Monday, February 4, 2008

Peanuts = Death Nuts

Ok -

In my life, I fondly call peanuts (prior to the birth of my first daughter, it was my most favorite food) - death nuts. My daughter is horribly horribly allergic to peanuts. It took us awhile to figure it out. Her first reaction was when she was 8 months old and she broke out in hives all over her body. I really think that she had crawled in some oils or something.

Her second reaction occured when she was about 15 months old and a child had eaten a peanut butter sandwich in her day care classroom, the teachers cleaned the table and then she ate her lunch. She started having trouble breathing (wheezing) and the school called me. I went to go get her and they were standing outside of the school waiting and asking me if we should call an ambulance. I was thinking she was just wheezy and I said no. When I got her in the car I realized she was starting to turn blue and I pulled into the doctor's office which is right across the street. The hospital was another 4 miles away. I carried my blue, non-breathing child into the doctor's office and started yelling. It was lunch time, but our doctor was there and she grabbed Prissy, ripped her clothes off, and seeing her welts, the doctor very smartly decided to give her epinephrine.

The doctor suggested we get an allergy test - and the second they did the peanut skin prick, Prissy's arm started swelling up. We gave her benedryl and decided that yes, she has a pretty bad peanut allergy and I took her away with my prescription for an epipen. As I was driving - Prissy started having a hard time breathing again, and I turned around and took her right back where she got another shot of epinephrine. Ok, we decided this girl is REALLY allergic to peanuts. The doctor questioned if the skin test could have caused her to have an anaphalactic reaction. It turns out that yes, yes it can.

I used to scoff at the mothers who were hyper-vigilant. Worrying about cross contamination. Worrying about products that happened to be made in the same factory as those with peanuts. These people are CRA-ZA-ZEE. This was my opinion, until the big bad reaction.

Prissy was 3 years old, and a child was simply eating a peanut butter cup in her classroom and she had a reacation (I really think she must have gotten some of the oils on her body or something) - she started coughing and wheezing and swelling up. The preschool called me and said that Prissy was having a peanut reaction and then the phone line had an emergency break through from the paramedics and the line went dead. Totally and completely dead. I was in my cubicle screaming into the phone - I didn't know if Prissy was alive. Thankfully the preschool was less than a block from work. I started running for my car... I was wearing high heels and it felt like a dream - I just couldn't run fast enough. I heard the sirens. They were coming for my baby. I didn't know if she was dead. And I couldn't run because fucking shoes were too high.

I got to my car, I started driving to the school and because of the fire trucks and ambulance excitement - traffic had backed up. I panicked and got out of my car (still running leaving the driver's side door open) and started running for the school. A fireman, or EMT or someone saw this crazy ass woman running down a busy street with heels on - he figured it must be the "mother". He came up to me and told me that Prissy was with the EMTs and to go and get in my car and move it some place safe. I think he was what I needed. I went back to my car and drove it to the preschool and went in. Prissy was screaming hellfire - they had given her an epipen and she was PISSED OFF!!! All these big scary men, poking her, hurting her after not being able to breathe - she was completely freaked out. And what a fucking relief. I didn't care if she was pissed - I was SO HAPPY SHE WAS BREATHING. We had to go to the ER and they gave her some powerful drugs.

Another mom was there during the whole episode, and she said it was terrifying. She didn't realize how bad a reaction to peanuts could be. She told me a month or two ago she still has nightmares about it (it was easily 6 years ago). Yeah, her and me both.

After that, the reactions have been smaller -but, I have realized that yes, even the remotest trace of peanut protein can give her a reaction (she did have a reaction to a cracker made in a factory that processes nuts.)

Since we have been hyper-vigilant she hasn't had any reactions. She's not freaked out by her allergy (most of the time.) She does remember a few of her reactions and they are not pleasant, so she does what she can to avoid a reaction.

Recently, Subway is being sued by a family whose daughter died as a result of cross-contamination with a peanut butter cookie. We eat at Subway once or twice a week. I don't think we'll stop eating there, but I always watch carefully while they are making the sandwiches and I always have her epipen with me.

For the most part, the children in her school have been so cool about her allergy (they have also known her since preschool and I went in every year until she was in 4th grade and read the kids a story about peanut allergies and what they could do to help.) Children are really very sweet when it comes to their friends - parents however can be a little crueler. I have had parents that wouldn't let their kids hand's be sanitized after lunch before the kids were going to make food (just a little sanitizer destroys the peanut protein). Another parent sat down at our table once and when I said it was a peanut free table (they had a PB&J) they told us they weren't moving - but we could. These are the parents.

