.

Then, it was time for that picture perfect Kodak moment: the cake and ice cream devouring in the highchair. We placed the plate on the tray in front of him, popped a party hat on his head and told him to go for it while we sang, “Happy Birthday,” and clicked through a 24-roll of film — 400 speed for those of you who remember the last century. I still have those 24 pictures of him looking directly at the camera with an expression that says, “These people have totally lost their freaking minds.”

About 15 minutes later, when I was helping him open presents, I noticed his skin was turning bright pink. It was almost the color of a flamingo. He was starting to scratch his face, and then he started to wheeze. Clearly, something was very, very wrong.

My husband and I whipped him into the car and drove to the hospital across town at 50 miles an hour, just slightly yielding at red lights. By this time, he was gasping for breath. I thought he might be dying. I just kept saying, “Drive faster. Drive faster. Please drive faster.”

When we got to the Emergency Room, they immediately grabbed him out of my arms and began treatment. When we spoke with the doctor, he quizzed us on what he had eaten that day (too much of everything) and suggested he might be having an allergic reaction. I couldn’t think of what it possibly could be. Actually, I could hardly form a coherent thought in that moment. He was fine until he ate the cake and ice cream. Oh no… it had to be one of those. He’d had vanilla cake before, but he had never eaten the Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. When we got him home, I checked the ingredients. There were no clues on the ice cream label, except, it was processed in a plant that also processed peanut products.

OH SHIT. SHIT. SHIT. SHIT.

He couldn’t have a peanut allergy. No. A peanut allergy would be terrible for him, for us, for everyone in our lives at that time and in the future. A few months prior, I had read an article about a lady who had developed a peanut allergy in her late 30s, and the life-changing aspect of this particular allergy had stuck in the file in my brain labeled “Sucky Things That May Happen in Life.”

In those lean times, we ate peanut butter daily, although I didn’t think I had ever given it to Ian at that point. However, he did projectile vomit quite a bit his first year. We had him tested for pyloric stenosis, but that test came back negative. Our doctor thought he just had an immature digestive system and since he was gaining weight, it was more of an inconvenience (I don’t say that lightly as I remember gallons of hot vomit being poured down my shirt on a regular basis in all sorts of venues. Ian could clear out a play date of new moms and toddlers in five minutes flat. SICK KID OHMYGOSH RUNNNNN!!!)

Anyway, I would eat a budget friendly peanut butter and jelly sandwich and feed him baby food at the same time. I never even thought to connect the two things. Remember, this was 1998/1999 and peanut allergies were pretty rare at that time.  In fact according to the Centers for Disease Control, from 1997 to 2007, the prevalence of reported food allergy increased 18% among young people under age 18, with 3.9% of young persons (about 3 million children) reported to have a food or digestive allergy.

A trip to the allergist unraveled the mystery. My baby had a severe/deadly, peanut allergy.

Looking back, he fit the classic profile of an allergy prone kid: blond hair, green eyes, eczema, family history of (non-food) allergies, etc. I knew this was going to change our lives in many ways, but I really had no idea how much it would impact us for the rest of our lives.

(Coming up:  Living with a peanut allergy, the good, the bad and the funny)