Monday, May 14, 2012

Living With A Nut Allergy (Food Allergy Awareness Week)

This year, May 13th-19th is Food Allergy Awareness Week. If you or a loved one doesn't have a food allergy, you probably didn't know that.

My oldest daughter knows first hand what it's like having a food allergy. She tests the highest possible for peanuts, but also has food allergies to foods such as dairy, soy, and mold. Mold?! Ok, so mold isn't technically a food, but it's in a lot of the foods we eat- certain cheeses and oranges, for instance, tend to have a higher mold content. The difference between eating milk and a nut is that one might cause tummy problems and are often un-noticed, while the other has her looking like this- and worse!

Mistic's story. It was Easter, 2005. She was about 2 years old. We had suspected a nut allergy because she was develop a little rash around her mouth anytime she consumed the smallest amount of peanut butter. Because of this, we told people to avoid anything with nuts. Candy, specifically. Someone at the church we were at unintentionally (and unaware to us) gave her some Easter candy that contained peanut butter and that night confirmed what we had suspected. She was home from church for a very before the symptoms began. She vomited- several times. She developed hives over her body. She began to swell. I was pregnant with Aspen and Faith was only a year old so I stayed home with them while Nick rushed Mistic to the ER. Thankfully, we lived just a few blocks from it. There they administered all the necessary medicine and no doubt saved her life!

Fast forward a few months and we received a referral to the allergist. She was poked and prodded and sure enough, tested as high as anyone can on the peanuts as well as receiving lower marks for other things (grass, trees, you name it!). We got the prescription for the EpiPen and I began to carry Benadryl with me faithfully.

Over the course of time, we would have a few scares. We took a few trips to the ER. We administered Benadryl. Never have we needed to use the EpiPen, mainly because we would be so close to the ER.

She's gotten older and she knows how severe this nut allergy is.

We were stupid though. Mistic should have, from the get go, avoided foods that were processed in the same facility or "could contain". For instant, Mistic would eat M&Ms since she was big enough to hold them. As a young mother I couldn't see taking away a food that she had eaten- many, many times with no reactions- just because she could have one. I KNOW! STUPID!

I saw how stupid I had been almost 7 years later. Valentine's Day this year Mistic had a reaction to eating plain M&Ms. That immediately pushed me into gear and we have since became a lot more careful about any cross-contamination and yep, she no longer eats M&Ms. Looking back I wish I had just done that from the start.

Did you know....?
-Peanut butter can be in foods such as chili and peanut flour might be used in cookies- even ones that have no indication that it may be peanut-y?

-There are different ways that can cause a reaction. The obvious, direct contact. The common sense, cross-contamination. The lesser known, airborne inhalation. Scary, huh? Yep, just smelling it can cause a reaction!

-Simply washing your hands after eating a nut isn't enough to remove the peanut oil from your hands. The same thing applies to your mouth- simply drinking something to "wash it down" isn't enough. You could still cause someone else to have a reaction.

Things to be aware of
-Cross-contamination is a huge deal! I wasn't always so safe, but have since realized that you can never be too safe when dealing with life threatening allergies. Great care must be taken that foods aren't splashed on utensils or that crumbs aren't mixed. In our house, we simply do not have anything that could cause a reaction. However, I have to keep a close eye on friends and family when we are out because proper awareness has not been learned!

-Read. Read. Read. Labels. Things change. Just because an item is safe today doesn't mean it'll be safe in three months. Just because it shouldn't have anything that causes a reaction doesn't mean you shouldn't read it. For instance, a bag of shredded cheese at our grocery store contains the could contain warning that includes peanuts. For cheese! The block cheese, however, does not. Interesting, right?

Ways You Can Help
-Get a medical alert ID bracelet. Be very specific. Mistic has a pretty pink bracelet that has a medical alert slider that has the typical medical alert sign in pink, but on the other side of the slider has her name and about her food allergy. She wears it anytime she goes somewhere new- like a summer camp, new church, or friend's house. There are many places that sell all kinds of awareness items, from T-shirts, to pins, to stickers. You name it! Special lunchboxes are an excellent tool as well.

-Spread awareness! Don't just suffer alone. As a parent, go above and beyond to let other people know about food allergies and how they affect every day life. Blog about it. Purchase the T-shirts and stickers. Don't settle for just a little bit of knowledge. Research it and know it.

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network

Peanut Free Zone

The Peanut/Nut Allergy Handout

Are you familiar with food allergies? What words of advice do you have for others who also suffer?