Anyway, this post is getting long. But, my point is that peanut allergies are real. I don't know how to get this into someone's head until they see a child turning blue and swelling up. Peanuts can cause allergic children to DIE... Realize that in many cases - it isn't parents being melodramatic - we've had close calls and it's the absolutely most terrifying thing a parent can see.

Please understand this - peanut allergic children are just children - they don't deserve to be hated on - nor do their parents who are trying to keep their kids alive. Just a little bit of consideration can save a child's life.

Anyway, for any peanut allergic parents out there - feel free to drop me a line. I've managed to keep my PA child alive for 9 years now. :)


Loralee Choate said...

I have very deep empathy for being that frightened about the well being of your child. I am so glad that she was ok and that you haven't had any other incidents.

I admit, I didn't realize just HOW scary a nut allergy can be. In fact, I got all pissy on someones blog about a district outlawing peanut butter in the schools.


I get it more now.

In fact, I think I'll link to this tomorrow, if you don't mind.

Thumper said...

I followed a link from Loralee's blog over, it's one thing to read blurbs in the paper, its a whole other thing to have the images burned in your head while you read. I could see your panic and feel it...

I embrace the notion of peanut free schools--not just one room, but the school. Several years ago a kid died in a local classroom simply because someone opened a jar of peanut butter in the room. That's all it open jar.

Parents can get as upset as they want over peanut free schools...with nut allergies skyrocketing, it's just not worth the risk anymore.

Debbie said...

I followed Loralee's link as well. I used to nanny for little girls with anaphylactic level allergies to milk, peanuts, and eggs. I can relate. I never saw them react - I was so careful because I was so scared. It's frustrating when people don't get it... but I think if everyone could read what you have written you would understand. Good post!

Debbie said...

*oops I meant THEY would understand. :)

Hecticmom Undone said...

Thanks for the comments! I don't necessarily think a school needs to be peanut free (although - yay for the schools that are.) But, I think that some considerations need to be made - like having a peanut free table, having kids sanitize their hands after eating (this practice at our school all but stopped many food reactions - it also significantly lowered the spread of colds - go figure!) Allowing teachers (or the students when they are old enough) to carry epipens - this is really my biggest thing. This is not a weapon - let the teachers carry the pens!

Thanks again!

Jen said...

Very informative post. I too came here from Loralee's blog. I am a teacher and I had a student who was allergic to, well almost everything it seemed like! Honestly at the beginning of the year I thought his mother was just a little over protective but as the year went on I realized just how serious it was. I was trained how to use the epipen and thankfully I never had to use it!! This little boy knew his body very well and would let me know when he was getting some sort of reaction, where he would then go to the nurse for some benedryl. So it's good your daughter is aware of her allergy and is able to monitor it. Thanks again for writing this post. It allows me, as a teacher, to know just how serious allergies can be!!

Suzanne said...

I do not understand how other parents can be so... evil. Flat out, to act like those parents did is to be evil.

I had severe asthma as a child, so I have empathy for Prissy's experiences. Not being able to breathe is one of the worst feelings in the world. These super allergies are just very, very scary, and on the rise. It makes me question so much about the environment that we live in. Our best hope is for more understanding from our fellow humans when it comes to the parts of the environment we can control.

Alex Elliot said...

I can't imagine how terrifying that must have been for you and your daughter. I think that a lot of people don't realize the peanut butter is very oily. If you've ever bought organic peanut butter (well you wouldn't now!), the oil sits at the top of the jar. Just like any other kind of oil, it's hard to dissolve and spreads really easily. My kids don't have any allergies, but we've been in a playgroup for about 4 years now where there have been multiple kids with food allergies. I make my kids wash their hands after every meal. It's good practice anyways! As for the peanut free tables/schools, why take the chance on something that is so serious. My son's preschool is peanut free and he thinks eating a bagel cream cheese for lunch is just the best treat every when he stays for lunch once a week! I found you through Suzanne's blog. Your comment on "your retarded" cracked me up!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your entry. My daughter is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and I've just had an awful run in with three other moms of kids in her class. The three moms planning the Valentines party have informed me that they have decided any treats parents send will be passed out (including nut candies) and if I don't like it maybe I should take my daughter home. I was also warned that as her teacher has been having health problems I should just accept their judgement and no matter what not contact the school. Ummm...NO!!! She has a health plan in place at the school which specifies the school will not allow nuts in the classroom. I felt backed into a corner and called the school nurse for advice. She contacted the principal and teacher. The teacher was reprimanded for not taking care of making sure her room is secure. I've apologized to the teacher (who assured me she would have taken care of the problem had she known and I know she would have), but feel awful and trapped. How can these mothers (led by one nasty Queen Bee Mom) be so insensitive? What's the big deal with leaving the peanut butter cups at home and bringing lollipops or pretty pencils for a treat? Oh, I've also been told I'm overprotective, and she should take care of her life threatening allergies herself. Did I mention she's six years old?

