The Irony of Nut Allergies

When I was pregnant, I was working and needed a quick and easy breakfast.  More often than not, my morning ritual usually consisted of a toasted English muffin with Peanut butter.  For years, both before and during my pregnancy, I also ate a fancy nut mix with almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and the like.  It was great for snacking.  So imagine my surprise when I discovered my son was allergic to ALL nuts. 

He was a few weeks shy of his 2nd birthday and my pediatrician encouraged me to have him and his twin sister try peanut butter.  I thought easy peasy; Nothing came to mind that caused me to hesitate but I followed her guidance as a precaution.  For the most part, this meant having Benadryl ready to go, and putting just a pea size dab of peanut butter on a cracker.  At the time my twins were just a few weeks away from turning 2. Neither could talk yet.  Each tried the cracker and at first I thought they both were fine.  But within a minute or so, we could see a rash developing on my son’s arms and legs as well as drool coming out of his mouth.  He started pointing his finger back and forth to his mouth.  My husband and I knew right away there was an issue. So I gave the Bendadryl while my husband called 911.  It was an extremely scary situation.  I had never needed to call 911 before and I had never dealt with a life threatening food allergy before.  From that point on, we became a nut free house and very allergy aware. 

Sometime later when my daughter was 6, she wanted to have a fun size butter finger bar.  I said it was ok since she hadn’t had any known issue when initially trying peanut butter.  Within 5 minutes of eating the candy she threw up.  At the time, this made me pause, but I wasn’t sure if there was really a problem.  Soon after she wanted to try Nutella.  My anxiety increased and I decided the best thing to do was go to an allergist first to be tested.  A scratch test revealed positive results to several nuts.  The biggest surprise was that she was more allergic to peanut butter than my son.  And while she had strong allergies to some nuts, there was also the potential to desensitize her to other nuts where she had a low positive result.

I often ask myself, how did these allergies come about.  Did this happen because they were born pre-maturely?  Did I wait too long to introduce nuts?  Is there something in their family genetics that we don’t know about?  At the end of the day, it is very hard to say and not worth agonizing over.  I think it’s more important to teach your kids how to manage through it – not share foods, learn to read labels, learn how to visually recognize what nuts look like, always ask if nuts are in something before eating it etc.  Generally speaking there are several kinds of food allergies, and I am thankful because peanuts and tree nuts tend to be easier to work around than other items.