Living with a Nut Allergy in the Family
My Childs Nut Allergy
We first discovered my youngest son had a nut allergy when he was three years old. He had been given a packet of peanut butter mini sweets for Halloween. We were a family of healthy snackers so he hadn't really tasted chocolate but as a special treat he was allowed a couple of the minis after dinner. He tasted one of the chocolates and proceeded to tell us he didn't like them. We were both secretly pleased that he didn't appear to like chocolate. A natural healthy eater! Considering I have such a sweet tooth and have to make a real effort to keep away from the candy aisle in the supermarket, this made me happy.
Within half an hour our little boy was covered in an itchy rash, his nose was running and he was a bit wheezy. We didn't think anything of it as he had been suffering from a cold a few days previously and otherwise seemed fine.
My husband bathed him for bed and read him his night-time book. He seemed fine. I went into his room to kiss him goodnight with his big brother following me as he wanted to kiss him goodnight also. For once I was thankful that 'the big brother' turned on the main light as opposed to the dimmer light we normally used at night to create a peaceful, quiet atmosphere. Why? My little boy had hives all over and his lips were turning blue.
At first we couldn't think what he had come into contact with but telephoned the paediatrician for advice. The advice given was to leave him for half an hour but if he got worse to take him to hospital.
I don't think so! This was my three year old baby and I wasn't taking any chances. It suddenly came to us, chocolate! We thought perhaps as he hadn't had chocolate before he maybe allergic to it.
We gave him some Chlorpheniramine Maleate which we had in the house as my older son had suffered from chicken pox the previous month. This appeared to ease the symptoms a little but we still decided to take him to hospital.
Thankfully the hospital told us we had done the right thing by giving him the Chlorpheniramine Maleate and by taking him in to be checked over. The paediatrician gave him some more Chlorpheniramine Maleate and they kept an eye on him for a couple of hours.
Within 20 minutes of arriving at the hospital he was as right as rain and asking when he could go home.
Another appointment was made for us to have him tested for allergies and it turns out he is seriously allergic to all tree nuts and peanuts. Nuts of all kinds would have to be avoided at all costs for him and he would have to carry an epi-pen (adrenalin) with him at all times. Obviously he was too young to realise that his life had changed.
All photos were taken on my trusty Nikon D90
Nut Free Chocolate
Food shopping now took me three times as long as I had to read the list of ingredients every time. You would be surprised at how often recipes change to "may contain traces of nuts". This may be due to cross-contamination or perhaps the machinery was used to make products containing nuts previously. We tend to avoid anything with a nut warning on it. This may seem a bit extreme to some people, but quite obviously to us it was a product like that which exposed our little boy to nuts in the first place.
He still doesn't expect much chocolate, but every now and again he likes a little something, especially if he is having friends over.
Here are some ideas if your child has a nut allergy.
We quickly adapted to changing our diets to suit our little boy. As I loved cooking it wasn’t too much of a hardship to continue cooking fresh meals every day, but just avoid products with nut ingredients. Breakfast cereals were changed, flour for baking was checked for nuts (a lot of flour has may contain traces of nuts in the ingredients), and it is difficult to find a healthy snack for lunch boxes that doesn’t contain nuts.
We managed, and we were very open with our little boy as to what could happen to him if he wasn’t careful with what he ate. Whilst he was at Junior School it was relatively easy. The School Matron initially kept his epi-pens and all teachers were trained in how to administer them. The parents of his school friends were super, no peanut butter on sandwiches and no nuts for snacks. His little friends were amazing. If there was a birthday party they would all make sure the party entertainer knew that our little boy had a nut allergy. I usually had already told the party entertainer, but as these children were his peers I was happy for them to look out for him also.
It was when he reached Senior School he began to resent it slightly. He did ask “why did he have a nut allergy?”, it was difficult for him to understand but we always tried to be positive and remind him that having a nut allergy had limited impact on his life, and that there was a lot of boys and girls in the world whose allergies affected them a lot more than his affected him. We’re so lucky that he is such a caring child that the “why me?” period was so short lived. He gets on with life. He carries his epi-pens wherever he goes himself these days, he’s not shy when he has to asks waiting staff, etc., if his food is nut free, and he appears to understand that he will be limited when it comes to choosing a career. He can’t join the Armed Forces with a nut allergy, and life would be very difficult if he wanted to be a chef, for example.
Nut Free Medical Alert
Whilst he was at parties or away at school camp I would make him wear a wrist band stating that he was allergic to nuts. As they came in a variety of colors he was quite happy to wear them.
Older Children Don't Always want a Bracelet
As my son grew older he wasn't as keen on the medical emergency bracelets/bands. He felt they weren't "cool". We searched the internet, spoke to the Anaphylaxis Society and they suggested medical dog tags for him.
We were able to get one personalised for him with our home telephone number engraved on it along with his name and the fact that he was allergic to all nuts.
He wears it under his school clothes at all times, and it is as natural for him to wear it as it is for him to brush his teeth!
As I've mentioned before, as my son has to take his epi-pen everywhere with him he needed somewhere to store it. Below is a selection of epi-pen holders that may suit you or your child.
The epi-pen holder is easily put into his pocket or slipped through his belt hoop.
A helpful piece of advice!
A good idea when you have a child with a nut allergy is to ensure that all members of your family have carried out a basic first aid course. At the very least they can start to administer CPR to someone in anaphylaxis shock whilst awaiting the arrival of paramedics.
Any advice of how you coped I'm sure would be appreciated by all the readers of this lens.