Our Peanut-free Journey

Life with a peanut allergic son.

Holy Huge Wheal — May 25, 2011

Holy Huge Wheal

After 14 months we finally made it back to the allergist. Every time we go I get my hopes up for a good outcome. The last three times we’ve been there his wheal size has gone down. I expected it to be the same today and was hoping for the smallest size yet.

Um, yeah. That didn’t happen. Not even remotely close. His wheal size doubled to 25mm. Yes, 25 mm! That’s huge! At 16 mm they consider that a person will have a reaction 100% of the time to peanut protein. Yeah, he way surpassed that. I’m disappointed, I’m angry, I’m just plain deflated. I never expected this. I don’t know why I never did, I just didn’t.

I asked, again, about desensitization. Our allergist is not sold on it. She doesn’t feel that they have figured out a good way of doing it yet. The steps to even be considered for the trials include a skin test, blood test, and, horrifyingly, an oral challenge to prove you are allergic. I think desensitization is a great gift for the kids it works on. The problem is knowing who it will and will not work on. You just don’t know.

The good news? Peanut allergies are so publicized that more and more people are aware of it and do things they can to prevent kids from getting exposed. Restaurants are using less and less peanut-containing products. Schools are realizing that it isn’t going anywhere and more students are entering school with these allergies. All of this makes life a little easier for kids and families with peanut allergies. For that I am thankful.

Some day I would like to see a remedy for peanut allergy. Until then, we will continue doing what we can to eliminate exposure.

Age of Maturity? — January 7, 2011

Age of Maturity?

At what age can we expect that our children can self-administer their Epi-pen? My son will be 8 on February 2. He understands that the Epi-pen goes into his leg and that it must be held there for 10 seconds. But does he truly understand what is going on? Do I need him to truly understand? In November his class had to do a picture and description of what they were thankful for. My son, sweet boy that he is, said he was thankful for his family because if he has a reaction to peanuts they will “save” him. Something to that effect. He then drew a picture of me giving him the Epi-pen in his leg. It actually chokes me up to think about it. My poor boy, having to think that his family may some day have to save him.

When he sees the allergist in April I’m going to see what her opinions are on maturity level. I’m sure it depends on the child but there must be some ballpark age that kids “get it”.  What do you think?

Christmas Cookies — December 3, 2010

Christmas Cookies

Tis the season to have sweets everywhere! Last year we ordered chocolate chips from Vermont Nut Free Chocolates. It was good knowing that they were peanut-free but the cost plus shipping is crazy. That was definitely a once and done thing. This year I have decided that I will buy a six-pack of Hershey’s chocolate bars, freeze them and then chop them into chunks. Certainly not the same as chocolate chips but definitely ok by my kids. I can even use the Hershey’s Cookies n’ Cream bar for my son. What will you do this year?

1st Grade done. Wheal results for this year. — July 23, 2010

1st Grade done. Wheal results for this year.

Since I last posted, five months ago!, Alex has finished first grade. Other than the few bumps I previously mentioned it was an uneventful year. Thank goodness.

He also had an allergist appointment during that time. His wheal has gotten smaller (now 12mm) but he is still very allergic to peanuts. I know that every peanut allergy is serious in that we never know when the reaction will be anaphylaxis but Alex’s wheal and spread results indicate that he is 100% guaranteed to have a reaction if exposed to peanut protein. The only unknown is what that reaction will be.

Alex was only diagnosed with a peanut allergy because he ended up with a rash and a very swollen eye when he was 20-months-old. I had given him peanut butter crackers that morning. The third time he was exposed to peanuts. I believe the other two times gave him a small rash as well but nothing else was out of the ordinary.

For the first three years I just got his RAST test done every year. He varied between level 2 and level 3 with the blood test. Then before he started school I felt that he needed to see an actual allergist. His kindergarten year he saw the allergist in December and his wheal was 16mm. He was also diagnosed with cat and dog allergies (which we already knew), a spring tree and some kind of fall weed. I believe there were 23 pricks in all. Thankfully he was not allergic to any other food product including tree nuts.

