Small Changes Save Lives

About five years ago, we learned the cause of our son’s violent rejection of many meals: an egg allergy. Many changes occurred in our home. Everything about the way food was prepared changed. I read every label, sometimes two or three times in the store and again at home. I became brand loyal out of necessity for Dietrich’s safety – not because I enjoy paying a certain price or one brand tastes better than another. I spent almost two years retraining our son on eating, teaching him that food was safe and he would not get sick anymore.

Dietrich’s reactions to food were always immediate, violent, and an outright rejection of the substance (with the exception of fish, he threw up rather than develop hives or respiratory problems. Even with fish, his reaction was immediate once his little body decided to be allergic). Because of Dietrich’s allergies to peanuts, Madilynn hasn’t ever had any peanuts or peanut butter. We are in a new town, attending a new congregation. Since Madilynn doesn’t have the problems Dietrich has, I am much more relaxed about sending her to children’s worship. On Sunday after worship, she was happy and playing. She chatted with us from the car to the restaurant. When I turned to look at her after we were seated, this is what I saw:

Realistically I knew it could be anything, but I also knew the swelling occurred in the two minutes it took to go from the front of the restaurant to our seat. I carry Benadryl with me everywhere and gave her the higher dose recommended for her age and weight. The swelling didn’t change and she started coughing, sneezing, and wheezing. The hospital is literally one minute from our house. The downside of me driving there is that we waited hours and in that time she developed hives under her arms and the nape of her neck. The nurses gave her more Benadryl and a Gatorade while we waited for the doctor. About four and a half hours after we arrived, we saw the doctor, who told me what I already knew, gave a dose of steroids, and sent us home with a prescription for more. As soon as I came home, I sent a message to the children’s worship teacher to find out what the snack was, just in case anything new or out of the ordinary had been introduced. Nutter Butter Crackers. The reaction took nearly 30 minutes to show up and proceeded to get worse for the next several hours.

I think peanut butter is an amazingly tasty treat. After Sunday, this house is a 100% nut-free zone (except for the human occupants). It is a small change that will keep my children safe. Church members are amazing and go above and beyond when they know there is a problem – and feel terrible when they find out the problem. Small changes save lives in the world of food allergies.

While one can find evidence and research arguing both for and against introducing allergens early even when a close relative is severely allergic, I think our experience proves that delaying the introduction of peanuts was the right thing to do. We will also be avoiding them from this point forward.


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