Monday, February 12, 2007

This Blog is Not About Peanut Allergy

. . . 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.


Swistle said...

I think people do know now about peanut allergies and how scary they are. Or, actually...I guess I can only speak for my tiny area of the country, where it seems like we hear about it all the time. None of the schools allow it, so notices and educational information go out at the beginning of each year, with reminders mid-year. People write to the newspaper before Halloween, begging everyone not to give out items manufactured in plants that also manufacture items containing peanuts.

In fact, in our area it goes too far the other way: if you're pregnant, people will say, "You're not eating peanut butter, are you?" If it is revealed that you feed your non-peanut-allergic child peanut-butter sandwiches, people will say, "But don't you worry about the RISKS?" We've been so over-educated on how bad peanuts are for people with allergies, we've started feeling like they're bad for everyone.

But that may be just around here. I've lived in a few different states and have noticed that some areas seem more educated about some things, and other areas more educated about others--and it's always surprising how people can ignore information they're drowning in.

Giselle said...

I would love to get you in contact with a friend I made in KY. Her son was not only deathly allergic to peanuts, but also to wheat, gluten, anything red, milk, eggs, and probably some other stuff. A fallen Cheerio could mean death to her toddler. She handled it amazingly well, although I imagine she walked in fear most of the time.

She too warned us of eating peanut butter while pregnant. Although it seems extreme to those of us NOT worried about allergies, I know the warning is just a desperate attempt to prevent others from entering the "allergy reality" that some live in.

I feel for you...I really do. I can't imagine watching like a hawk all day every day. No wonder you and Harper like to lounge at home. ;)

Erin said...

Kelsey, I think you handle the very difficult situation better than anyone. You aren't at all careless, but somehow you can manage that constant fear. I honestly don't know how you do it, but just try to trust yourself that you & Matt & Harper will continue to handle it as she grows up.

As for writing about it... I say write about it if you want to, or need to, or feel like you have to. The people who read this blog are people who love & care about you & your family. Harper's peanut allergy is part (and just part) of who you all are and how you function as a family. I guess what I'm saying is that I think I speak for lots of us out here in cyberland when I say that we feel for you, wish we could do or say something, and at least we will learn from you to be more careful and mindful of how a serious allergy can affect a whole family.

I am so relieved Harper is okay. When I read the first paragraph of your post, I got a total knot in my stomach for you all.

Emily said...


I can't imagine how it must impact every minute detail of your thinking to have to worry about Harper's allergy all the time. I feel like I am so paranoid about every little thing with Katy, and I can't imagine what it would be like to have a specific risk to be afraid of. However, I do think you seem to be handling it well, and obviously you are taking all the proper precautions. Also, just to let you know, if you come to visit, I'll be sure and sterilize my kitchen - if that puts your mind at east at all...

NoPeanuts said...

I am the author of a blog at

Our daughter was recently discovered to have anaphylaxis to peanut. She had a few minor reactions leading up to her first anaphylactic reaction but it still felt like it came out of nowhere. You are right to be concerned when any sort of possible allergic response occurs. Our paramedic said we were right to call 911 right away but our daughter's reaction was much more severe than the one you described.

I appreciate your concern that writing about the allergy is going to generate anxiety but I actually find it to be a very positive way for me to keep the allergy in front of me and structure my research and learning.

All the best.

It Takes A Village To Manage An Allergy

Mommy Daisy said...

Wow, this is a huge deal. I'm glad to hear that your daughter is ok, but I can understand your concern (or was it hysteria?).

I have a friend who's son is allergic to almost everything: milk, peanuts, wheat, eggs, dogs, cats, and lots of other foods and environmental things. He is almost 3 years old now, and it hasn't gotten any better unfortunately. I don't know if he's that severely allergic to peanuts to have an epipen or not. Still I completely understand your worry. This friend with said son warned me when my son was an infant not to expose him to possible allergens as long as possible.

I have gone to an extreme following all the recommendations to avoid milk, egg, choclate, peanuts, and other things they say to avoid until at least 1 year old. He is only 11 months now, and he still hasn't had these things. I won't even let him have things that have these in it. I read the ingredients on anything (something I picked up from my friend). It's quite surprising what is in things.

I plan to avoid peanut products with my little one until he's at least 2 years old. I just have to make sure that my family and anyone else he's around is aware of what I don't want him to have. Even now I find myself being over-cautious about what people might give him. I'm by him at all times when others are eating. I'm afraid people won't think and just give him something off their plate.

On another note, I'm sure Harper will be fine when she goes to school. You'll just have to help educate her teachers and other staff members about this (if they aren't already). When I was subbing a 1st grade class, there was a student with a severe peanut allergy. I'm glad that I had to learn all about it. I think it's really opened my eyes. But all the teachers, principals, and students in his class knew precautions to take with this student. If they had a snack that might have peanut products in it, the student is to move to another table. Nope that's no fun, but I found that they still treated him normally and just adapted to it.

Ok, sorry that was long-winded. I'm glad that you posted about this though.

Anonymous said...
Hi my son is also allergic mildly to peanuts but when he was just over a yr ,hes almost 4 now I made split pea soup well low and behold he broke out in hives did u know that a green pea is linked to peanut allergies and they can develop at anytime I didnt know that! So anyway hes fine and he knows just dont eat peas or anything with peanuts its funny kids are smart about it once they get used to it!!