Does my child have food allergies (please share with new parents)
I remember the exact moment when Bean had her first reaction to peanuts. Halloween was only a couple of weeks away. We were practicing saying “trick or treat” with her little orange pumpkin and the snack size bags of Reese’s Pieces. She was only 15 months old, and it was going to be her first Halloween out trick or treating. I was so excited about it. We were practicing, by pretending that she was going up to a door. I would answer the door, and she would say “trick treat”. She did it a few times, and finally she said, “trick or treat”! Her reward was she could have one of the bags of Reese’s Pieces. She ate TWO Reese’s Pieces, and her lips got very red, and her chin and cheeks turned red and got little bumps all over them. Neither my husband nor I have food allergies, so we didn’t have a clue what was happening. I took her into the bathroom and washed her face, thinking maybe she touched something. I never gave her Benadryl or took her to the doc. I think I might have put some Hydro-cortisone on her face. It took a while, but it did finally go away. After she went to bed, my husband and I were talking about what she could have gotten into that gave her a reaction like that. I remember asking him, “Do you think she might be allergic to peanuts?” We both dismissed the idea, because everyone has seen an allergic reaction on TV. There was no puffy face, eyes swelled shut, can’t breathe type of thing happening. Previous to that, we had been camping. We made scrambled eggs in Ziploc bags. It was a neat camping recipe I had found online. You crack an egg into a Ziploc bag, zip it closed, squish it around in the bag to scramble it, then place the sealed Ziploc bag into boiling water. It cooks it right in the bag, and you eat it right out of the bag too, with a spoon. That time her chin got red and got little bumps all over it. Again, we washed her face off, thinking she maybe got into some weeds or something at the campground. At her next appointment with the pediatrician, I mentioned it. When I told him it was an after thought… an “oh by the way” type of thing. I didn’t think of how serious it could be, until her pediatrician said he wanted to send her for food allergy tests and to keep her away from anything with peanuts and eggs until further notice. Her tests showed that she was (and is still) anaphylactic to peanuts, and that had a mild egg allergy(which she has since outgrown). We have come a long way in what we know now about allergies, but as first time parents who have never dealt with food allergies before, we were pretty clueless. I think back and wonder if I would have had any clue of what to do if she had actually gone into anaphylaxis from eating the Reese’s Pieces? Would I have done things correctly in time to save her? I didn’t have an Epipen yet. I am just thankful that her reaction was not worse than it was.
All that being said, PLEASE pass this info along to all new parents… you never know when they might need this information!
My grandmother was celebrating her 84th birthday this past Saturday at an Italian restaurant. This restaurant has a few different locations, and the last time we had gone to one of their locations, we asked the server about any foods being unsafe for a peanut allergy. She sent the chef out to our table. When the chef came out, he explained that the Alfredo sauce was unsafe for our daughter, and that he would make her food with marinara separately so there was no cross-contamination. So, just to be safe, earlier on the day of the party, I called the restaurant to make sure that everything served was going to be safe for my daughter to eat. She checked and said it was all safe for her.
However, when we got to the restaurant, they put out a menu of the courses. One of the first course items was a walnut salad. I questioned the server about it being safe, and he said that nothing on the menu contains peanuts. I explained that usually other nuts have a “made on the same equipment” warning labels. He said he would ask the chef. A manager came to our table and again said that everything was safe. However, a few minutes later, the server came in with a salad made without walnuts specifically for my daughter. We really appreciated that.
One of the main course items was Fettuccine Alfredo. My husband and I both both recalled the other location specifically saying the Alfredo sauce was not safe, so we did not allow her to eat that either. We assume that both locations would use the same ingredients.
Our final course was dessert, and one of the two desserts they served was Tiramisu. For those that don’t know, Tiramisu is ladyfinger cookies soaked in espresso and coffee liqueur layered with Mascarpone, dusted with cocoa powder and served with chocolate shavings. The Tiramisu raised all kinds of red flags for me! Are the cookies safe? What about the chocolate shavings? These are things that I consider high risk for her, since so many of them “may contain peanuts” or are “made on the same equipment”. We didn’t let her have any of that either.
She did get to eat all the other items that they served, so it was not like she didn’t get to eat. She just could not eat everything they served. Although I didn’t want her to feel left out because she could not eat everything, I would rather have her be safe than sorry. Is it wrong that even though 3 people told me that the items were safe, I still would not let her have them?
