Wednesday, June 15, 2016

So You're Babysitting My Daughter... Please Don't Give Her Food That Will Kill Her

Years ago when Phillip was getting tested for Celiac disease and I was freaking out about the possibility of never being able to cook with gluten again, I kept attempting to calm myself down by saying, "It'll be okay. At least it's not like a peanut allergy where eating the wrong thing could kill him."

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

We've adjusted to handling my daughter's peanut allergy at home, but what I really worry about is when she's not with me or Phillip.

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 children with 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!!!"

Unless they have kids with life-threatening food allergies themselves, most people won’t understand the seriousness of your child’s nut allergy. Here is how we explain our daughter’s peanut allergy to her babysitters and caregivers, to raise their awareness and keep her safe. #foodallergies #kids #children #babysitter #peanutallergy #allergic #parentingtips #unremarkablefiles

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 my daughter 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?

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Sarah said...

We have no known allergies in our house (thank goodness), although we suspect my son might be allergic to shrimp. I had made a shrimp alfredo one night (it was all mixed together in a large bowl) and scooped out just noodles for him. He broke out into mild hives. The doctor said he might be allergic to shrimp and the reaction was mild because he had only eaten noodles that came into contact with shrimp, not eaten the shrimp itself.

Peanut allergies are crazy serious. Having taught for several years, I always had a few students (every year) with peanut allergies and now as a substitute teacher I'm very cautious with what I bring to work in my lunch box. Even though I'm not going to feed the students my peanut butter sandwich, just being around it or touching my hand after I've eaten it, could cause a reaction. So... no more peanut food in my lunch boxes.

Jenny said...

So I was one who never got this kind of thing fully, until my cousins little girl had a peanut allergy reaction. It makes a lot more sense to me, and I hope that my kids never have to deal with that. At first, I'll admit I was so frustrated because I was always asked to bring a desert to family parties but had a whole list of things I couldn't use because one person is allergic to peanuts, someone else is gluten free (I don't know how to bake anything gluten free so there's that) and someone else is allergic to some kind of fruit. So I would always say the people who are old enough to know better should probably just not eat my desert. For the kids, just make sure they aren't around that desert. After a couple of years I noticed how hard it is to make certain foods because there are so many things with peanut oil or peanuts in it (along with the gluten baking thing I mentioned earlier) but I also realized that it's not that big of a deal to look for a recipe that doesn't have those things either.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is allergic to milk, eggs, tree nuts AND peanuts. It's scary and it also stinks. She is 9 now and is so good about asking about ingredients and will also read the package herself. When she was younger and couldn't read yet my older daughter was a big help if I wasn't there.

I try to pack her food whenever she goes other places so nobody has to worry about what to serve and my daughter knows what she's eating is safe.

I definitely didnt understand the seriousness of food allergies until I had to live with it everyday.

Amy @ Swag On, Momma! said...

I get frustrated when people roll their eyes and say, "Wow, overprotective mom." when my sister tries to explain her daughter's peanut allergy. Many adults, especially those who are parents, would run in front of a car to save a child's life, but ask them not to include peanut butter in their kid's lunch box? They are SO mad. I know it is annoying for them. But have some compassion. For children, like my niece who has a very severe nut allergy, you are literally saving her life. That same parent would be horrified if someone had a open container of poison at the same table where their 4 year old was eating lunch. Well, guess what: peanut butter IS poison to some children! Most people would give so much to help a child fight cancer, they'd fight off an animal trying to attack a child, they would dive in a churning river to rescue a drowning child...well peanuts can be just as deadly when you have a severe allergy. Can't they take that seriously too? It is serious. People who remember and support my sister and never complain when they can't have nuts in their potluck dish, lessen my sister's burden a little. Our inconvenience means her child is alive.

Purfylle said...

I never really understood hives until I actually saw them first hand. I'd read about them in a few books and got the impression they were kind of like a rash. Then I saw them in full explosion. Everything swelling up all over and knowing that the swelling is happening in the throat and lungs and all of the bodies organs is mind boggling. It's like a lot of other things in life, headaches, migraines, period pain, back pain, if you've never had any experience with it either personally or witnessed a loved ones suffering it's just not real, accept none of those things are life threatening the way food allergies can be. People hear the word allergy and they think 'sneezing, maybe a runny nose' they don't think 'can't breathe, suffocating, unbearable pain all over inside and out'. I try to explain it's an illness that is related to asthma accept the not being able to breathe part is far more severe. That often raises eyebrows and causes surprise and shifts peanut allergy out of the 'hayfever' basket and into the 'serious illness' basket mentally.

PurpleSlob said...

How hard that must be dealing with severe allergies like that, with a young'in!
It's hard enough for me to deal with GF, never mind a baby!
Good for you to train her so she's aware herself.
Food allergies are nothing to sneeze at. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

Janine Huldie said...

I have been lucky so far with peanut allergies, as neither of my kids have it. But my older daughter had a soy and lactose intolerance as a baby, but did grow out of it for the most part. Still can't even begin to imagine having either of my girls allergic to peanuts or nuts in any form to be honest. I did take classes on this though when I studied to become a teacher before having my kids, as well as take part in sponsored training with Mylan, who produces the EpiPen through BlogHer last wintera nd the most shocking part to me was that even if a person might not be originally allergic, they can still develop an allergy at a later point. So, couldn't agree more about being educated on this and learning as much as possible just in case. Thanks for sharing your experiences here with us.

Moonofsilver said...

Reuben has major allergies to soy and dairy and avocodo and banana and chicken eggs (but he can eat duck eggs just fine so we switched to all duck eggs) it's exhausting and I find myself having to remind my husband not to feed Reuben things...not even other people, I mean he's 11 months so grandma is his only babysitter thus far

Queen Mom Jen said...