I've linked up with:
Make Life Meaningful Monday
The Better Mom Mondays
The Modest Mom
Mentorin Mamas Monday
Mama Moments Monday
What Joy Is Mine Monday's Musings
Titus 2sdays
Domestically Divine Tuesdays
Women Living Well
Raising Homemakers
Wise Woman Linkup
Wisdom Wednesdays
Encourage One Another
Hearts for Home
Proverbs 31 Linkup
Weekend Whatever


abigail said...

my son also has multiple food allergies and we know how difficult it can be but can we give you a warning washing up gloves can have peanut fibres used in them and we only found this out when we where at the doctors and it was his assistant that told us this,

Nicole said...

This is very interesting. I like that you put the bracelet on your daughter, I think that is a very smart idea. I don't personally have or know anyone with particularly bad food allergies. I cannot eat avocados without my throat swelling a bit, but that's not too severe at this point, and easily enough to avoid.

Nicole at Working Kansas Homemaker

Rachel E. said...

I stumbled upon your blog from another I follow. Thanks for sharing your experiences with allergies. My youngest, now 1 1/2 has a peanut allergy. I am not sure how severe it is, but when she eats them she gets a rash similar to your daughter's. I also noticed a rash when she ate cashews, peas, and lentils. I am not sure what they all have in common, but it's enough to take notice. Unfortunately, I don't think I am diligent enough. You have given me something to think about. It is very important. It could be the difference between life and death. I have an Epipen for her and I need to make it a habit to carry around the claritin the doctor prescribed.

Melissa said...

Oh my, that breaks my heart! I can't imagine what that's like. My daughter is gluten-intolerant, but while eating it will cause her to have gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc, we don't have to worry about doing any permanent damage if she gets some. It's so scary when a food can harm your child the way you are going through. Thank you for helping to make people more aware of food allergies!

Michelle @ Changed By The Maker said...

Hi Erika,
We do not have any food allergies in our family -- just allergies to cats and hayfever. We had suspected that our oldest might have issues with something because, from the time he's been little, he used to get the odd hive here or there on his face after he ate, but he never had any other reactions, and those little spots seem to have gone away.

I'm sure it must be difficult in this day and age to keep a constant regiment of home cooked/safe foods, so I applaud your diligence in doing this for your daughter. And thanks for spreading the awareness and good information sites.

Thanks also for linking up with me again this week! I appreciate it!

Our Side of the Mountain said...

Aw, poor sweet girl! My daughter had a LIST of food and chemical allergies by the time she was 18 months old. I suspected allergies at 2 WEEKS OLD though and later made our own baby food to control ingredients. But now at 10 she is only testing positive for peanuts, penicillin and other similar medications, and dust mites. (I suspect shellfish too, but she tested negative even though the last 2 times she had it she vomited for hours soon after.) She's very diligent about asking to read labels and understands she can't eat the same things as other kids. (I try to have something cool and special to eat for special get-togethers when others might not think about allergies.) The more people know about this the safer it will be for these kiddos and there will be more understanding!

whitlow6 said...

Our family has severe allergies to just about everything. But the BEST thing we have found to help is something called NAET treatments. They have a website if you would be interested in looking it up. It's a little unusual as compared to traditional medical treatment of allergies but being that we react to those as well or just didn't get any help we were willing to try something a little more "out there". We haven't been treated for everything yet but the ones we have done have made an obvious difference. It's really amazing! Having dealt with my own as well as 3 kids I know how miserable and difficult allergies can be. Hope you find something that helps your little girl!


p.s. let me know if you have other questions or just want to chat about the treatments! :)

What Joy Is Mine said...

Erika...we don't have food allergies in our family but I do have one to penicillin. I can so relate to your daughter's photo. Bless her heart. You shared so much good information and I learned things I didn't know. Thank you for writing this post and for sharing it at WJIM.

The Momma said...

Great post Erika! Did you read my response to how we found our son's allergies? At Easter, age 2. Well maybe 1.5 but anyway.

He is continuing to have mild reactions even though we have been sooooo diligent about protecting him these past few weeks. I am beginning to think he has an additional allergy but I can't think of what it might be.

Our youngest (16 months) broke out in a little rash tonight after eating some salad with dressing. I tried not to seize up in angst even though it brought back memories of what his brother looked like after peanut butter exposure the first time. Praying it was a coincidence because there was strange stuff to be allergic in that dressing. Onions maybe?

Anyway, I am rambling but I am tired. Ha! Do you think it's worth taking the baby's to the allergist and expressing I think there is something else but not sure what? Will they test for additional things w/o a baseline of where to start? Can they do a prick test on the youngest or do they draw blood?

ugh, still learning.


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