I have to explain to people sometimes that peanuts are not actually nuts at all. They are legumes like peas etc. The look on their face is usually pretty funny.

So, that’s that. We have 37 days left in our summer vacation. Around day 25 or so I will be meeting with the new teachers and discussing protocol for this coming year. Fingers crossed it goes well!

No news is good news. — February 22, 2010

No news is good news.

Most of the time anyway. This school year is flying by quickly. I’d like to see it has been flawless but we have had a couple bumps along the way. The two biggest ones involved lunch. My biggest fear.

1. One day Alex’s class was going to have a pizza party. I mistakenly assumed that was their lunch. I know, we should never assume something but it was pizza! Anyway, the principal called saying Alex didn’t have a lunch and wanted to know what he could have from the a-la-carte items. As we talked she informed me that they have a lunch that is cheese stick, fruit, yogurt and juice box. Fantastic! He’ll take that.

About two weeks later we were really scrounging for lunch and I asked Alex if he wanted to buy the cheese stick lunch, he did. When I asked him that night how he liked his meal he said it was good and he even got a roll and mashed potatoes. What? I guess because the principal walked him throught he lunch line the first time she only let him get the things I mentioned. I explained to him that he can only get what was in the first meal and then we decided it was just better to pack every day.

2. He has his own table in the cafeteria. It’s a small table and no one sits there at any other lunch. His teacher is kind enough to check lunches and see if any children have peanuts in their lunch, if they don’t then they can sit with Alex. Thankfully there are plenty of kids who want to sit with my little man so he has never eaten alone.  One day he was with two of his good buddies and popsicles were given out at lunch. The cafeteria lady (she walks around and helps kids open things etc.) looked at the popsicle and told Alex he could have it. Now I’m sure she read the ingredients but since there is no law for “may contains” I don’t know for sure that it was safe. He had no problems so it was fine but I had to explain to Alex, again, that he can’t eat anything at school that I haven’t said is ok. His teacher buys their snacks off the list I provided so I know that snack time is ok but I never thought the cafeteria lady would let Alex eat something. I explained the best that I could that sometimes adults mean well but it isn’t always safe. Ugh.

Hopefully the rest of the year will go without incident. This journey can be exhausting sometimes! 😉

Hershey’s and I need to have a talk. — November 22, 2009

Hershey’s and I need to have a talk.

Every year I count on Hershey’s chocolate chips for my holiday baking. Now I am thinking that perhaps I will need to buy them from a safe peanut-free internet site. You see, Hershey’s has decided that Mexico is a wonderful place to manufacture some of their products. I do not know the conditions of these factories and I do not know how well they adhere to the food allergy guidelines.  

If a Hershey product says “Mfd. by The Hershey Co.” on the back near the ingredients, I know that it was made in Hershey, Pa. If it says “Distributed by The Hershey Co.” it did not come from Hershey. In fact, we don’t know where it came from. They’re tricky like that.  

And if you haven’t figured it out yet, the chocolate chips now say Distributed by. I’m very upset. I will more than likely be buying my baking chips from Vermont Nut Free Chocolates. I am not thrilled about this as I hate that I can’t just buy my chips when they are on sale for $2.00 at the store. I am now paying considerably more plus shipping. Yes, my son will be safe but why did Hershey’s have to sell out and take away jobs from us Americans. It’s disgraceful.

Halloween 2009 — November 3, 2009

Halloween 2009

Halloween this year was a crazy mess. We arrived home from Disney around 2:00 in the afternoon. Trick-or-treaters were due to arrive at 6:00.  We came home, unloaded the car and then headed to K-Mart to get some candy for the TOTers and for Alex and Isabelle. Alex was surprisingly happy to dress up as a vampire and hand out candy to the kids. I’m hoping this is the start of something new for us. It was wonderful being able to buy the kids candy (and popcorn) I knew they could have while still giving them that Halloween rush. We had a ton of kids come to the house and at the end of the night Alex informed me that he “sold” a lot of candy. Lol! If only that were true! Ha!