So scary, but those of us without food allergies need to hear this, because you are right, our mind just isn't zeroed in on this. Thanks for sharing. I will be pinning.

Unknown said...

I have no kids yet, but this post was very helpful! A little scary, but you are so right!

Beth Cotell said...

My 13-year-old son has a severe peanut allergy. I remember all too well these same issues when he was younger. Now that I'm not with him all the time and am dropping him off at more and more places with groups of kids and where they are not being constantly monitored by adults, I have to constantly remind him to take his Epi-Pen. He doesn't want to be bothered with it and worries that it makes him uncool. He is very good about not eating food he's not familiar with but just yesterday I was reading an article about a girl with a severe peanut allergy who kissed her boyfriend after he ate peanuts and she DIED! I had not even thought about that aspect. I guess the worry will never end!

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry - I can't imagine the ordeal you are all facing. I've gone into anaphylactic shock before (turns out I'm allergic to penicillin! Surprise!) and wouldn't wish that on anyone!
We were blessed that our daughter was just severely allergic to lactose (she's mostly grown out of it as a teen). Even her grandparents would forget! Thanks Grandma for feeding her fettuccine alfredo before we pick her up for a 6 hour drive! Or when she would eat lunch at school with milk ingredients (that she didn't know about) and the teacher forced them to run laps around the classroom in a game, I didn't feel TOO bad when she threw up all over the classroom after asking and being denied sitting out due to an upset stomach. Yes, all the teachers, family, friends KNEW about the allergy, but they didn't think through the CONSEQUENCES of the allergy - what she had to give up/sit out/pass on in order not to be violently ill.
May God protect your children and give you strength! :)

Lyndsay (Tiny House Homeschool Mom) said...

We have a mint allergy child. It's kind of rare to be allergic to mint..or so I have been told. Thankfully she is 8 and old enough to more or less speak for herself when I am not available. It took us four years to figure out it was mint though...#facepalm.
It is hard for her because she can't sit near anyone eating mints, or chewing gum. It has made it hard for her to make friends at church and things.We also can't be near anyone who smells like smoke or is smoking because of the menthol in the them...and she can't use very many shampoos, hand soaps etc. Burt's bees, all natural products and basically all make up have it in it because it is considered a healthy thing. It is healthy for most of us, but it is deadly to her. There is only one kind of toothpaste we have found she can use..and it is $20!!

Another daughter is allergic to bees and mosquitos.

I am currently undergoing testing to try to find out what I am allergic to. Whatever it is is new and it is getting bad fast. Already took a ride to the hospital in the squad about two weeks ago..and I'm living on chicken and rice...We have it narrowed down to tree nuts, peanuts, fruits or vegetables.
They can't get me into the allergist until until then I'm avoiding basically everything tasty and waiting for blood tests to come back. :/

Jenny Evans said...

Depending on the child and their allergy, it can be nuts. I've heard of a woman who went into anaphylaxis by smelling peanuts on the breath of the person next to her. You are right to be so cautious and it makes me feel so good that the people who teach our kids all day get that it is a big deal.

Jenny Evans said...

It does take an adjustment to cook for allergies (especially when you're working with multiple allergies.)

Jenny Evans said...

I was totally that person, before I had a kid with a peanut allergy myself. I don't think I ever criticized anyone or thought they were overprotective, but I did get irritated that I couldn't pack a PB&J in my kids' lunch. Until I thought about it from the point of view of the mother whose child could literally die, and then I didn't think it was such an inconvenience anymore.

Jenny Evans said...

You're right! I think a lot of people who don't get the seriousness of some allergies are really misled by the word 'allergies.' Like, "Oh yeah, allergies. I've got allergies." But hay fever will not kill you.

Jenny Evans said...

It is exhausting! And we have had a few scares when we've let our guard down and not been as cautious and she's almost eaten something she shouldn't have. Very scary.

Jenny Evans said...

I have heard about people going into anaphylaxis after smelling peanuts on someone else's breath.

And I remember doing all kinds of stupid things because I thought something would make me look uncool as a teenager (like freezing with no jacket in the winter or only carrying your backpack with one strap even though it weighed a ton) but the EpiPen is in a totally different category! I'm glad he's good at monitoring his own food, I can't wait until I'm a little more confident in my daughter's ability to do the same!

Jenny Evans said...

Lactose is a tricky one because it is hidden in SO many foods that you might not think of! Or at least I wouldn't. For a while I was having some stomach troubles and my dr suggested I cut out dairy to check for possible allergy (that wasn't it) but it was the hardest week. I just had NO idea what I could eat. I'd never realized how many things contained it until I couldn't have it.

Best of luck to you as well!

Jenny Evans said...

Never heard of a mint allergy before. Lucky you!

So sorry about your newest mystery, also. Some of my family members in their 50s and 60s suddenly developed allergies to MSG and their laundry detergent! Are you sure it's something you're eating and not something environmental?

Anonymous said...

My kids and I love the Samoa girl scout cookies. We buy a ton every year. Well, we were out and it wasn't girl scout cookie season. I decided to buy the generic ones at the store. Sometimes you just need a Samoa. Came home and shared them with the kids. My peanut allergic daughter went into anaphylaxis. It turns out the legit Samoa cookies are fine, but the generic ones are made with peanut flour. What the heck?!? I didn't know that was even a thing. There went my mom of the year award. Again.

Jenny Evans said...

So glad that she is okay. It's easy to forget to read the label every time, especially if you've had something similar before. I just read about someone who was getting some vanilla cookies for their allergic child, they read the label and it was fine, but at the last-minute she put them back and grabbed the chocolate ones. Which did contain nuts. It landed them in the E.R. but luckily everyone was fine. It's hard to have your guard up 100% of the time!