. . . but this post is.
I don't write a whole lot about Harper's peanut allergy. There are a couple of reasons for this:
1) It is so ingrained in my thinking, that most days we just deal with it the same way we deal with poopy diapers; it's inconvenient, but life goes on.
2) Her allergy causes me mostly manageable, but sometimes completely overwhelming, anxiety. I am afraid if I write about it all the time I will let that anxiety overcome me, which really isn't good for anyone. Also, people don't need to read about how anxious I am.
3) Harper is a child with a life threatening peanut allergy, but she is mostly just a child. The people who spend a lot of time with her or care for her have to know about her allergy and how to keep her safe, but I don't want her life to be defined by her peanut allergy.
4) Harper is mostly cared for by her parents or grandparents in our home. While we can never guarantee it is perfect, our home is the safest place for her to be in regard to her allergy. All of this will change when she starts to go to school. If I'm still gracing the world with my writing-via-blog (it is such a gift you know, ha ha), you will probably hear a lot more about it once she heads for school.
If you are new to us, you can read about our initial experiences with peanut allergy here and here.
Tonight Harper's allergy sent us running down the road to the urgent care around 8:30. She had gone out to eat with Matt and his parents, to a restaurant we've been to several times. It is a place we feel comfortable with and she ate only food she has previously had. Matt brought her home, gave her a bath, and put her to bed. About five minutes after I got home from class, she woke up screaming the kind of scream that sends me from one end of our house to the other in a big fat hurry. When I got to her crib she still seemed half asleep but was clearly in pain. She continued to scream and I could barely hold her because she was squirming so much, trying to find a comfortable position. I also noticed her cheeks were looking really flushed, although this could have been from all her thrashing around. She said her tummy hurt and she was pulling at her pajamas. I took her pajamas off and noticed she didn't exactly have hives, but her skin was red around the elbows, a spot on her stomach, and seemed red on her calves.
We (Matt heard the crying and came to see what was going on) took her into the kitchen to have a look where the light was better. Vomiting and skin reactions can both by symptoms of an allergic reaction. Harper wasn't vomiting, but I was really concerned about the amount of discomfort she seemed to be in. She was not having trouble breathing or having any swelling or apparent itching around her mouth or throat. She had a strong pulse. If any of those things had been different, we would have used her epi pen and called 911. Our allergist told us the #1 reason people die from food allergies is that they either don't have their epi pens or someone is afraid to use it and doesn't administer the epinephrine quickly enough. Don't get me wrong, I would use it immediately if she seemed to have poor circulation or was having trouble breathing, but it is sure difficult to imagine jamming a needle into your baby if you aren't sure it is necessary.
I called the emergency number for our allergist and explained what was going on. She said it didn't sound like an allergic reaction (though she couldn't tell for sure over the phone, obviously) but from the sound of Harper screaming she suggested we give her some Benadryl and take her to urgent care. So that's what we did.
Harper was a trooper. Thanks, in part, to a DVD episode of Blue's Clues which we have watched a billion times, she was actually kind of thrilled to be going to the doctor. Her symptoms never got worse, and she became pretty mellowed out once the Benadryl kicked in. You've been reading long enough, so I'll fast forward to the end, when the urgent care doctor decided it probably wasn't an allergic reaction, but maybe hives due to a virus. She thought the hives could have been brought out by heat from her bath and those warm pajamas/covers in bed.
To be on the safe side I have my alarm set for 2 a.m. which is about when the Benadryl should be wearing off. If it was an allergic reaction, her symptoms could come back and be more severe. Whether I will be able to fall asleep before 2 a.m. is another matter. I don't know how not to get worked up about this food allergy. I try so hard not to let it drive me insane or rule our lives, but there is a small part of my mind which wonders with every little mark on Harper's skin, whether we are seeing the beginning of the reaction, the one I never want to experience. Everything I've read about peanut allergy seems to suggest that a serious reaction is almost inevitable at some point. Unless we live in a bubble, which doesn't seem to be the answer. We have to do our best to keep her safe and just be prepared.
Sometimes I think I should write more about her allergy. There are so many people in the world who simply do not believe that ingesting a trace amount of peanut protein can kill someone. It can. Maybe I have a responsibility, though I'm not an expert, to do what I can to educate anyone who might read this about food allergies? I don't know.
All I know is that we love this girl more than seems humanly possible.
And I just want her to be safe.