So unfortunately we’ve joined the “KEEP PEANUTS AWAY FROM MY CHILD!” club. We made this discovery a few weeks after Leah turned 1 year old. I knew that the books recommended waiting until after the age of 1 to introduce peanuts so a few weeks after Leah’s first birthday, I thought it would be okay to let her taste my peanut butter toast when she showed interest in it one morning. She touched the peanut butter and tasted it, but didn’t seem to particularly like it. Before I could wash her hands, she got some on her face and started rubbing her eyes. Her eyes got red and swollen and then she developed hives on her face. She started scratching her body and hives appeared on her arms. Thankfully she didn’t seem to have any problems breathing, she was just whining from the itchiness. I gave her a dose of Children’s Benadryl (thank you First Aid course!) to delay and minimize the symptoms and we gave her a quick bath to remove all traces of the peanut butter. The hives subsided and the swelling went down. Leah was still a bit irritable but after speaking to a pediatrician friend, I felt it wasn’t necessary to take her to emergency.
In retrospect, this wasn’t Leah’s first allergic reaction to peanuts but it was definitely the most severe and traceable. I suspect she had her first allergic reaction at 6 months old when she was exposed to peanut butter cookies from a playdate with a mommy friend and her toddler. Leah was crawling at the time and though she didn’t eat any of the cookies, she seemed to show mild allergy symptoms (itchy eyes and skin rash) after the visit. We washed the playmats and vacuumed the house thoroughly and the symptoms didn’t return. The second allergic reaction which was more severe, occurred when Leah was at a playdate at the park with another mommy friend and her child. Her daughter was eating peanut butter on bread but Leah didn’t have any. After playing on a picnic blanket together, Leah experienced a significant eczema flare up. She couldn’t (and wouldn’t) stop scratching her arms and legs and was incredibly irritable and cranky. After the third allergic reaction at 1 year old, I realized that the other two incidents should have clued me into Leah’s sensitivity to peanuts. Upon speaking to my pediatrician friend, I also learned that I should have delayed introducing peanut butter since she had eczema (making her more susceptible to other allergies and sensitivities). Darn.
When Leah had her next doctor’s appointment, we told the Doctor about her allergic reaction to eating peanut butter and we asked him if she should take an allergy test or get an epi-pen. Surprisingly, he advised against both. He said that since Leah reacted within 5 minutes of eating the peanut butter, her reaction would be categorized as severe and he wouldn’t recommend that she eat peanut butter regardless of the allergy test. Since the test is unpleasant to go through, there’s really no point in subjecting Leah to it to confirm what is pretty obvious. With the epi-pen, he said that as long as we had access to EMS services, he felt that the risk of potentially using the pen incorrectly was significant enough that he would recommend against it. Instead, he suggested that we keep Benadryl close at hand to help in the case of another reaction.
Now that Leah is eating more table food and dining out more often, we really do have to be quite vigilant about what she is eating and exposed to. We removed all traces of peanut butter from our home (I was so sad) and we had to avoid eating at Thai restaurants when Leah was with us. Thankfully (?), peanut allergies are so common nowadays that most restaurants, schools and theme parks are peanut-free. Even more amazing is the number of great peanut butter substitutes available like PTPA winner I.M. Health SoyNut Butter. I was so happy to receive this in the mail and was really looking forward to Leah finally being able to enjoy something like peanut butter. At that time we were really struggling to come up with ideas for what to feed her for breakfast so it was perfect timing. It’s easy to spread, tastes great, is totally healthy and the best thing is, we can all enjoy it without worrying about about Leah having a reaction. With the frequency of nut allergies out there these days, I totally recommend it to all parents, regardless of whether or not your child has a nut allergy.
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