I’m writing this blog to share my family’s experiences with food allergies because a friend’s son was just diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy. I know she’s feeling scared and overwhelmed because a few years ago I was in her shoes.
It was Bananas
When she was a baby, I tried to do all the ‘right’ things by my daughter. Her first foods were all vegetables. I was told if you give your baby fruit, she won’t eat vegetables later on. I’m convinced now that this is a total crock, but at the time I followed that rule. I gave her carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes. When she was 8 months old, I put microscopic pieces of bananas on her high chair tray. She gobbled them up! I thought everything was fine, “Yay, we have a new food she likes!” Then she broke out into a rash all over her pudgy little legs.
I was in denial. I’d never heard of an allergy to bananas! I spoke with our pediatrician at my daughter’s 9 month well-check. She said stay away from bananas. That was it. No further information about food allergies except that she said, “No, she won’t out grow it.” So with that ‘helpful’ advice I started to do my own research. It turns out that banana allergies can go hand in hand with latex allergies. My husband and I do not have a latex allergy, but my dad did. I was so scared the first time they offered her a balloon at Publix, but I figured I had to know. It was such a relief that her allergy didn’t include latex! This was the beginning of having to label my child as having a ‘food allergy.’
Speaking of Labels
I became an expert at reading labels. In case you were wondering, mixed berry anything contains banana more often than not. I also had to become the banana police. You go to a birthday party, you have to read the juice label before you can let your kid have any. That’s an awkward experience, “Excuse me, friend, can I please see the bottle you’re pouring from?” I definitely got over my I-don’t-want-to-offend-you-ness very fast.
We successfully avoided bananas until my daughter hit 3 years old. We were at her school Halloween party and the moms in charge had wrapped squeezy applesauces as mummies. They were adorable! But one of the pouches was apple-banana. My daughter ate her ‘mummy’ before I made it into the classroom. I couldn’t tell which thrown away pouch she’d eaten.
I know it sounds ridiculous, so what, she’ll get a rash. But the thing about food allergies is that they can present themselves in increasing severity depending on the exposure. So a child who reacted with a rash one time can potentially experience anaphylaxis after subsequent exposures. She didn’t have a reaction, but I couldn’t be sure if that was because she didn’t eat the banana or if she maybe had outgrown her allergy.
After a conversation with a fellow food allergy mom, I realized my next step. She mentioned that some kids will say that they don’t like a food without eating it because their bodies tell them they have an allergy. I wanted answers about the bananas, but I had another pressing concern. I was afraid to give her peanut butter because I knew it was a common food allergy and she said, “I can’t like it,” when I offered it. It turned out that was prophetic.
The blood test confirmed that my daughter not only had a peanut allergy, but an egg allergy as well, but said nothing about bananas. At this point I had more questions than answers and I was not okay with that. I decided I needed to talk to a specialist. It is the best doctor decision I have ever made.
We Have a Plan and Hope
The first thing our allergist said was, “Food allergies are not black and white, we are still learning every day.” She said that children do outgrow food allergies, and not to give up hope.
The skin test confirmed that my daughter had outgrown her banana allergy, but did have a peanut and egg allergy. And when I said, “But she eats quiche and loves it!” I’ll never forget the doctor’s reaction. “Your 3-year-old eats quiche?! That’s amazing!” We developed a plan. No more quiche until she was 4, then we would re-test. As for the peanuts, she prescribed an Epi-Pen and we would re-test at 5.
It turns out that we have an unexpectedly happy ending to our journey. At 4, my daughter had scrambled eggs with no problem. At 5, the big test….NO PEANUT ALLERGY!! We had to endure a 5 hour in-office challenge to get those results, but trust me, it was 100% worth it! I cannot begin to tell you the relief those results gave me.
But having spent 5 years dealing with food allergies, there are some things I’d like other parents to know.
First, we aren’t making it up. No parent wants their kid to have something wrong with them. Next, we aren’t asking you about labels and ingredients to be a pain. Our children’s lives may well depend on what is or isn’t in that snack. And finally, if you think your child has an allergy, don’t be afraid of getting answers from an allergist. Answers and action plans keep your child safe.