Life, as it turns out, has a sense of humor and we later found out our daughter was allergic to peanuts after having her first PB&J.
Ha, ha. It was, as Pee-Wee Herman used to say, so funny I forgot to laugh.
Initially we were all hopeful that she might grow out of it: her bloodwork looked promising and her reaction wasn't terribly severe. But as we take her back every year to get poked and prodded and retested (happy birthday to you, dear!) it doesn't appear that things are changing.
Scary Things People Don't Know About Peanut Allergies
At age 4, she's not old enough to scrutinize every food for hidden peanuts or use her own EpiPen if it comes to that, meaning she's at the mercy of whoever I leave her with.
And most people, unless they've got a life-threatening allergy themselves, don't get it. Some people do not realize:
- That peanut butter contains peanuts. Okay, they may logically know this, but they'll hand my daughter a Reese's right after I just told them she's allergic to peanuts. They also won't remember that there are peanuts in the trail mix, or think to check whether there's peanut oil in the ingredients of a food. Their brains just aren't used to thinking like that.
- That even being near peanuts could cause a reaction. Some kids can have a reaction just from the smell of peanuts. Or someone might share with them, or they could grab some when no one is looking. Or eat the crumbs off the floor (please tell me my kids aren't the only ones who try to do this.)
- What an allergic reaction looks like: hives, swelling, redness, itchiness, tingling, or any combination of the above. Pay attention for these signs and for the love of Tina Turner, if my daughter tells you "my tongue is fuzzy," don't just think "Man, kids are weird" and ignore her. She needs Benadryl.
- That the Epi-pen is not for every allergic reaction. EpiPens are to keep her alive until 911 gets there if she goes into anaphylaxis. That's it. There are side effects to giving someone epinephrine, and you need to take the kid into the E.R. after every shot of the EpiPen. If my daughter has a non-life threatening allergic reaction, Benadryl is what she should have, not the EpiPen.
Being the parent of a peanut-allergic child means you can't assume that people know these things. Even if they do, they might not understand how important it is. You will want to shake their shoulders and yell, "No really, this is important!!!" but that kind of thing is generally frowned upon.
I've gone on vacation and met with the church nursery leader there about my daughter's food allergy, and not only gotten a feeling like she wasn't really listening but seen a gallon-sized ziploc bag of peanut butter cookies sticking out of her purse on the table.
"Oh, those aren't for the kids, someone gave those to me to take home," she said, but didn't even attempt to close her purse or move it out of reach of my daughter's grubby hands.
Moral of the story: People don't get it.
How I Keep From Having a Heart Attack When I Leave My Allergy Kid With Others
When my daughter gets new Sunday School teachers or I'm leaving her with a new babysitter, I tell them about her allergy in advance in an email.
If they're anything like me, they need at least an hour to process new information (and it helps them plan what they're going to feed her, too.)
When I drop her off, I go over it again and offer to read ingredient labels of whatever they're serving. I show them the right dosage of Benadryl and how to use an EpiPen.
And lastly, I don't expect them to remember any of it if they watch her again next week. They're busy just like me, and they can't remember everything about everyone else's kids. I drop the EpiPen off with them every time, not so much because I think my daughter will need it (she never has so far) but because it's a good way to remind them every time without insulting their intelligence.
So what is it like having a peanut-allergic kid?
It kind of sucks, but it's not as terrible as I thought it would be. (And also, Phillip did indeed turn out to be gluten-intolerant and that isn't as horrible as expected, either.) As she gets older she'll get better at managing it herself, and once she hits kindergarten our school has great allergy policies and teacher training on food allergies. For the time being, though, this is what works for us.
What are your kids allergic to and what do you do when you drop them off with someone else?