This a general call for advice and sage thoughts from anyone who has/ lives with someone who has a peanut allergy. My questions will be below, but first let me share with you our fun Saturday.
Being 11 months old age adjusted, the Beats are still in the middle of exploring new foods. To date, we have been surprisingly lucky with how this process has gone. Not only have both Beats been willing to try everything that is put in front of them (something I really credit their daycare for as the kids eat all there meals at a common table in community dinner fashion), but we've also been lucky that they've had zero allergic reactions. Reading stories in the blogosphere about kids being intolerant of diary, eggs, wheat and various types of fruits and vegetables as well as hearing stories about Lucas's kids (they believe his youngest has a corn allergy, which is a nightmare as corn syrup is in so many foods and meant resulted in the whole family having to modify their diet to prevent reactions), I've been cautious with what is introduced and how. Somehow we've been lucky. And with luck comes complacency.
So on Saturday, after doing some reading about when it is appropriate to introduce peanut better, Grey and I decided it was time to introduce the Beats to a childhood staple of ours: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. At this point, the Beats had been eating soynut butter at school and both really enjoyed the jam we had been feeding them. In addition, though we had heard stories, neither of us knew anyone who had a peanut allergy. So though I knew that I needed to watch the babies, I didn't know what signs or symptoms to be on the lookout for.
He-Beat had zero issues. He happily eat his bites of sandwich, washing it down with the milk in his sippy cup. She-Beat was another story. After a few bites, she started to fussy, rubbing her face and eyes which blowing raspberries, a sign that she was irritated or not feeling well. After a couple of minutes, I noticed her left eye was turning red. I removed her from her high chair and took her upstairs to have Grey take a look at her. Initially he didn't think much of it, and then he noticed the rash on her neck. And a minute later that the whole left side of her face was swelling.
I've made calls to after hours nurse in the past. Usually for high fevers and babies who have suspected ear infections. Most times, the person answering the call will take your information and triage you, calling you back when the next nurse is available. This time, the mere mention of a peanut allergy immediately brought a nurse to the phone. And when they learned we did not have any infant Benadryl in the house, despite the fact that She-Beat was able to breathe without problem, they immediately put us through to 911, which resulted in 3 firemen and 2 paramedics in my condo in less than 5 minutes. And with that, She-Beat got her first ride in an ambulance to the local children's hospital.
I won't bore you with the details of the 2 hours that followed, only to say that He-Beat was a total awesome brother, being so patient in the ER when it was clear the poor kid was beyond bored. But we did learn a few things. First, She-Beat luckily only had an allergic reaction, which was readily controlled and reversed thanks to Benadryl (which we now stock). If she had anaphylaxis, which would have resulted in her throat swelling, potentially inhibiting her ability to breathe, as well as potential heart failure, nausea and a severe rash, they were prepared to inject her with steroids. Because she didn't display any of these symptoms and because she responded so well to the Benadryl, they sent us home after a couple of hours of observation without an EpiPen. That said, they did warn us about what to watch for and told us we need to follow up with her pediatrician this week for further preventative care.
As of yesterday, we are now a peanut-free household. Grey had been stocking peanut butter for our food stores, but returned most of it yesterday. In addition, we are now scrutinizing food labels, inspecting everything that is packaged for any trace of peanut products.
The question is, though, how careful do we need to be? To our knowledge, this is She-Beat's first exposure, but we know that peanut products are in other foods. In addition, we've had peanut butter in the house since she was born, with me consuming it without thinking during my pregnancy. Do we need to treat any peanut product like biohazardous material for the time being or is it just a matter of not allowing her to come into contact with it? The final thing is we've been told that it is likely she will outgrow this. When (if ever) do we try again? One year; 5 years, after I'm dead?
On the way home, Grey and I talked and talked (and talked) about all of this. And we've been reading. All of this is new to us and we're learning as we go. But we also talked about the fact that the doctors in the ER actually made a point to talk with us about the fact that how we had been introducing new foods was completely correct and they encouraged us to continue as the likelihood of food allergies is LESS in kids that have allergic foods introduced as younger ages. So as scary as all of this was, they wanted us to continue with these introductions. Looking at She-Beat in her hospital gown, which clearly showed how far her rash had spread, I wasn't (and still remain) not so sure. Hence my final question: for those with kids who have food allergies, what have you been told?
In the meantime, Grey wants to introduce shrimp in a few months (they've already had fish and did fine). My head hurts just thinking about it.
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