Monday, May 11, 2009

Food Allergy Awareness Week: How We Found Out

It was May 2006 when we found out that Harper was allergic to peanuts, which was ironic, as "peanut" was one of her main nicknames.

When I taught first grade I had a student one year who was allergic to peanuts, which was the only reason I knew anything at all about peanut allergies before Harper was diagnosed. If I hadn't had that awareness our story might have turned out differently and I am so thankful for everything that family taught me.

The week of Mother's Day I had been to the pediatrician with Harper for her 18-month well-check. At that very appointment I had asked her about giving Harper peanut butter. AT the time she wouldn't eat much meat and I was nervous about getting enough protein into her, as well as just having another option for lunch time. We had no history of food allergies in our family and the doctor said we could probably go ahead and try it, despite the general recommendation that peanuts not be given until at least two years of age. THANK GOD I did not put a bite of peanut butter sandwich into Harper's mouth.

Here's what happened:

We were in the kitchen and (seriously, my stomach aches writing about this) Harper pulled the plastic jar of peanuts from a pantry shelf. She was shaking it kind of like a rattle and I was happy to let her play with the harmless plastic jar while I finished unloading the dishwasher.

A few moments later she managed to get the lid unscrewed and dumped the entire contents of the jar into her lap. My initial concern was that she would try to eat one of the peanuts and choke. I never took my eyes off of her so I know she didn't eat any peanuts, but she did have her hands in the big dusty pile. I scooped her up out of the mess and kind of dusted her off before depositing her in the pack'n'play while I swept up and vacuumed in the kitchen.

I retrieved Harper from baby prison and we sat down at her little table in the kitchen with some crayons. After a few minutes I looked up and noticed she was scratching her arm. Then I saw that she had a few blotchy hives on her arms and as I looked I could actually watch them spreading. I immediately thought of the peanuts and shakily dialed the number for our pediatrician's office.

I breathlessly explained what was happening and when I told her I didn't have any children's Benadryl, and that we were less than a mile from the office, she said to bring her right in. By the time we got to the office one of her eyes was starting to swell shut. They rushed us right back and immediately gave her a dose of Benadryl. Within about twenty minutes it started to work.

Fortunately Harper did not have any breathing difficulty with that first reaction. We were lucky. Lots of families discover their children's allergies when they experience anaphylactic shock after a taste of peanuts or peanut butter. I know one family who found out their daughter was allergic after she reacted to a plain M&M.

We left our pediatrician's office that day with instructions for continuing to administer the Benadryl and I think some steroids to help with the hives. We also had a prescription for epi-pens. And I made an appointment with a pediatric allergist as soon as possible. Our first round of testing showed that Harper was definitely allergic to peanuts. This marked the beginning of a very long journey for us.

This is a topic I feel I could write about forever. I got some great questions last week that I plan to address over the next several days, and keep them coming!

In other news, here's one for the What The Heck file... when I got Michael out of his crib after his nap this afternoon, look what was on the side of his head:

I'm calling bug bites or really unfortunate repeated encounter with crib bars, but if I believed such things I would totally put my money on the fact that aliens have marked my kid.


The Mom said...

Glad to see your post, after the topic of the last one and then a few days without posts, I began to worry. Glad the nervous tummy was all for naught. Thanks for the info on holding peanuts until age 2, I thought it was 1! Any thoughts on sunbutter? Can that be started at 1?

Mommy Daisy said...

Wow, thanks for sharing Harper's peanut allergy story. I was really paranoid about giving Zachariah peanuts, but his pediatrician was really relaxed about stuff like that. She wasn't concerned at all after he was a year old (since there was no history). I still held off until about 18 months, and he has no problems. Still it upsets me a little that our ped is so relaxed about that along with other things.

Aww, poor Michael. Hope it isn't bugging him.

Giselle said...

Seems like a real blessing in disguise that Harper had a skin encounter with peanuts first to alert you to the allergy. I've read that introducing a child to peanuts early will not cause an allergy, but will merely be more dangerous if your child has an existing allergy. Michael tried his first peanut butter sandwich last week, and he's only 13 months. But I was pretty sure there would be no reaction, since we eat peanut butter and peanuts a lot, and I'm sure he's been exposed through dirty fingers, sticky mouths, etc.

I'm glad you're sharing all this. It is fascinating to me and makes me respect amd admire you that much more.

Erin said...

This was both really interesting for me to read (even though I've heard the story before) and also kind of alarming. Because I think of Harper's reaction as being much more serious than Emmett's, only it was pretty similar. And I don't know why, it's hard for met to get a grip on that. I'm so glad it wasn't worse, or that you weren't some place you couldn't get immediate help. SO GLAD.

By the way, both my boys (but especially Cal) get big welt-like bumps from mosquitoes. From what I understand, lots of littles will outgrow that reaction. Cal's go down to more normal sized bites after a day or so. Maybe it's mosquitoes?