I sometimes find it very difficult to explain to people that just because it does not “contain” actual peanuts (in it or on it), does not mean that other ingredients used in making the food are all safe and peanut free.
Items that “may contain” – some may surprise you!
The US FDA requires labeling laws apply to food products only! This means that peanuts, peanut oil, almond oil, and other allergens can be an ingredient in non-food items, but will not be listed. Many personal products and lotions say they are made with, or contain oils, almonds, or nut butters. If you have an allergy and the ingredients are not listed, make sure to call the manufacturer to be sure the product is safe.
Since my daughter has a peanut allergy, I am going to focus on things that “may contain” peanuts, shells, or skins. Some are surprising!
- European chocolate (nuts are not always required to be listed on the label)
- Deli meat slicers – some meats contain nuts (mortadella) or are browned/fried in peanut oil
- Plant sterols derived from peanut – found in some “heart healthy” orange juice, yogurt, etc.
- Avoid any foods that contain these ingredients… beer nuts, cold pressed peanut oil, ground nuts, mixed nuts, Nu-Nuts flavored nuts, marzipan, nouget, hydrolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Som foods that typically contain peanut protein: African, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnameses dishes
ANIMALS & PETS
- Hamster/rodent food and bedding
- Dog food and treats
- Bird seed/feed and SUET
- Cat food, treats, and kitty litter
- Livestock feed – especially dairy cattle feed
- Peanut hay
- Some lawn fertilizer
- Potting soil may contain ground peanut shells
- Packaged flower seeds
- Compost accelerator/additives
- Some insect granules
- Axle Grease
ITEMS AROUND THE HOME
- Avoid products made with ARACHIS HYPOGAEA (aka peanut) and ARACHIS OIL (aka peanut oil)
- Stuffed animals (sometimes stuffed with crushed peanut shells)
- Hacky sacks/sacks for playing bags
- Seasoned baking stones – that have previously made pb cookies
- Cutting boards oiled with peanut oil
- Artificial Fireplace logs
- Roach/ant bait disks
- Wallboard and Fiberboard shelving
- Burlap bags
- Potpourri – whole nuts may be present
- Metal Polishers
- Peanuts have a variety of industrial end uses, particulary the oil: paint, varnish, lubricating oil, leather dressings, furniture polish, insecticides and nitroglycerin
- Oil for wooden musical instruments
- Peanut scented fishing lures
HEALTH AND BEAUTY
- Cosmetics, lotions, massage oils, sunscreens, tanning oils, shampoos, and conditioners can contain peanuts/peanut oil (it may be listed as arachis oil or arachidyl behenate)
- Exfoliators that contains ground nut shells
- Atrovent® inhalation aerosol asthma medication
- Prometrium® (synthetic progesterone)
- Ear wax remover drops
- Dental cleaner or Flouride at the dentist’s office (some contain pine nuts)
Is it worth dying?
People say that knowledge is power. When it comes to my allergic daughter I couldn’t agree more. The more I know about what is safe and not safe, the better I am at protecting her.
What if you get conflicting information or just aren’t sure about a product? What if the ingredients label is missing? What if the item is home-made? The best advice I have gotten and can give is to just avoid the food/product. Do not use the try it and see method. It can result in a very bad reaction, including anaphylaxis. So if I am ever doubting if something is safe or not, I always think… is it really worth letting her have a reaction, having to use her Epipen, having to call 911, and possibly dying? Is allowing her to eat this food really worth her dying? Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
Applaud the Allergic!
My oldest daughter, Bean, was diagnosed with an egg allergy, and severe peanut allergy at 18 months. That was the start of our journey of allergy doctors, carrying Epipens, and reading labels TWICE. I worry about her at school, at friend’s homes, anywhere out of my site. Not knowing any better, this became our norm. Since she was so young when she was diagnosed and because she was our only child, we didn’t know any better. We just played the cards we were dealt, and have managed to just deal with it.
In comparison, my younger daughter, Bubbles, is mildly lactose intolerant, but does not have any food allergies. I have come to realize that having a child with and having a child without food allergies is such a world of difference! It’s easy. No label reading, no carrying an Epipen, no allergy doctors, and no worry.
Having a food allergy is not simple or easy or no big deal. It is a huge deal. It is terrifying to live with, and it’s a lot or work keeping the allergic person safe. It may just become second nature to those who deal with it on a daily basis, but you are true Allergy Warriors and I applaud you!