All I Think About

The FDA estimates that each year in the U.S., food allergy reactions result in 30,000 trips to the emergency room, 2,000 hospitalizations, and 150 deaths.

Half of those emergency room trips are from reactions to peanuts. 100 of those deaths are peanut-related, too.

The toddler is allergic to peanuts, and all nuts. We were one of those 15,000 peanut-induced trips to the emergency room this year.

Now while he naps, I research nut-free foods that will keep the kiddo out of the hospital. I email and call food manufacturers to see if their plants process nuts. I read every label, even foods we’ve purchased before (recipes change). It took me 20 minutes to find a safe soy sauce (Asian food is the worst). A package of safe chocolate chips costs $5 (Seriously. Very little chocolate is made safely). I carry individual anti-bacterial wipes to scour high chairs, grocery carts in order to kill residual nut protein (And I HATE those wipes). I pack safe snack food when we fly to offer any passenger next to us who might bust out nutty snacks (I swear people mostly fly with Snickers and peanut butter granola bars).

Are you tired yet?

I’m still learning how to talk about his allergy in a way that makes others hear and understand. People already think I’m quirky, so my ego isn’t bruised by being further labeled such. But there’s a danger when people just think I’m being a little out-there.

As if I’m saying, “My son’s psychic told us his chi is blocked by his excessive internal dampness. So we prefer not to give him nuts, in order to help his energy dry out.”

What I’m really saying is, “Thanks for serving me these snacks in your lovely home. I need to look at the tortilla chip bag because if there is peanut oil in the ingredients, you need to put the chips away or we have to leave.”

We were invited to a brunch by one of the scientists at the Swedelock’s new job. We let them know ahead of time about the nuts, and they totally got it, even offering to tell their other guests to make sure to wash hands before coming over. Hooray for our demographic.

There was a huge, beautiful array of safe, fresh foods — and some packed in our bag, just in case. They also got fried chicken from the best joint in town. But hole-in-the-wall authentic fried chicken joints can’t always tell you what’s in their oil, and may have just fried up something nutty in that same fryer. If the kid can’t eat it, we won’t eat it. One, because he may want some of what we’re having. Two, because my girlfriend with nut-allergic twin boys kissed her son’s forehead after having some hazelnut coffee (there couldn’t possibly be real nuts in that Folger’s, right?). Her kid swelled up and threw up. No trip to the ER that time, though.

At brunch, we politely passed on the chicken.

The dietary limitations are actually okay for our family. Because I’m freakin Suzie Homemaker, and I’m learning to bake my own damn bread. And our existing friends and family won’t mind when we label-check, even though they might be heart-broken when we can’t eat their freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. Plus, I think this makes us stronger advocates for our child earlier than we might be otherwise. It’s good practice for us before his world widens.

Oh crap. Some day he’ll go to school.

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6 Responses to All I Think About

  1. Kitty says:

    Alana, my heart aches for you. As if it’s not scary enough being a parent. Good thing you are up to the challenge!! You are one tough lady. I hope you have enough more-experienced moms in the same boat to learn from and draw support from.

    • alanajoyski says:

      You’re the best! I’m just super sad you can’t come bake bread with me. Hopefully we’ll get a bread maker for Christmas. Take some of the learning curve away.

      We do fine most days. And support from loved ones gets us (okay-me) thru the more frustrating moments. Mwah!

  2. Kitty says:

    Me too!

    I’ve never used a bread machine so can’t say if it’s awesome or not, but if you have a Dutch oven you’ve gotta try “Almost No-Knead Bread.” It couldn’t be easier. It’s all over the web, e.g. http://www.wikihow.com/Bake-Almost-No-Knead-Bread.

  3. Jarrett says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about this, Alana. I had no idea. It is infuriating to see the ways people minimize or even disrespect the needs of a child with severe allergies. And for some reason, in my observations and from hearing stories, this happens a lot particularly with peanut allergies. The ignorant and small act like the kid and parents are being “hypersensitive” or dramatic and are so small and resent being asked to be thoughtful about another kid’s needs. The uninformed are just baffled and don’t know how to help. My theory is that because for so long PB&J was considered synonymous with childhood, many people have a knee-jerk reaction. Like Declan is allergic to childhood. Or apple pie. Or American flags.

    I feel for you guys. You can rest assured that in our house, we will always be peanut (and peanut trace) free when Declan is around. Have you found a good allergist? At a children’s hospital? Elizabeth might be able to find you a reference if you need one. The children’s hospital where she works has a strong allergy program.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Liz says:

    Don’t worry about the school thing too much. Most schools seem to be peanut-free zones now, since there are so many kids in the same situation.

    Does he have an epi pen? And I assume you keep lots of liquid Benadryl around?

    • alanajoyski says:

      Yes, we’re epi-penned, and benadryled to the max.

      For me, the anticipation of school is only half true. It’s more girding my loins for the constant educating I’ll have to do -even if his class/school is nut-free. Education, not crazytown. I’ve heard some pretty disheartening things from parents of school age nut-allergic kids. I also acknowledge when I hear these things, sometimes I hear the parent’s concern for their child turned into crazytown defensiveness. Please keep me from crazytown. Xo

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