A life & Death Affairposted on July 13th, 2010 / by Andrea Catlett / 14 Comments
12 million people suffer with food allergies, and my son is one of them. Often he is the only kid at a party who can’t eat the cake or have a treat bag. When he is at the park and other kids are running around with peanut butter sandwiches in their hands, we immediately have to leave. Many people are unaware that some food can suddenly kill someone, but it is on my mind 100% of the time.
When my little boy was 15 months old, my husband and I gave him less than a pea size piece of peanut butter. My husband was eating a peanut butter sandwich, and since my son was over the age of one, we thought it would be okay. My son instantly broke out in hives, started to vomit, and then grabbed his throat like he was choking. I ran to our cabinet and opened the bottle of Benadryl that I had just bought because a friend suggested it for a plane trip. His throat stayed open enough to swallow the Benadryl, and slowly his hives began to decrease. While running to get the Benadryl out of the cabinet I called our pediatrician’s office to leave a message for the on-call doctor. Immediately the pediatrician called us back, and she said that as long as he is breathing we wouldn’t have to go to the ER. He was breathing at that point, so we just watched him and continually gave him Benadryl every four hours. We actually ended up giving him Benadryl for 10 days straight, as his hives were still present.
That was one of the scariest days of my life. From that point on our family’s life has drastically changed. We rarely have safe restaurants to eat at, shopping takes forever with reading EVERY SINGLE LABEL, birthday parties (as I mentioned earlier) are scary, every Sunday we have to check the snacks at church, and much, much more. Now every day we walk out of our house with an EpiPen, Benadryl, Albuterol, inhaler mask, and disinfectant wipes, so that he can be taken care of if he comes into contact with any type of nut or peanut butter.
Many people are unaware of the severity of life-threatening food allergies. They think, “Oh so and so might get a tummy ache, or they might break out in hives.” Life-threatening food allergies can kill a person within minutes. Someone with a severe food allergy can go into anaphylactic shock, which may result in death. Anaphylaxis (pronounced ana-fill-axis) can start with just tingling in the mouth and can lead to swollen lips, vomiting, difficulty in breathing, drop in blood pressure, and then unconsciousness.
A person can go into anaphylactic shock from various allergens. The most common food allergies are: Milk, Egg, Peanut, Tree Nut, Soy, Fish, Shell Fish, and Wheat. There are other food allergies, but these eight are the most common.
Five things parents with food allergies would like you to know:
1) Please always wash your hands when you or your kids are with people who may have an allergic reaction to food allergens. (It is greatly appreciated when people go out of their way to make sure children are safe, so this would include washing hands after any food allergen is consumed or touched.) Most people don’t know that when my son touches a door knob that someone else has touched after eating an allergen, he is likely to have an allergic reaction.
2) Please don’t judge parents of kids who have food allergies because they are often overcautious about their child’s well being. My husband and I often describe to people who don’t have life-threatening food allergies that it is like your child is sitting down next to poisonous snakes. Everyone knows that poisonous snakes could kill you, but food can kill my son just like a snake could kill yours.
3) Learn how to use an EpiPen. If you know people with food allergies, please take time to learn how to use an EpiPen. It may help save someone’s life.
4) Be sensitive to parents and children with food allergies. Advice is usually best given by a medical provider. In addition, no one knows their kid better than his or her parent.
5). Allergies, Asthma and Eczema. Kids with food allergies often have other medical concerns such as indoor/outdoor allergies, asthma, and eczema. These medical conditions are a lot to deal with on a daily basis. Often kids with asthma are more likely to have a severe allergic reaction when coming into contact with a food allergen.
Thanks for taking time to read this blog and spreading awareness regarding food allergies. If you would like to know more about food allergies, some websites are listed below with further information.
In addition, if you would like to help raise awareness, join “The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network Walk (FAAN)” this summer. To find the nearest FAAN walk check out:
Andrea Catlett is a fun mom who is always trying to celebrate life. She often celebrates fun bizarre holidays like National Lollipop day or National Lemonade Day. She presently is in school working towards a Masters in Divinity. Her heart is to work as chaplain in a children’s hospital as well as further her education in marriage and family counseling. She has been a children’s pastor and has grown up as a pastor’s kid and one day hopes to be a therapist to pastors, church leaders and their families.