I'm trying to get over it and just accept the fact that some people are going to be offended when I check labels, but it hurts to be treated like such a pariah.

Hecticmom Undone said...

Oh Anonymous! I so feel your pain. And the funniest thing - the kids want so much to help the peanut kids - it's just the parents.

Our school isn't peanut free, but they take very good care of Prissy.

I have been allowed to speak at the teachers meetings about peanut allergies. I'm lucky because one of the teachers has witnessed one of Prissy's reactions when she was in preschool - so I'm grateful that she is my "teacher" advocate.

I have also taught countless parents, teachers and administrative staff how to use an epipen. I carry a trainer pen in my purse at all times - never know when the need for education will arise. :)

Big hugs -

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the support. There are a lot of mommies and kids who are so supportive and I need to remember that. Of all things this same room mom was already angry at me because her child was caught sneaking peanut butter sandwiches to the nut-free cafeteria table several times. I of course am the focus of her angel getting in trouble.

The mommy of another kiddo who is allergic to nuts and I have decided to ask our girls be put in the same class next year. I'm hoping the school gives the moms who don't want to be in the nut restricted classroom an out next year. I hate to create an us against them feeling, but it may be the best way. WHY is it that mommies get into such attitudes. It seems like it's always us against them with working vs. SAHM moms, breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding, circumcising vs. not circumcising. I think it's a way to deal with our own uncomfortableness about making a decision one way or the other. Mommies need to sign a pact to leave their attitudes at the door.

I'm going to follow your lead. Next year I want a meeting to discuss all the little difficulties that have come up this year and try to ward off future problems i.e. after said kiddo snuck nuts to the nut free table someone decided to ostracize the two kiddos their and 'protect' them by not allowing them to have friends without nuts in their lunches at the table. THAT took THREE WEEKS to clear up. Now they can have friends who don't have nuts eat with them.

How old is Prissy?


Anonymous said...


After the teacher told the first grade room mothers no nut candies were allowed to be passed out, the head queen bee room mom tried to get her 4 yr old young son, who was tagging along with her to quietly pass out BUTTERFINGERS!!!!!!!!! I placed a hand on his shoulder and asked him to walk with me to the teacher. She explained peanut butter candies couldn't be passed out which his $%#&$* mother had been told. He ran to his mom and started crying. I turned to apologize to him and thank him for cooperating and she SHRIEKED AT ME IN THE CLASSROOM that I should have come to her and not touched her son (three fingers on his shoulder). I stood up three inches from her face and said "I'm coming to you right now. Let's talk" The teacher (on pins and needles) asked us to 'talk' outside. Outside the classroom she started shrieking at which point I walked straight to the school nurse who shot out the door with the principal and vice-principal in tow. I stayed in the office 5 minutes to calm down. When I went back, the principal assured me everyone was safe and invited me back to her office to talk. The principal, vice, and nurse all listened while I explained what had been going on this year. They expressed disbelief that anyone could endanger a child with a food allergy like that (ON PURPOSE!!!!!) and assured me that my request to be seperated from this mother in future classrooms would be honored. They also apologized for the incident. (not their fault) I praised their response and the teacher's and thanked them. STILL SHAKING!! and my heart is beating a mile a minute. I ran into her kindergarten teacher on the way out and mentioned the incident -though not as much detail. She was incredulous at this STUPID,MORONIC, IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I need a drink.


Hecticmom Undone said...

OMG... Honestly... I totally understand your day (don't holidays really suck?) I'm so sorry - and it just absolutely amazes me that parents (PARENTS) can be so callous. I really really really don't think "they" get it. You should print out this blog entry and slip it into her child's backpack. Maybe, just maybe, we can educate one person at a time. This is a life and death allergy. Children can die...