Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My Baby Has A Severe Peanut Allergy

I never thought I'd be an allergy mom - especially not a peanut allergy mom. In fact, I remember reading a magazine article while taking a bubble bath, pregnant with Taylor, about a mom who had a teenage girl that DIED while eating a bite of cake at a birthday party because she has a severe peanut allergy. I remember being shocked that that could happen, and crying there in the tub for this girl and her poor mama. But never in a million years did I think I could be on the same side of the table of this family - dealing with a daughter who has potentially life-threatening peanut allergies too.

I am very much a type A personality especially when it comes to parenting my babies. I'm scheduled, a rule follower, and try to do everything by the books. So I followed the current guidelines about introducing peanut butter to my baby girl early on, in hopes of escaping a peanut allergy. When Taylor was around 8 month sold, I started giving her peanut butter spread on a whole wheat tortilla with her breakfast couple of times a week. She loved it! And like any new food introduction, I always only brought in one new food at a time and watched closely for reactions.

It wasn't until a good month or two after eating peanut butter consistently every couple of days that Taylor had her first allergic reaction to the food. It was an afternoon I would never forget. She woke up from her nap, and I put her into her highchair so I could feed her a quick lunch before we headed to school to pick up her big brother. I fed her four things for lunch that day (all some of her current favs): hard boiled eggs, cheese cubes, strawberries, and peanut butter on a whole wheat tortilla. We were pressed for time and she seemed to be eating a little slower than normal, so quickly wiped her down and loaded her into the backseat of the car to drive to her big brothers school. As I was strapping her into her car seat I noticed a few white bumps on her arms that seemed to look like bug bites to me, but didn't think too much of it, thinking maybe she got bit by something on our morning stroller run together.

Her brothers school is about a 12 minute drive from our house. When I pulled into the dirt lot by his school where we park and get out to walk up to get him, I was floored when I saw her in the back seat. Her face was so red and puffy, to the point that her eyes were almost swelled shut, the white bumps were now covering her arms and legs and had a red splotches all around them too.

I have experienced an allergic reaction to food myself so I immediately thought that might be what was happening to my sweet girl, and I was doing my best to remain calm. As I walked up to the school I saw a fellow mom (that I had never spoken to before) and asked if she was a nurse, because I noticed she was dressed in scrubs, and if she could look at my daughter and tell me is she thought it was an allergic reaction. She had no hesitation in telling me immediately that it looked like it and instructed me to drive right away to the drug store nearby and give her benadryl right away. I don't really remember picking up my son, driving to the store, or calling my husband (who later told me he couldn't believe how calm I was in such a situation - I couldn't either, I was basically freaking out inside!)

I remember running into the drug store that afternoon with the baby in my arms, clutching the hand of my oldest child, and shouting to the pharmacist on duty to please look up the correct dosage of benadryl for my 20 pound daughter because she was having an allergic reaction. I administered the meds right there and within a few minutes her color started to return to normal and her swelling reduced. Thank Goodness.

I spoke to her pediatrician and he said I did the exact right thing and the next step was to figure out which of those four foods she ate right before her reaction caused it. I immediately eliminated all of the foods in question, and added one back in every third day, monitoring her very closely. The first three days we tried strawberries and she was fine. Then we tried cheese for the next few days and had no reactions. The third thing we tried was eggs and still, she tolerated them just fine. The last thing we added back in was peanut butter. On the tenth day, I spread a little peanut butter on a tortilla and cut it into tiny bites like I had done so many mornings prior. Within 20 seconds of her first BITE, her ears started itching immensely, then turned bright red and swelled. She again started getting the white pin point dots on her skin, and red raised hives started forming. I immediately administered her dosage of benadryl again and within an hour or so her color started to go back to normal.

Her doctor referred me to an allergist at the our local children's hospital to get further confirmation that our sweet baby did indeed have a peanut allergy. While there, we showed the allergy doctor the pictures of her most recent reaction at home (I was so freaked out during her first reaction and all I could think about was SAVING her, that I took no pictures). We discussed her previous reactions and then did the skin test. During the test, her back was slightly scratched with a tiny bit of the allergen and an antihistamine control. After these were applied to her back, we waited an agonizing 20 minutes, watching the wheals form and red raised spots appear, indicating that she did, indeed, have the peanut allergy.

While there I was told, that the only real food allergy test that they can preform on a small baby, such as ours is the skin test, and the most accurate measure is what we preformed on our own at home, with the exposure and reactions to peanuts. That, coupled with the pictures that the doctor saw of her reaction, was enough for her to diagnose our baby with a severe peanut allergy. She did say that our case was a rare one, and that most people who have a peanut allergy show signs of a reaction on their first ingestion. Our baby had has peanut butter at least 20 times before having her first allergic reaction.

We were given instructions to have a strict avoidance of all nuts, an anaphylaxis action plan should another attack occur, and instructions to carry a set of Auvi-Q pens (a different and new type of Epi Pen) with her at all times and be prepared to use them if necessary. Our heads immediately started spinning - this was out new norm.

What now? We are obviously taking the utmost care to not give her any nuts of any kinds and reading all labels to avoid even bringing anything into our home that was processed in the same facility as nuts. This is huge, as so many product have hidden nuts or traces of nuts in them! We want to make sure our home is as safe as can be for our little girl and are going through great lengths to make it that way. If our home is strictly nut-free it will give us some sense of relief.

We will learn to be okay with asking the serves at restaurants a million and one questions about how food is prepared, and if in doubt, our daughter's safety is at stake. We will need to ask that no one brings any food in to our house without our knowledge or approval - they may think that  the baby won't get into that bag of trail mix in their purse, but little kids have a way of getting into everything. We will need to be comfortable asking the questions about what the ingredients are in foods at BBQs. parties, and holidays, and plan ahead, usually bringing our own food or snack just in case. We will have to be those parents that are constantly wiping down swings, highchairs, and especially table tops and little hands, multiple times, just in case someone beforehand ate peanuts there. We will have to not care if people think we are being over-protective or irrational - we are just trying to make sure our daughter stays SAFE.

This is all new to me, but writing about it helps a lot, so I promise to share more about how we are handling our daughter's peanut allergy as the months and years roll on. Thank you all so much for your kind encouraging thoughts.

This is our personal story about how our daughter was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. I am not a medical professional, and am in no way trying to give out medical advice. I would suggest seeking professional medical consultation if you suspect your child could have a peanut allergy.

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