Food Allergies

Peanut explosion disrupts reaction-free week on vacation

As we prepped for our spring break trip, my husband said “let’s do this right and make sure he doesn’t have a single reaction.”  This relates to our string of experiences eating out over the past many months, as I discussed in my post on fear of restaurants.  Determined to avoid any displeasure, we planned and packed a significant amount of safe food and treats for the long drive to FL and back.  Very quickly into our trip, we realized that we could all enjoy our meals out so much more knowing he was eating what we packed.

So all was well and good.  Even our day trip to Legoland went well, again we packed his meals and he and we were happy.

But then there was the peanut explosion.

Back at my mom’s house, with my son’s siblings and 7 cousins, things were hectic.  So hectic in fact, that no adult took notice of two of the kids opening and eating a bag of peanuts on the porch and in one of the bedrooms.  There were peanuts everywhere, I mean everywhere.  Peanut shells, peanut dust, uneaten peanuts, in the crevices of the patio door, in the carpet, on a chair, on my son’s bed!

Did I freak out?  Almost.  I felt panic setting in, but I kept my cool and decided that I had to focus on clean up first.  My 7 year old who was part of the peanut eating frenzy was heart stricken when he realized the potential implications.  I think he was so thrilled to be somewhere that had peanuts!  In all fairness, and in full disclosure, I had seen the bag of peanuts on my mom’s porch the first day, and the adults all discussed that it would be best if we didn’t open them during our visit.  I obviously should have had those put away.  I’ve added it to my growing ‘live and learn’ list.

After an hour of cleaning up, including vacuuming, sanitizing, and changing the bedding, I was done, and pissed off — at myself and the kids.  I mean, couldn’t they have eaten them sitting in one place?  But also grateful.  Us adults kept saying we really got lucky.  With peanuts everywhere, who knew what could have happened!

My son did have a contact reaction from the peanuts; a swollen eye and hives, but luckily that is all it was. We failed at our goal of no food allergy reactions.  And yet I felt so very successful that in all the meals out he was safe, content and we were more relaxed than we have ever been eating out.

I’ll spend more time reflecting on what did go wrong, and surely put more effort to allergy-proofing our environment in the future.  And I’ll look for other people’s live and learn lists, so hopefully we can avoid other disaster prone situations in the future.

Food Allergies, Parenting

Food Allergies and Fear of Restaurants

We keep EpiPens with us at all times in case of a serious allergic reaction.

Two days a week I get my nearly 4 year old all to myself.  The other three he is in school and I’ve been working.  This bi-weekly affair delights both of us!  With only a few more months of these special days left, we really do make the most of them. (In the fall, he’ll go to preschool 5 mornings.)  Our typical days include the mundane like chores and errands, but also the fun like playing Candyland and extra cuddling.

Last week, on one of these special days, we took a dear friend out for a birthday lunch, but I brought safe food for my son.  Lately he’s had some unfortunate experiences at restaurants.  I’m still not recovered emotionally from these screw ups.  And as his parent, I need to take full responsibility for everything that goes in his mouth.  In that regard, I’ve let him down.

In January while away for a special family get-away at an indoor water park, he had a very serious allergic reaction.  The restaurant screwed up; gave him pancakes with  milk in them even though they had thought they were making something safe.  After 2 small bites, he was reacting.  We ended up giving him an epi pen (epinephrine) for the first time —  and then spent a long 4 hours in the ER.  Even after an epi and high dose Benadryl and steroids in the hospital he got hives.  He was in good hands and actually enjoyed the hospital experience, but says that getting the epi and getting sick at the restaurant was “very scary.”

Following that experience, we had a birthday dinner for his brother at McDonald’s,  and he asked us to bring him safe food from home.  It made us realize how aware he was of the possibility of getting sick while eating out.

Fast forward to early March.  We ventured out to a tried-and-true restaurant in our neighborhood.  He ordered his safe meal.  And he had a reaction.  Luckily this was more mild physically but it did scare him (and us).  Even “safe” food can become very unsafe if not handled properly while being prepared.

All of this is why last week he asked for me to bring him food from home. He’s afraid.

I’m scared too.  And I’m pissed. And I’m bummed.

The worst part last week wasn’t the pain-in-the-rear of bringing food from home.  It was that he was scared.  He asked to stay in the car.  He cried as we walked in.  He associates restaurants with feeling sick, and that is both a sad and a necessary reality for him.  And yet, while we want to teach him to be wary of food that isn’t in our control, we want so desperately for him to be included.