Life with Peanut Allergy: A Parents Perpective
Like one in every 100 kids born in 2004, my son has peanut allergy. This means that his body thinks that peanuts are dangerous, and so if he eats or comes into contact with them, his body produces antibodies which triggers a release of chemicals. This can affect his lungs, gastrointestinal tract, skin, and cardiovascular system, causing allergy symptoms like wheezing, stomach ache, vomiting, itchy hives, and swelling.
In the most serious cases, peanut allergy can cause anaphylaxis, a sudden, severe allergic reaction in which several problems occur all at once. Blood pressure drops, airways are narrowed, and the tongue can swell. Without an injection of adrenaline (epi-pen), the person has a high risk of dying.
Real Doctors For A Real Medical Condition
My son’s doctor is a clinical immunology and allergy physician who has an impressive number of letters after his name. Every few years we pay him a visit. He’s a lovely man, but we don’t look forward to seeing him. A visit to the immunologist involves Riley’s arm being punctured with a needle and then exposed to a drop of peanut solution. The solution makes his arm red and insanely itchy. It burns like fire until the doctor applies an ice pack and gives him a dose of antihistimine. Under the ice pack is a lump which looks like a giant mosquito bite. The red ring around it is known as a flare. The doctor measures both the size of the lump and the flare to see if there’s been any difference in the allergic reaction from past skin prick tests. Unfortunately there has been little change for Riley in the past six years. On the plus side, it also hasn’t gotten any worse.
A drop of diluted peanut solution causes that kind of reaction. Can you imagine what would happen if he ate something containing peanuts? I don’t want to.
The Great Unknown
Uncertainty. Life with peanut allergy is all about the unknown.
The skin prick test confirms the existance of the allergy, but it can’t predict how the person will react in the event that they come into contact with peanuts. It can’t predict how much or how little peanut exposure might cause a reaction.
Because there aren’t any answers, parents have no choice but to cover all bases. That means eliminating any food that might contain peanuts, and it’s not just peanut butter or satay.
Food Battles And Questions
Just about every item in your pantry is likely to carry a peanut or nut warning on its label. Maybe it’s the manufacturer’s legal people being cautious, or maybe it’s not. We’ve got no way of knowing.
Similarly when you eat at a restaurant you need to speak to the chef to make sure they understand that the pan that cooked the satay chicken can’t be used to cook your child’s food. To check they don’t cook with peanut oil. To ask that they use clean cutting boards and utensils. Imagine having to have that conversation every time you go out for dinner.
Some restaurants are more allergy aware than others. Some are just sick of fussy diners who claim to have allergies as a means of getting what they want. I read a diet article in a magazine once that actually promoted this practice.
Please. Don’t. You’re making it so much harder for people with life threatening food allergies to enjoy a meal at a restaurant once in a while.
Life, As We Know It
When your child has peanut allergy they miss out on a lot of the things that make being a kid fun. Often they can’t eat the cupcakes with their class or the cake at a birthday party – it’s just too risky. They can’t go to birthday parties without a briefing about what they can and can’t eat and then a tour of the food table when they arrive.
Similarly, every time you leave the house you have to think about whether or not food is part of your journey. Your handbag is always bulging with nut-safe snacks and of course, with life saving allergy medications – an epi-pen and liquid antihistamine.
Not Crazy, Just Concerned
There are many bad things about your child having a peanut allergy, but the worst by far is the fact that most people think you’re just a crazy mum or over reacting.
How this stings. The injustice of other people’s ignorance.
As if anyone would chose this for their child.
The bad things hurt a lot, but they also make the good things a thousand times more meaningful. I’m often moved to tears by the kindness and compassion of people in our community. Like the mums at school who make peanut free cupcakes so Riley doesn’t miss out, or party hosts who go out of their way to ensure the food is safe without even being asked.
One day there will be a cure. Already there are studies where children are being desensitised to peanuts. Every now and again Riley asks when the medicine will be ready. I hope and pray it will be soon.
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