Growing up, did you know ANYONE allergic to nuts? I surely did not. I had not even heard of a nut allergy until well into my adult years. In today’s world, however, the number of children living with a peanut allergy has tripled between 1997 and 2008, and the numbers continue to rise. Why? There is no clear answer.
When my daughter was three years old, we had a BIG scare. I had never given her nuts because she had eczema as a baby, and I had read that there is a link between eczema, nut allergies, and asthma. She also had reactive airways (a term used by doctors when they suspect asthma). We had planned to get her tested before offering her any nuts . . . just in case.
At Christmas time that year, one of our sweet neighbors made some trail mix, and my little girl indulged in the holiday treat. Little did we know that my neighbor had included peanut m&m’s in the recipe! We did not realize this until after my little girl was already into a SEVERE allergic reaction. She broke out in hives from head to toe and started itching like crazy. She began to cough and wheeze. My husband and I RUSHED her to Children’s of Alabama. They immediately gave her an antihistamine and steroid to calm down the reaction. The ER doctor warned us that a second reaction could be more severe with an even quicker onset. She was prescribed an EpiPen to keep with her at all times.
When our son was born later, we had him tested and discovered that he also is allergic to nuts! Neither my husband nor I has any allergies whatsoever, so we went into research mode to learn all we could. I wanted to share in a nutshell (ha!) what we have learned through the years:
- Read ALL food and skincare labels. Even if you are sure that the food or product is nut-free, read the label AGAIN. This is a good rule of thumb since many things contain hidden ingredients (e.g. almond oil/extract) that can easily be missed.
- Train your kids to only eat what you send with them. Since you cannot be present at all times to read food labels, it is best to send your child’s food to school, parties, and other activities. This does create more work for you, but it also provides added peace of mind that your child is safe.
- Inform teachers, camp counselors, and other parents about the severity of your child’s nut allergy. Some parents whose children do not suffer with nut allergies often forget that it can be life-threatening! I surely did not think about it until my kids were diagnosed. Do not be shy about reminding everyone in every situation (especially at parties and holiday events) that the nut allergy exists. After all, that same chocolate bar that can bring joy to one child could cause a potentially fatal reaction for your child!!
- Wash your hands. We learned this the hard way with my son. A girl at his preschool touched his face after eating a cashew bar sent in her lunch. His eye became swollen, and his teachers called me immediately thinking he had been poked in the eye. He was having an allergic reaction! By the time I got there, his face was breaking out in hives and his eye was swollen shut! So, as you can see, some nut reactions occur topically — not just if the nut is consumed. For this reason, kids who have eaten nuts should not touch kids with nut allergies without washing their hands.
- Educate your child about not eating anything without asking an adult, “Does this contain nuts?” Combined with #2, this has been our best defense while our kids are away from home.
- Create two emergency kits. One should be kept with you at all times, and the other one goes to the school nurse. A good kit includes their EpiPens, Albuterol inhalers (with chambers, if needed), and Benadryl.
Does your child have a nut allergy?? If so, please leave more helpful tips in the comments below. We’re all in this together!! Much love!