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By Andrea Thomas (bio below)
We stumbled upon our daughter, Brea’s, food allergies when I was nursing. I thought I saw a pattern that whenever I ate certain foods her little body flared up with eczema. It was a hunch that I had, so I began to eliminate various foods from my diet. I had a suspicion that she was allergic to peanut butter as she would get those red, itchy and inflamed patches on her arms and legs. Yet, I wasn’t 100% sure, because I had been eating a few other foods at the same time. I continued to eliminate foods during my elimination diet, one of which was peanuts. Since she never showed signs of swelling, nausea, diarrhea or a swollen throat, I didn’t think she had any life threatening or serious allergies.
One day, I was eating a granola bar with peanuts and gave her a small piece. I couldn’t resist those puppy dog eyes! I was thinking the worse that could happen was a little itchiness. Later that evening, I put her to bed and for some reason she had more trouble falling asleep than usual. I kept checking on her and couldn’t figure out what was bothering her. Then she started to scream for no apparent reason. I thought maybe it was a wet diaper or she was too hot. So I removed her pajamas and saw that her joints were swelling and hives were coming and going every few minutes. I gave her some Benadryl and we raced her to the ER. It had been about 6 hours since the initial exposure to the peanuts. Fortunately, the Benadryl had reduced the reaction. She received a steroid shot and prescriptions from the physician. It turns out she had a full fledged food allergy to peanuts. Of course, I felt HORRIBLE! I exposed her to peanuts not knowing the dangers and it pains me that I didn’t catch on faster. I’ve never dealt with allergies beyond hay fever before so this was all new to me.
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After this incident, we tried our best to keep peanuts away from her. We were at her grandparent’s house and everyone had just come back from an amusement park with bags of candy. I made sure everyone knew to keep any peanut items far from her presence. Better yet, not to eat any nut related candy around her at all. Yet, somehow she managed to get a hold of a peanut butter bar. I was fingertips away from her before she took a bite of it. I tried to get as much as I could out of her mouth. She was fighting me, as she really enjoyed eating it. Seconds later, she began to compulsively vomit. Different reaction, yet more intense. Long story short, she received the necessary medications and recovered quickly.
For those of us who have dealt with allergies, we are familiar with the patterns of allergy symptoms. Certain foods almost always produce the same reactions. However, there are some exceptions. There are times when an allergen’s symptoms vary each time there is exposure to it. These different reactions show that we can’t depend on a pattern. How can this be?
When exposure to a true food allergen occurs, the body produces antibodies to defend itself from the offending food. The next time the body is exposed to this food; it launches a swifter, sometimes more intense attack to protect itself. This, along with the amount of the exposure, can determine how the body will respond. Unfortunately, this tends to leave us wondering what will be the reaction(s) this time?
If you suspect you or your child has food allergies, it’s best to get a proper diagnosis from a physician to determine what to look for and best ways to respond. And even if a true food allergy cannot be determined, or if your child has a sensitivity instead, it’s still best to discuss the history of reactions with your physician. As you can see, you can start out with a milder reaction and it could escalate to something more severe the next time.
Having the proper medication on hand, understanding when to administer the medicine and knowing which symptoms to look for are imperative to one’s safety.
Looking back, those were some hard and scary moments that caused our family to review the plan of attack in an emergency. While I wish life threatening allergies were more forgiving as we continue to figure out what she is allergic to, our best defense is a solid, defensive allergy emergency action plan. I also provide allergy awareness to those who come in contact with us to help keep her safe. I truly believe allergy awareness & education is the key to reducing life threatening situations.
Bio: Andrea Thomas is the mother of a wonderful daughter who was diagnosed with eczema at 2 months of age. Her daughter’s eczema is triggered by various food intolerances. She documents the itchy skin chronicles of her life and of others through her ScratchMeNot blog. Andrea is the creator of the mom invented, baby inspired product called the ScratchMeNot, designed for babies and toddlers that scratch.