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Necco All Natural Candy Wafers — October 31, 2009

Necco All Natural Candy Wafers

Through TwitterMoms.com I was able to participate in receiving a free bag of Necco wafers. As one of the first 50 people you had to send an email to Necco with your address. When I did so, I asked if the wafers were peanut-allergy friendly. If they weren’t I simply said to disregard my email.

A week or so later I got an email stating that I was one of the first to respond and that the wafers were peanut-allergy safe! Yay!

When we got home from Disney our bag of Necco’s were waiting for us. Neither of my kids liked the Clove flavor but I kind of expected that, the orange and lime however were big hits! We also got a few rolls of the chocolate wafers and they were very tasty!

Pick up a bag the next time you see them, the rolls are small so they fit nicely in a diaper bag or purse. It’s great when you need that quick treat for the kids so you can get through the grocery store! 😉

Disney World and Peanut Allergies —

Disney World and Peanut Allergies

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We just got back from a trip to Disney World and it was wonderful! I wish that I could say that I had tons of fabulous information for you but the truth is that we didn’t eat all that many meals *in* Disney. However, they are very knowledgable of food allergies and cater to those people extremely well. Here are some standout things that Disney does/has for food allergy sufferers:

  1. Every Disney theme park has an information center. At this information center you can ask for a stapled packet of papers that lists their restaurant and food vendors in that park. It then is broken down by types of food and what allergens/cross-contamination possibilities exist at certain places to eat. A great little packet to keep with you during your stay at the park.
  2. Each restaurant is well versed in the plight of the food allergic patron. However, Chef Mickey’s was an all-star  restaurant to eat at with a peanut allergy. The chef came to our table and took me around the buffet letting me know what was and was not safe. He explained that they are trying to go as peanut-free as possible. They are even trying to become a self-sufficient restaurant so they control everything that goes into the food. There were only a few breakfast items my son could not have that included granola (the only item left with actual peanuts in them), French toast (chance of x-contamination at the bakery it’s made at) and a couple of the desserts such as brownies. The highlight for my son was the Krispy Kreme doughnut which is peanut and x-contamination free.
  3. T-Rex Cafe was another great restaurant to work with. Again, the chef came out and told us what was and wasn’t safe and that the only peanut product they had was not used anywhere near the kids meal station. While I realize that a peanut product (a dip I believe?) being in the kitchen could cause x-cont. issues, I felt comfortable with the chef’s knowledge of food products to trust him. My son was fine and even got to have a slushey for a drink.
  4. Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Pops. If you’ve ever been to Disney you know what I’m talking about. The popsicle is shaped like Mickey’s head and is vanilla ice cream covered in a hard chocolate shell. Yum-O! These are made by Nestle specifically for Disney and are free of peanut and tree nut allergens. My son had one at each Disney park we went to. He loved it.
  5. All (pretty sure that’s what the paper said) Disney restaurants used a Canola oil in their kitchens. No peanut oil used at all.

So there you have it. My top five reasons to spend your next vacation at Disney!!

Halloween or in other words “Food Allergy Nightmare Night” — October 14, 2009

Halloween or in other words “Food Allergy Nightmare Night”

Halloween has always been a source of worry for me. To trick-or-treat or not to trick-or-treat, that has always been the question.

When Alex was first diagnosed Boscov’s department store would give children with diabetes a $10.00 gift card to their store. I approached them about Alex’s peanut allergy and they let him participate also. All you had to do was give your candy bag to the customer service desk and they give you the card. Awesome! That worked until Alex was about 4. When he turned five he wanted to TOT and not give away his candy. Hmmmm. That’s a problem.

So we tried TOT’ing and denying candy with nuts. That left very few houses to receive candy from. It also got old telling people “he’s allergic to peanuts but thanks anyway”. Several times I got the “but this one doesn’t have peanuts” and then I would have to quickly explain that he still can’t have it.

This year we are getting home from Disney the night of TOT’ing. I’m hoping that is my saving grace. I have explained to Alex that he can dress up and give out candy while enjoying candy that is safe for him. Then the following night they can dress up and go to our parents’ homes and TOT there. As of now he seems ok with this. Whether that still holds true on the 30th remains to be seen. Fingers crossed!