Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Update: Peanut and Tree Nut Allergies

I've had a hard time wrapping my head around this and getting my feelings in to words: My 21 month old son has been diagnosed as anaphylactic allergic to peanuts, pistachios and cashews. I tried writing a post about it a few months ago when we found out, but the words ended up having an angry and sad tone. I'm still sad and angry that my son has to deal with this, but as I continue to learn about food allergies I'm understanding that communication and education is key to avoiding accidental ingestion.

Bubs during his first camping trip.

I thought because I'm so familiar with gluten-intolerance and Celiac disease that I'd be pretty savvy when it comes to food allergies, but I wasn't at first. Here are 12 surprising things that I've learned over the last few months:
1. If a parent has allergies (of any kind), their children are more likely to develop food allergies. My son's pediatrician and allergist both asked me the same question: "Do I have allergies?" Well, food allergies? No, though I am intolerant to gluten. They both corrected me, "No, allergies in general." Yup, I've had bad seasonal allergies since I was a kid. (I remember getting my first hay-fever induced asthma attack in Upstate New York on family vacation). 

2. If a child is allergic to peanuts, there is a 25-40% change he/she will also be allergic to tree nuts. 

3. Food labeling laws do require that labels state whether any of the top 8 allergens are in a food, HOWEVER, it is not required that they state whether that food is shared on equipment or made in the same facility as any allergens. 

4. EpiPens and Auvi-Qs can save lives. We have two EpiPens by my son at all times. After the first one is administered, it can wear off within 15 minutes, so if he is in a situation where an ambulance can't get to him quickly, the second one can be be administered.  Sadly, EpiPens don't always work.

5. There are great options out there if you have a child that "only eats peanut butter and jelly." Jam and cream cheese sandwiches seem to be a big hit, as are hummus sandwiches with cucumbers, sunflower seed butter (we like the crunchy) sandwiches and Barney brand almond butter is delicious (and made in a peanut-free facility). If your child goes to school (or the playground, or daycare) with a child that is peanut/tree nut allergic, I'm asking you to re-think sending your child with any of those foods. There are other options and kids so very easily share/take/make messes with their foods. 

6. There are great resources out there that can help educate family members, teachers and caregivers. Kids with Food Allergies is one of them and FARE is another.

7. There are more peanut allergic children born in October, November and December than any other time of year.

8. People with peanut allergies cannot join the military. (At first I wasn't too affected by this, but it really saddens me that Bubs will likely grow up idolizing his dad and wanting to be like him, and one day we'll have to tell him he can't do what dad does.)

9. Just because your child didn't have an anaphylactic reaction the first time he/she ate the allergen, doesn't mean he or she won't. My son got hives the first time he had peanuts, projectile vomited the second time and our allergist tells us the third time could be the most severe and cause anaphylaxis.

10. There are different ways to test for food allergies: skin prick test, blood test and I recently heard about the uKnow Peanut test (I haven't spoken to my allergist about this yet, so I can't vouch for it's effectiveness). So far, my little dude has only had the skin prick test.

11. There is current legislation in Washington D.C. that will hopefully be enacted that will allow schools to have EpiPens on hand that they can give "to children without a prescription, and indemnifies those who administer it in a life-threatening situation." I really hope it passes. Food allergies can come on at any age, at any time, and to foods that children have eaten before. Giving schools EpiPens will save lives. 

12. And some stats according to FARE and the NYT article: "One in 13 children under age 18 has food allergies, with an 18 percent increase having occurred between 1997 and 2007; during roughly the same period, the number of children with a peanut allergy tripled." There are many theories, but no one can definitively say why food allergies are rising. 

The scope of this blog has has changed a lot over the years. I started writing it as a woman in her mid-twenties who was trying to figure out how to eat without gluten and deal with the deployments and distance of having a boyfriend in the military. I'm now 31, married to that man, have a son who I adore more than anything, and I pretty much have the gluten-free thing figured out. It doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing about gluten-free cooking, it just means other things that pop up in life will be on here too. I hope you'll stay and share your stories too.


Domestically Seasoned said...

Little man is getting so big. Thanks for the facts and found many of them interesting to know.

Shuddanut said...

Kayla you may or may not remember is allergic to tree nuts, everything but a peanut. And its no surprise that I've just learned a few things from your post! Pay attention to the fight to label GMO's if you are not already, its striking the increase in allergies and immune disorders, and you could probably throw in learning disabilities, since GMOs came into the picture. I do realize your a good etahh...but its in everything!! Kayla is in Dublin, everything is labeled, this is from the US and contains GMOs! It is time to take back our food!

Liz said...

Janelle, thank you for your comment :) He is getting so big! I can't believe he'll be 2 in December. I love seeing photos of your boys too.

Carol, you bring up a good point. Thank you. I do remember Kayla's allergy. You were one of the first people I wanted to call when I heard about Jack's allergy. We try to eat organic as much as possible (which I know has to be GMO free) but I do need to get better at figuring out which foods are GMO that I don't buy organic. It's really sad that our country doesn't label for it. I'm glad to hear Ireland does.

Dr. Fadia Habib-Khazen said...

Good move on your part to expand the scope of this blog. There are many other concerns that can pop up with respect to food and diseases. What this just means for your kid though is he'll just be broadening his palate, which is what a lot of us would wish we can do, if only habits didn't stand in the way. :)

Fadia @ Allergy Arizona

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