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.