Our Food Allergy Story: How We Found Out

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No one in my family or my husband’s family has any food allergies.  The standard recommendation for the big food allergens is wait until kids are 1 to try things like eggs, strawberries, cow’s milk, nuts etc.  So when I took O in to our pediatrician, who we like very much, for his 1 yr. appointment, I asked if it was safe to try peanut butter. (I am a peanut butter fanatic!)  The doctor said, “sure, go ahead.”   So a few days later at lunchtime I spread a little peanut butter on some toast and gave it to O on his high chair tray.  I tried to feed him a piece but he wasn’t interested.  He did touch it though and in typical baby fashion, soon he had touched his face and near his eyes while he ate the rest of his lunch.

Within less than five minutes I started noticing that he was rubbing his eyes pretty vigorously. And soon after that, little bumps started appearing on his face.  I took him over to the sink to wash his hands and while holding him up, I grabbed the phone.  It turned out the only way I could stop him from almost clawing at his eyes was to keep the water on and let him play with it. At this point I was completely freaking out, as I’m sure you can imagine.  But I had heard enough about food allergies to know that as long as there were no breathing problems, it was ok.  I frantically called our pediatrician, and let me tell you, nothing gets a pediatrician out of their office and on the phone faster than when  you call and say, I just gave my child peanut butter and they’re having a reaction to it!  He agreed, as long as there was no swelling of the lips or tongue or difficulty breathing, we didn’t need to call an ambulance or go to the ER.  The Pediatrician told me to do two things right away:

1: Put him in the bathtub. I had thought to wash his hands and face as best I could but the doctor pointed out that at that point he could have it all over his body and I needed to make sure the allergen was completely gone. So I put him in the tub and rinsed him repeatedly. The tub also was a great distraction to stop him from scratching his irritated face.

2: Give him Benadryl. (Now this is where I give new parent advice!) Generally allergy medicines like Benadryl are labeled not to be given to children under the age of 4 or 2.  So of course, we didn’t have any in the house.  But under a doctor’s orders and supervision (do not give your baby medicine without consulting a doctor first!!) it can be used in the event of an allergic reaction like this as long as a doctor monitors the dose. So my advice to new parents is: buy baby/child Benadryl just to have it in the house.  If you need it, you will be so glad it’s there.  In my case, I frantically called my husband at work, luckily he was at lunch, and he raced home after stopping at the pharmacy.

At this point, O’s eyes had started swelling and his face was red, bumpy and splotchy. It was truly terrifying. The Pediatrician called us back about every ten minutes for the first hour until we had given him the Benadryl and then after that, he started looking better pretty quickly.

The other important thing to know, is that an allergic reaction to food doesn’t always show up as itchy hives and swelling.  Here is an excellent graphic showing possible symptoms of a food allergy:

Signs of an allergic reaction from Anaphylaxis Canada (click to see larger)

After it was clear that he was getting better, I thoroughly cleaned the high chair, table and anywhere else peanut butter may have come in contact with, put all of our clothes through the wash, we talked one more time with the pediatrician, and I then called and made an appointment with their recommended allergist.  I’ll talk more about what happens at an allergist appointment, the testing, diagnoses, and how we deal with food allergies in our daily life another time.  But I will answer the question I get most often when people find out O has food allergies, “well, he’ll probably grow out of it, right?” I am sure this question is intended to make me feel better but unfortunately the answer is, no, he probably won’t.  Of the eight major allergens: eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, people are the least likely to grow out of of peanut, tree nut, and shellfish allergies.  Somewhere around 80% of people with those allergies do not.

Although it was very scary, I managed to remain calm and am glad that even though it looked terrible, this reaction was on the more mild side and didn’t involve anaphylaxis.  But here’s a little disclaimer, if you feel like your child is having an allergic reaction to food, DO NOT hesitate to call for help. Food allergies can be very dangerous and can escalate quickly. Also do not take my advice as medical advice, always talk to your doctor before giving your baby or child any medication.

Does anyone else deal with food allergies? How did you find out?

5 thoughts on “Our Food Allergy Story: How We Found Out

  1. Oh my gosh, what a horrible experience! I deal with food allergies myself. A “super fun” trio of Gluten, Corn (which is in everything) 🙂 and Dairy. All of my recipes I blog about are either completely allergen free OR I give allergen free options, because I get it! Thanks for your post, first time to your blog and looking forward to “digging in” more 🙂

  2. Holy hell, Cassie. I can’t imagine. Well, I can. We gave Quinn hummus, and had a similar situation, only not nearly as severe. And I was still completely panic ridden.

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