Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Peanut allergy awareness

I had heard of people being allergic to peanuts. I flew enough to hear that airlines had quit serving peanuts and I hated the pretzels they served instead. I knew it was a severe allergy with a sudden and serious reaction.

When I had my 1st baby, the books all said no nuts and not honey and maybe some other stuff until after age 1. OK, so after Matt turned 1, I thought "hmmm... what if he is allergic to peanuts or peanut butter?" I personally love peanut butter. I'll eat it in a sandwich, in a dessert or on a spoon out of the jar. I was so poor one semester in college I survived on PBJ sandwiches and diet Coke. PB was one comfort food I ate during pregnancy. When queasy, I could often manage to swallow a nice PBJ sandwich. With chocolate milk.....mmmmmmm.

So Matt - age 16 months sat at the table and I decided it was time to do the test. I checked the time - the doctor's office was still open - I had nowhere to go. So I gave him a Ritz with a little peanut butter on it and I watched as he took a bite. I looked at him, daring not blink, lest I miss the first sign of anaphlaxis. I saw a darling boy enjoy a peanut butter cracker in my kitchen. I chuckled to myself - how paranoid was I?

Then I had my 2nd baby. He was about 17 months old and we 3 were in the kitchen having an afternoon snack. I was trying to get Matt to stop wolfing down yogurt by offering him something - anything else - and I spread some peanut butter on a rice cake. He said he wanted it but with no peanut butter. I gave him a plain one and then thought - "oh, yeah Drew's never had peanut butter - he's old enough" and I handed the peanut butter covered rice cake to him.

One bite and he rubbed his eyes. Then his face turned a bit red and splotchy. He wanted to get out of the seat he was in. He got down and I called the doctor. A nurse called back and she asked if he had hives. I said no, but on closer inspection, I saw bumps on his face. He sneezed. The nurse told me to give him Benadryl and call back in an hour. Sounded kinda crazy, but I figured hey - she's the medical professional.

Ten minutes later his face had cleared considerably. The nurse called back to check on us. I told her his face was clearer, but that he was acting sleepy - walking like he was tipsy. She said to come on in, just to be safe.

We left immediately. Half way there he started crying and I started to panic. (Yes - I was just now getting to panic stage. I tend to go straight into denial if I think I should be panicking.) We continued on and then just when I got on a 2 lane street behind some car going 10 mph, Drew threw up. I passed Sunday Driver and floored it in a 25 mph zone mentally daring any cop to join me.

I got to the office and the nurse went to get a nebulizer treatment because he was wheezing. I had taken off his puky shirt and saw hives all over his torso. The nurse walked out and interrupted a doctor to come and after he looked at him he went to get epinephrine.

One shot of that and Drew was instantly fine and normal. Whew! He has had no further exposure or reactions. He is my happy guy who often plays kitty cat.

There has been much controversy in our area about the banning of smoking in restaurants, bars, public places, etc... I love it just because I hate smelling like smoke later. Smoke also make me sneeze. I understand that smoke (first or secondhand) causes cancer and it is bad for you. But you don't breathe smoke and fall over dean the same day. It takes years for it to develop and who knows? it might never develop in some who had a significant exposure to it. But if someone ate peanut butter and breathed heavily on my kid.... or if someone left some peanut butter crackers or some such snack at the playground (even on the ground) and an allergic baby toddled by and ate it... they could die in minutes if not treated quickly. Should we ban public consumption of peanut butter? I am not ridiculous enough to suggest such a draconian measure. I applaud the ban on cell phones while driving, but haven't we all lost momentary control of our vehicles while putting on make up, eating, disciplining the kids, reaching for the CD that slid off the seat....... it's like they can't ban everything. Everyone just has to be careful.

I want the public to know that the peanut allergy is very severe. The need for disclosing all ingredients in all foods is a matter of life and death. It's not like a lifestyle preference or religious practice. If a vegan ate something with the teeniest molecule of animal fat in it they won't die. If a kosher Jew ate something I brought to a party that was prepared in my non-kosher kitchen, they won't turn red and suffocate to death on the spot.

I hope no one thinks I am some whacko crybaby when I say my son cannot eat something. I hope no one is offended if we refuse his home-baked goodies. I can't risk my baby's life.


Website with stories of PBA deaths:


Anne Stesney said...

What happened!? Don't leave us hanging! I mean, I know he turns out fine but still!

I was told no peanut butter until 3! I think it's a recent thing.

Cassie said...

He is fine!! No more problems - the Epi Pen worked great. I carry one with me all the time now - so hope I never have cause to use it!

Lawrence said...

A type of product I recently discovered is nut-free peanut butter (actually soynut butter) - it's great! Some info on it here:

Cassie said...

Thank you Lawrence! I have tried several non-peanut butters. Sunflower butter ad the IM Healthy Soy. I just decided to live without it. My sons know that it will make the one boy sick so I just outlawd it in my house. Maybe we'll re-introduce a similar product when they are old enough to know the diffrence.