Peanut Butter, it’s a staple in many pantries across America. It’s full of protein, shelf stable, and inexpensive making it a great food to have around. Around 2% of the population has been found to have a peanut allergy. It was not something that was even on my radar…. until it was.
There was a time before food allergies consumed our lives, even if it doesn’t seem like there was. I developed some weird allergies in my 20s to strawberry, aloe, latex but they were easy to live with, nothing huge. In 2010 Oliver was born, his infancy was intense, to say the least. His first sign of allergies showed in the form of an allergy to disposable diapers (read more about that here). He also didn’t tolerate any infant formula (this was in my pre-breastfeeding days) and we had to do a lot of switching to find one that worked. We settled on the best of the worst, the one he had the least symptoms from.
You would think that his low tolerance for formula would have clued us in that something was going on, or that one of our my trips to the pediatrician where I insisted that there was something other than “just reflux”, or that his eczema covered body would have yielded some help, but it didn’t. I should have pushed further, but I was young and didn’t know any better, and trusted our Dr and all of the medical community.
It wasn’t until he was 11 months old and Mark decided to feed him his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich that we had any idea. He swelled up and broke out in a rash all over his face. Mark immediately gave him Benedryl and his reaction stopped. We had his one year well baby visit scheduled and I went in and demanded that we see an allergist. We were handed a referral and a prescription for an EpiPen and sent on our way.
Seeing the allergist was validation for the last year of our lives. Poor Oliver tested positive for allergies to soy, beef, egg, peanuts, and had shown reactions to dairy so we were told to cut all those things. No wonder he didn’t sleep, was covered in eczema, and essentially miserable. He felt like crap because we were feeding him things he was allergic to every single day.
I can’t even begin to describe how overwhelmed I was leaving that appointment. Sure food allergies weren’t a totally foreign concept to me, but I didn’t know anyone with allergies to this extent. What were we going to feed him? How were we going to make this work? In the beginning, it seemed like everything we ate had an allergen in it. I felt like my life was consumed by reading labels and determining if a food was “Ollie Safe”.
His peanut allergy was off the charts. We were told that any further exposure could result in a deadly reaction. That’s a hard thing to think about, the reality that your kid could DIE from something that seems so harmless. Peanut butter was one of Zoe’s main food groups, and I enjoyed it myself. Eventually, we decided it was safest to remove it from our house altogether.
As the years have gone on managing his food allergies has become routine and it no longer seems as daunting. He’s outgrown some allergies and gained some new ones, but we’ve adjusted and moved on. It has become part of our everyday lives. There can be long periods of time that I “forget”. It isn’t until we’re trying to go out to eat with friends, or he’s invited to a birthday party, or I catch a whiff of peanuts at the park that I remember.
Somehow, we have never had to use those EpiPens. I am convinced that it’s sheer luck. I can’t believe that we are that on top of things all the time. We also have had some challenges, starting school was one, as was playing sports. So far we have been able to figure it out.
As I have aged I also have gained some new allergies. Zoe has become intolerant of dairy and Isabel has a few allergies/intolerances. For an outsider, I am sure that eating with our family seems like an impossible fete. I promise though, it can be done. I am here to tell you that having food allergies doesn’t need to stop your life.
To those families that are newly diagnosed, you will get through it. It’s can be hard not to focus on all the things it will change, but it is not going to change how awesome your kid is and how much you love them. Sure, there is more to worry about, but having kids is worry. If it wasn’t a food allergy it would be something else. Know that you are not alone, 1 in 13 children have food allergies, that’s almost two kids in every classroom.
If you’re in North Carolina the NC FACES food allergy group
This year I am the Walk Chair for the 2017 Triangle NC Food Allergy Heroes Walk. This walk supports FARE in their initiatives such as The Teal Pumpkin Project and training programs for schools and restaurants. We have some awesome activities planned and some really cool entertainment. If you’re around the Raleigh area on 10/7/2017 join us at Lake Benson Park in Garner, NC for the walk.
Our walk team, The Anaphylactic Avengers, is hoping to raise $3,000 to help support FARE. We would love donations from our readers, any amount helps us reach our goal!