Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Managing a Nut Allergy is NOT Fool-proof

A few years ago I wrote this post about our life managing our son's peanut and tree nut allergy.  With a new school year around the corner, I always find myself feeling a little nervous and weary about his safety at school.  We are fortunate the school he attends has become much more accommodating since our initial struggles, but it still doesn't take the anxiety away about the potential for a slip-up to happen.

You see, despite our best intentions, managing an allergy is simply not fool-proof.  We learned this lesson the hard way this summer and it has caused my anxiety level to increase a bit more than normal as we enter this school year.

We spent a lot of time on the road vacationing this summer.  With this brought meals in hotels and restaurants and though we check labels and ask questions, one evening we had an unfortunate mishap at the hotel happy hour.

As usual, we scanned what was available for people to eat:  fruit, cheese, vegetables, chips, salsa, and some canisters of various cracker mixes.  We scanned the mixes and noted that one very obviously contained a tree nut, the second was questionable, and the third contained Goldfish crackers.  They also had a few bowls of candy-gummy worms and Reeses Pieces.

We avoided the obvious dangers, Reeses Pieces and snack mix containing the nuts, and opted to let him munch on the Goldfish crackers and some pineapple.  Seemed like a safe choice.

After a bit we realized we had a problem.  Our son began to complain the outside of his mouth was itching and burning.  One look was all it took to know he was having a reaction.  The red, itchy rash quickly spread all around his mouth and he then told his stomach was upset.  Both tell-tale signs of a reaction.  When he said his throat felt funny and made a squeezing motion with his hands, we decided it was time to administer his Epi-pen, give him Benadryl, and call 911.

This was the first time we had experienced a nut reaction since the original incident when he was only 20 months old.  My husband administered the Epi-pen and though our son may have been scared, he was very brave.  The ambulance came and took him to the local ER where he was monitored for a few hours to make sure he had stabilized.

Later that evening he returned with my husband to the hotel.  He handled it all very well and we were relieved all turned out fine.  All-in-all, we followed the emergency plan.  We were prepared and had his Epi-pen and Benadryl on hand, so we were able to treat him in a timely manner.

While I can't say we are happy it happened, we were relieved (once it was all over, of course!) all went smoothly.  We all know what to expect now and our son did a fantastic job communicating the symptoms he was experiencing.

This unfortunate event really goes to show how diligent we have to be.  We learned a few lessons from this experience.  We should have asked for a new bag of Goldfish crackers to be opened rather than taking them out of the canister and wiped down the table with a disinfectant wipe before eating anything.

We still aren't sure if the container was cross-contaminated or the table had some nut residue on it.  Either way, this experience solidifies the importance of advocating for his safety at school and all of the small steps it takes to avoid him coming into contact with his allergens.

I'll give my little PSA regarding allergy awareness and safety at the beginning of the school year.  If your child has anything containing nuts for breakfast, please have them wash their hands with soap and water before they head off to school.  If your child has a student in their class with a nut allergy, please be respectful and follow the school's nut-free policy without complaint.

It's the little things that make a huge difference.  We all wish this wasn't the reality for our kids, but it's the hand they've been dealt.  By being mindful and working together we can all do our best to cut down on the risk of exposure and, if all goes well, avoid an allergic reaction.