At a checkup with her pediatrician following her reaction to eggs (you can read more about that here), her doctor suggested that she also avoid peanuts, because she may be allergic. I asked no further questions out of ignorance. We just avoided peanut butter. I never read a label. I thought as long as there wasn’t peanut in it, and as long as she didn’t actually ingest anything with peanut, all would be well. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.
It was a couple of days after Thanksgiving 2011. Breezy was 18 months old. Her “thing” at the time was that she liked to go to the refrigerator herself, and get her sippy cup “like a big girl”. There was a left over peanut butter pie in the fridge, completely covered with aluminum foil, with the exception of the spatula that was sticking out of it. I hate doing more dishes than necessary, so I just left it in there. Breezy went into the kitchen to get her sippy cup that afternoon. I was sitting at our dining room table, where I could directly see the refrigerator.
As soon as Breezy closed the refrigerator door she was covered in hives. She was only in there for a few seconds. Her face and hands were covered with them. Her eyes were red and nearly swollen shut. Instantly, what had happened after she ate scrambled eggs 6 months earlier came flooding back, and I “knew” what we had to do. I whisked her up as fast as I could and put her in the shower. My husband grabbed the benadryl and followed me. After we gave her the benadryl, my husband called the pediatrician on call while I bathed her. I had no idea what had caused this. Ignorance is bliss, remember? Luckily, my husband had a clue. He told the doctor, which was not our regular pediatrician, that it’s possible she had touched the peanut butter pie while she was in the refrigerator. Everything else in there she had had before. They repeated what they said about when we had previously called about her reaction to eggs: to watch her for tongue swelling and other symptoms for the next 4 hours, and to take her to the ER if she did not get better. Then they said she needed to completely avoid peanuts. It is likely she has a peanut allergy. Within 10 to 15 minutes, she was cleared up again, and we were on with living our completely blissful ignorant lifestyle. They didn’t tell us to read labels, nothing about an epi-pen, or even that we should have a post phone call follow up visit with our pediatrician to discuss a peanut allergy.
It wasn’t until 6 months later, at my daughter’s 2 year old check up, that our pediatrician referred us to an allergist, and gave us an order for a RAST test. Her RAST came back with a class 3 in eggs, and a class 4 in peanuts. A skin test confirmed these allergies.
The nurse at the allergist’s office gave us a DVD to go home and watch about the epi-pen that the allergist had described, and gave me the names of some websites to check out. We had our epi-pen, so I thought we were fine. We kept on living our blissfully ignorant lifestyle. We still had peanut butter in our house, and we weren’t careful with it either. We kept giving Breezy M&M’s, her favorite candy, because we never thought to read the label. Honestly, it wasn’t until about Breezy was nearly 3 years old I even started researching the subject of food allergies. Let me just say that now that I know how dangerous they can be, and how terribly I screwed up by being so completely mindless and naïve.
I had played Russian Roulette with my child’s life up until that point. That stopped immediately.
Once I started really diving into my food allergy research, our lives completely changed. Peanut butter, or any other type of nut product, got thrown in the garbage, and they were not going to be allowed back in. Our house became completely nut-free. Her home was going to be her safe zone. A two-pack of Epi-pens, several doses of Benadryl, wet ones, and Clorox wipes accompanied us every time we left the house. I became the ultimate helicopter mom. I read every label, even called or emailed companies to get their labeling and manufacturing practice information. I drilled the symptoms of anaphylaxis and our plan of action into our family’s heads so many times they probably got tired of hearing my voice. Everything changed. I was no longer in the dark about what had to be our new normal. I was not going to be reckless with my daughter’s life any longer.
I owe so much of what I have learned in our food allergy expedition to the No Nuts Moms Group, whom I stumbled upon one day while google-ing nut allergies. The No Nuts Moms Group is a Facebook support group, full of moms, and some dads, that go through the same thing that my family does every single day. Some have a child that only has one or two food allergies, and others have little ones that are allergic to so many things that the list of foods they can’t have is a lot longer than what they can. Some have never experienced anaphylaxis, while others know administering epinephrine as second nature. But we all have one thing in common: We all “get it”. We all walk in each other’s shoes. There, I’ve learned more than any website or book I could read. These moms pull their resources, take everything they’ve learned, apply it to their lives, and share it on this simple social media forum. They answer each others questions, give each other advice, and lift each other up. Without them I may have lost my mind on many occasions. It may sound ridiculous, empty, or moronic, but something as simple as a Facebook group filled with a bunch of “strangers” has saved my sanity more times than I care to count.
I loved them so much, I was inspired to take on my own local division of the No Nuts Moms Group in my local area. There are over 50 subsidiary groups and growing. If you have read this far (bless your heart), and would like to know if there is one in your area please click here.