Five years ago our family was thrown into the food allergy world: Grady had his first obvious reaction to peanut butter, we rushed him to the hospital, and purchased our first EpiPen. Our family’s relationship with food changed forever.
Grady’s Peanut Allergy
In November 2014, when Grady was just 2, he had his first obvious allergic reaction to peanut butter. I was making supper. Grady and Derek were snacking on peanut butter and celery. Grady had eaten about a tablespoon of peanut butter when he started to complain about an itchy eye. He kept rubbing his eye so we assumed he had something in it. I wet a hand towel and tried to wipe out the mystery substance. I couldn’t see anything in his eye but Grady kept rubbing and complaining. Hives started forming on his face and lips and he began to swell. With disbelief and shock, we realized Grady was having a reaction to the peanut butter.
In a panic, Derek quickly grabbed Grady and ran him to the car while I turned off the oven. We rushed him to the hospital 2 minutes away from our house. (We now know we should have called 911.) I pulled into emergency and Derek ran Grady in while I parked. Grady was treated and we were told to stay away from all peanuts and nuts (just to be sure). An allergist appointment was made for the end of December 2014 where Grady was confirmed peanut allergic.
Grady’s Egg Allergy
Fast forward to August 2015, my mom was over helping with the kids (Grady was 2 1/2, Nora 5 months), while Derek was combining. For a
fun activity, Mom and Grady began making cinnamon bus. After adding the eggs to the dough, Grady decided to taste test the raw dough. Immediately, he began complaining about an itchy eye – the exact same way his peanut reaction had begun. I immediately removed Grady from the kitchen and washed his hands. My mom began double checking the ingredients, wondering if we had missed an allergen label. We hadn’t. Grady started breaking out in hives on his face. I gave him an antihistamine and watched. Thankfully, his symptoms subsided. We realized at this point that Grady was allergic to egg. My stomach dropped. How could we have missed it?!
In November 2015, Grady was confirmed allergic to both egg yolk and egg whites.
- Allergic reactions aren’t always obvious: When we think of an allergic reaction, we think of hives, swelling, tightening throat, etc. Before we realized Grady was allergic to peanuts and eggs, he had a lot of gastrointestinal issues. His very first reaction was actually after his first birthday: his cupcake gave him diarrhea. We assumed it was all the sugar he ate. Reality? His cupcake contained peanut products and eggs. Allergic reactions can be silent.
- Food allergies can take a while to develop: It took Grady 1-2 years to develop an obvious allergic reaction to both peanuts and eggs. He consumed peanuts and eggs several times before he reacted seriously enough for us to really notice.
- Picky eating isn’t always just “picky eating”: If your child is a picky eater, take note of the foods he/she avoids. Is there a common ingredient between the foods avoided? Grady refused to eat eggs, some baked goods, and inconsistently ate peanut butter. Between his peanut allergy diagnosis and our egg allergy discovery, Grady slowly stopped eating foods he had eaten in the past. All of the foods he refused contained egg.
- A food-allergic child may continue to eat the allergen, even if it makes them uncomfortable: Grady was obsessed with ranch salad dressing. He ate it at every meal. While eating ranch dressing, Grady would always develop a few red dots around his mouth. Because he has eczema around his mouth, we assumed the vinegar from the dressing was irritating his skin. He never complained. He eventually stopped eating ranch dressing. If your child develops a rash around their mouth when eating a food, talk to your doctor.
- Give yourself grace: We made so many mistakes in our own ignorance. I can’t even count the number of times we made Grady eat one more bite of a food he was suddenly refusing to eat. I remember thinking: Grady loves this food, so why won’t he eat it now? Yes, I know we did what any parent does when their child is being “picky”. But we were oblivious. Whenever I think back to our behaviour, I feel immense guilt. I’m still working on giving myself grace for this one…