Food Allergies: That Emotional Trigger

Food Allergies: That Emotional Trigger

By Kathryn Peck

It's funny how things can change in an instant, particularly the way you envision your day-to-day life. It's all so transient. I recently got the call with the results of my son's allergy blood test—yes, he's allergic to peanuts. But that's not part of the plan, I thought. 

I didn't plan on having to monitor everything he eats or plan on reading food labels in the grocery store. I didn't plan on tossing all of the peanut butter from our cupboards or plan on prefacing every exchange where I might not be present with, "He has a peanut allergy." I didn't plan on carrying an EpiPen, and I didn't plan on adding this to my list of parenting worries. At only 15 months old, he's too young to speak for himself, and this sudden weight of added responsibility and change is admittedly overwhelming.

At only 15 months old, he's too young to speak for himself, and this sudden weight of added responsibility and change is admittedly overwhelming.

Nowadays doctors recommend introducing your child to peanuts before age one (this wasn’t always the case). I ate peanuts and peanut butter while pregnant and later while nursing with no complications, so I was confident things were as they should be. But when my son ate a peanut butter cracker, I was startled to see an immediate red rash appear around his mouth, and he began coughing. I thought perhaps the cracker was dry, the rash went away within the hour, but my gut told me something wasn’t right. So, I spoke to our doctor who recommended an allergy blood test. 

After hearing the test results, an intense sadness hit me out of nowhere; sadness that it’s a burden he’ll likely bare all his life. Statistics say that, unlike other food allergies, only 20% of people ever outgrow a peanut allergy. There’s a sadness because our visits to the doctor for allergy testing are far from over (next up, a skin prick test, which will further identify and clarify other possible allergens) and sadness because at his age he has no way of understanding what this is all about. 

All of a sudden there’s a nagging fear that one wrong bite could result in a life-threatening allergic reaction, as peanut allergies are the most common cause of food-induced anaphylaxis. 

I’m new to the food allergy arena. When the doctor warned about French Fries cooked in peanut oil, I admitted I hadn’t thought of that. I know I’m going to be fixated on this, that’s just the type of person I am, but there’s a lot I need to learn. This wasn’t part of the plan, so now I need a different plan. Managing food allergies is about more than just avoiding the trigger foods. It’s also going to be about processing the emotions this may have on me and my family. It’s going to be about talking to others who have experience with food allergies, adjusting to the change, and starting to educate myself and others.  

About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.

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