NEW JERSEY, USA: Goodbye Mr. Peanut

NEW JERSEY, USA: Goodbye Mr. Peanut

2713385639_2a3fbd9c2bLast summer I was enjoying some peanut butter with my two year old son. It was the first time he really ate a decent amount and I was excited because he was such a picky eater and this would be a new food for him to enjoy. I had tested out giving him peanut butter three other times and he seemed to tolerate it fine. Each time he only had about a teaspoon and I closely watched him afterwards to see if there was a reaction.

However, this time, after about 20 minutes, I started to notice his lips swell and he got a blotchy rash on his cheeks and chin.

I immediately gave him Benadryl and then I Googled “peanut butter allergy.” All of the websites I came across listed lip swelling as one of the potentially life-threatening allergic reactions and a symptom of anaphylactic shock. I immediately called the doctor’s hotline since it was the weekend. I spoke to the doctor on call and he said as long as I gave him Benadryl and his breathing was fine that he should be okay. I still wonder if that was the right advice but we were fortunate that the Benadryl immediately alleviated his symptoms.

The next day I called to make an appointment to get him tested at the allergist. I was nervous but optimistic that maybe it was something else and not the peanut butter. After all, I gave it to him several times before and he seemed fine. Perhaps this was a fluke reaction to something else he may have picked up off the floor. I thought about the possibility of being “one of those peanut moms,” and held onto the optimism that my son would not have a peanut allergy. Looking back, I think of my ignorance as well as denial and wonder why I was so closed minded on the topic.

Sure enough, after my brave little guy got pricked in the back multiple times – I heard the dreaded diagnosis: “Your son is allergic to peanuts and tested at the highest end of the range, level 4.” My heart sank and I started to ask all of the usual questions:  “What do I now? How does an Epi-pen work? Is he allergic to anything else and most importantly, will he ever grow out of it?”

No PeanutsThe first answer was an overview on how to avoid peanuts by eliminating the food, reading labels, asking questions at restaurants and the importance of making sure that everyone who cares for your child knows about their allergy and what measures to take if they ingest peanuts or have a reaction. Then the doctor showed me how to use an Epi-Pen and explained that the box would come with a tester that I could practice with on an orange. As for other allergies, my son did not test positive for any other food groups or animals – just a mild allergy to dust and mold. Lastly, the doctor said that there was a 20% chance he could grow out of it, but not that likely.

I left the office with a feeling of dread and to be honest, at that moment I felt pretty depressed. When I told my husband and my family, their first response was “Oh, he’ll grow out of it.” As if the allergy was not real or that it would disappear as time went on. I know they did not mean it that way, they were trying to alleviate my concern, but it almost felt like someone was telling me his new diagnosis was not real. I started to think of what a severe allergy meant and how it would affect treats, birthday parties, holidays, eating out and the fact that my child would be one of those kids in the lunchroom at the “peanut free table.”

I decided to post a comment on Facebook asking for tips and ideas from anyone else who had a child with a peanut allergy. I couldn’t believe how many of my friend’s children had it and I never knew. They gave me so many awesome tips, links to allergy websites, as well as lists of which cookies and snacks were safe. I immediately felt so much better and knew that if they could deal with it with such confidence, I would be able to as well. Time and time again, the best support in life comes from other mothers!

Since the diagnosis, I have dealt with the usual frustrations that “allergy parents” have. Constantly reminding family members to check labels before feeding your child when in their care, following your child around at birthday parties making sure they don’t eat anything off of a table, bringing your own snacks or treats to events and restaurants, having panic attacks when you go for a quick ride or a day out and realize the Epi-pen is in your other bag at home and lastly – explaining over and over again that peanut allergies are real and my child can die if they have peanuts!

At times, you feel like the crazy person, the exaggerator, the neurotic one. The bottom line is that my child is my number one priority and so is their life. I really don’t care what anyone thinks!

As mothers, we all have something to worry about. I have met many other moms with children who have allergies, and they have it much worse than my son. There are many children who can’t eat wheat, milk and eggs – common ingredients in many of the basic foods out there. I find that much harder to manage than a simple peanut. I actually consider us very lucky that he is only allergic to one thing. Dealing with allergies can be stressful but is also manageable, at least for right now. I am nervous for the future and most days I try not to let it preoccupy our lives. I wonder if my one year old daughter will have it too. I cross my fingers and hang on to the hope that he will fall into the 20% of children that outgrow it. But at the end of the day, my child is happy and healthy and that is most important in life. What more can we ask for?

Do any of your children have allergies? What are the biggest challenges you have encountered with managing an allergy?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Wall Street Mama of New Jersey, USA.

Mr. Peanut photo credit to Tomas Fano.  No peanuts allergy alert pendant photo credit to BeInspiredDesigns.  Both photos have a creative commons attribute license.

Wall Street Mama (USA)

Wall Street Mama was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and moved to NJ when she was a teenager. She fell in love with New York City and set her mind to one thing after college – working on Wall Street. She has spent the last 16 years working on the trading floor at three major banks. As an Institutional Salesperson, she is responsible for helping large corporations and money funds invest their short term cash in the fixed income part of the market. She lives in the suburbs of central NJ with her husband of 11 years, their amazing 21 month old boy and their first baby – a very spoiled Maltese. She has baby #2 on the way and is expecting a little girl in June 2012. She is a full time working mother and struggles with “having it all” while wondering if that is even possible. Wall Street Mama was married at the age of 25 but waited to have children because she felt she was too focused on her career which required a lot of traveling and entertaining. When she was finally ready, she thought she could plan the exact month she was ready to have a child, like everything else she planned in her life. She was shocked and frustrated when things did not go according to her plan. Fast forward four years later, after a miscarriage and several rounds of failed fertility injections, her little miracle was conceived naturally. She never thought in a million years, that she and her husband would be in their late 30’s by the time they had their first child. Since the financial crisis of 2008, she has endured some of the most difficult years of her life. The stress of trying to conceive was combined with some of life’s biggest challenges. She and her husband, who is a trader, both lost their jobs on Wall Street the exact same month. Her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she ended up passing away while she was 6 months pregnant. At times it didn’t seem like things would ever get better, but she has learned that life is cyclical and what comes down must again go up. Leaving her baby boy with a wonderful nanny each day is difficult, but at times it is easier than she would have expected. She still enjoys the seemingly addictive draw of working on Wall Street. The past few years have been dramatically different from the “good days” but she is focused on trying to achieve what she once had before. She is currently working on launching her own blog, Wall Street Mama, in an attempt to guide others who are focused on continuing their career, yet struggle with leaving their little ones at home. She is weathering the ups and downs of the market and motherhood, one day at a time.

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