Messy Masterpiece Food Allergy Journey
Just An Ordinary Day
March 18th, 2016, I had just cleaned up the lunch mess and was getting ready to sit down to enjoy an afternoon treat…monster cookie ice cream. My son was around 9 months old and too young to enjoy a bowl of his own, but old enough to know whatever was in mine was GOOD STUFF!
After tugging at my pants and relentlessly cruising along my thighs, I finally caved and swooped a finger full of melty goodness onto his tongue. A couple more samples later, it was naptime.
My son has always enjoyed his sleep and rarely faught it (before all you parents of sleep fighters hate mail me, understand my firstborn was the ultimate sleep MMA champion. This one was earned! LOL). So, it was no surprise that he slumbered off to dream land within minutes. It also was no surprise when his nap lasted for 3 hours. God bless you child!
When he woke up, his cry sounded different. I went to his room to investigate. After opening his door, I flipped on the light and saw his face looked strange. Upon closer inspection, I saw it was swollen and his lips appeared darker in color. I laid him on his changing table to inspect him closer.
That’s when it hit me how serious the situation actually was. My son was having a severe allergic reaction and was covered in head to toe hives. He needed medical attention right now! I immediately threw both of my kids into the car and sped off to the hospital.
Fortunately, the doctors and nurses got my son’s reaction under control fairly quickly. Upon discharge, we were told to follow up with his pediatrician for what to do next. In the meantime, we were to make a food log of everything he had eaten before his nap.
Fortunately, the monster cookie ice cream was the only new food he had consumed that day. Unfortunately, monster cookie ice cream contains a little bit of EVERYTHING! There were many culprits, but one that stood out more than others. Peanuts…
His appointment came, and his pediatrician agreed that we needed to rule out peanuts. In her words, “the best way to test a peanut allergy was with a peanut butter cookie.” She went on to explain that supposedly the baking process alters something, lessening the intensity of the reaction. She set us up with a referral to an allergist and sent us on our way.
A week later, we decided to test the peanut butter cookie theory. My son eagerly scarfed down every single crumb. After an hour of no reaction, we thought we were in the clear and decided to run to the store…BIG mistake!
In the middle of the store, I noticed my son’s ear was starting to get red. Then, tiny red bumps started to form around his ear. Panic immediately struck me when I realized what was happening. He was having a delayed reaction.
We dropped everything and rushed to the car. I knew the fastest intervention I could give was a dose of Benadryl (he hadn’t seen the allergist yet so was not prescribed an EpiPen). Fortunately, we were right next door to Target.
Now, I’m no endurance runner…unless I’m fueled with momma-mode adrenaline. I’m sure those Target employees thought I was crazy. I bolted through the front doors, straight to the medicine aisle, and back out to the checkout in a matter of a minute…two tops!
I jumped in the back seat of our car, tore through the packaging, and poured my son his first shot glass (just kidding!). He handed me back the empty dosing cup, and I breathed a sigh of relief, blissfully unaware of what was coming next. The red bumps started to lighten and fade, so we decided to drive home instead of to the hospital.
Five minutes down the road, my son starts projectile vomiting like I have never seen! Like, EXORCISM LEVEL PUKE. I had no idea so much could come out of a tiny body. He was still strapped into his rear facing car seat. Puke was everywhere and the entire car smelled horrendous!
After a bath and a thorough car clean, everything seemed to be settling down. His bumps had completely faded and he was acting like his normal silly self. At this point, we were anxiously awaiting his next appointment for help…the allergist.
We had only been in the exam room a short while before the doctor walked in and introduced himself. We, once again, retold the events that had taken place in the weeks leading up to this appointment. Once we had finished, the doctor explained what would happen next. First, a skin test. Then, a blood test. Finally, depending on the results, a prescription for an EpiPen.
The skin test came up positive right away. The spot where the peanut allergy drop had been placed swelled up in a massive hive within minutes. We were then sent down to the lab for the next test. Later, the blood work confirmed a positive severe peanut allergy as well as a sensitivity to dairy and eggs.
The allergist went on to educate us about cross contamination and any other basics a new patient would need to know. We were told to reduce the dairy and egg sensitivity intake, but not completely avoid them, as that can cause the sensitivity to become a true allergy.
As soon as I got home, I started to purge the house….much to my husband and daughter’s dismay. I wanted everything that posed any risk out of my house. They negotiated and came up with a compromise to store anything with a potential trigger above the refrigerator where my son could not reach but they could have access. I agreed to the compromise, but would later come to regret it.
It was Christmas 2016, just a few months after my son’s peanut allergy diagnosis. The compromise of storing any risky foods above the refrigerator was working well, so I was not completely opposed to sticking with the traditional cookie and candy list I make every year.
I was taking every precaution to keep anything risky away from my son. Every batch of peanut clusters and brittle was immediately stored out of reach as soon as they were done. All surfaces were disinfected. Each dish double washed. Things were going well, until suddenly they weren’t.
All it took was one minute with my back turned for him to snatch a cluster. I turned around to find him with a half eaten cluster in hand, smile on his face, and “MMMMMMMmmmmm” vibrating from his lips.
I screamed and my husband came crashing in the house from the garage. It was too late.
At the last checkup, the allergist said “Since we know he is severely allergic to peanuts, don’t wait. If you’re 100% certain he has consumed them, give him the EpiPen at the first sign of a reaction and get him to the hospital.” As soon as the first hives started to appear on his belly, the EpiPen was given and off to the hospital we went.
Upon arrival at the ER, the nurses and doctors saw no signs of a reaction. I informed them that he would eventually react, but the epinephrine had been working to subdue the symptoms. Sure enough, within a hour my poor boy was head to toe massive hives and miserable. Fortunately, this time there was no exorcism level puking or trouble breathing. I attribute this to the quick intervention of the EpiPen and already being in the ER when it wore off.
How Things Are Going
Almost 7 years later, my son’s first, and only, EpiPen experience is still Christmas 2016. He is a happy, rowdy boy living his best life! We are now a food allergy friendly household and I am passionate about advocacy and allergy awareness. I want to use all I learned during that first year to help others navigate this challenging diagnosis.
It’s my hope, that by teaching others about food allergies, as well as supporting the ones who’ve been diagnosed, the world will become a better, and safer place for my son in the years to come.
Stay tuned for more information on…
- Food allergies in school
- Products for food allergies
- Allergy friendly brands
- Teaching your family and friends about food allergies
- Cross Contamination
- Navigating birthday parties, holidays, and other social gatherings
- Traveling with food allergies
- And much, much more!
Check out the MMB Food Allergy Friendly Cookbook before you go!