Guest Post – I Have Food Allergies and So Does My Son

Father Son Cooking

 When I was two years old, my mom tried various tricks to get me to stop sucking my thumb. Once, she put peanut butter on my thumb before bed. She knew I didn’t like the smell; and we soon learned why. I came to them in the middle of the night with red eyes, a swollen face, and a noticeable wheeze. It was an allergy to peanuts, of course.

Things I don’t remember about growing up with a peanut allergy in the 1970s and 80s:

-Visiting an allergist or even a doctor, specifically to discuss the allergy
-Any nut-free signs at my school
-My mom ever phoning the parents of a friend to ask what they were serving at a birthday party
-Hearing the word Epipen let alone knowing what an autoinjector was
-Anyone asking on my behalf whether any product contained nuts

I figured out the basics of managing my allergy on my own; but I was still just a kid. When I was 8, I went to a birthday party and bit into a cookie without a moment’s hesitation. After one swallow, I knew it contained peanut butter and my time at the party was done. Another incident involved a dinner at a Chinese restaurant with my parents and another couple. Again, it was one taste. This time it was an egg roll with a peanut that ruined my night. Not knowing any better, my parents took me out to the car to lie down and “sleep it off” while they went back inside and finished their meal!

This is not meant to be an indictment of my parents. It was a different era. I can’t recall even knowing any other kids with a food allergy of any kind. When it would come up at a friend’s house, people would ask me all sorts of questions and sit in rapt attention.

Having dealt with this allergy all my life, and taken control over it as an adult, I was well-equipped to handle it when we learned our young son had multiple food allergies (including peanuts). My wife took the news hard; but, having managed an allergy my whole life, I knew that this was something that we could handle. I knew that, when comparing awareness and the ability to manage food allergies now to when I was a kid, this was something that we could make sure didn’t get the best of our son or us.

My son and I share in the experience of having a food allergy. While our allergies (and our reactions) are different, we can learn from each other. He’s growing up in an allergy-aware environment and I feel confident that he won’t need to rely on just dumb luck when it comes to managing his food allergies. And, in helping him learn to manage his allergies, I’ve gained more knowledge about managing mine, too.

Roger King

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4 thoughts on “Guest Post – I Have Food Allergies and So Does My Son”

  1. I share your experience, Roger. I, too, was the only kid I knew with a food allergy. My parents used to bring peanut brittle on our x-c ski excursions deep into the woods, and break off a piece of “just the brittle” for me. Both my children have peanut allergies and a host of others. It’s much easier for us as parents to manage our children’s allergies with confidence having grown up in a non-allergy aware world. I find myself ‘talking down’ many a non-allergic parent who has recently learned their child has a food allergy. I empathize.

    Heather

  2. I am 72 so nice to be a survivor. When I was working at 17, I saw muffins in the cafeteria that were suspiciously brown so didn’t eat them and later learned that a co-worker was taken to the hospital with a reaction to peanut. So amazingly there was someone else that shared my allergy. I was diagnosed at age 2 having been forced to eat peanut butter at nursery school and getting sick each time apparently. Luckily our doctor was a paediatrician at Sick Kid’s and he had me tested to confirm a peanut allergy. In my day, peanut was a peanut in a shell or peanut butter. Peanuts are included now in so many recipes and I had them sprinkled on a dinner at an upscale hotel downtown and it had not been mentioned in the description of my meal that I ordered which had to be returned to the kitchen. Later, I also learned that Chinese food was cooked in peanut oil. Because of its higher smoke point, it can be used longer to deepfry with than other oils. I feel so fortunate to have had very few reactions except about 15 yrs ago in a restaurant I experienced a complete circulatory collapse that Dr. Vadas said I missed a golden opportunity to use my Epi-Pen. All I knew was I was about to faint and if I hadn’t laid down my head on my best friend’s lap, I would have passed out. This was my first reaction like this and I hadn’t recognized what was happening to me. I am also allergic to 4 nuts and soya. I used to follow the directions of talking to the chef himself in a restaurant about my allergies and not the server and never had a reaction except the one mentioned and we couldn’t determine what I had reacted to when we discussed later what had happened. My meal had been okay but I did eat a chicken wing from my friend’s plate so there could have been something in the sauce as the restaurant couldn’t tell me what was in that. I now will not eat in a restaurant that serves peanut anything. I also will not eat when I go out except at our children’s homes who are peanut-free for my sake. We started making our own bread and I go to a bakery that is peanut-free. I do not trust anyone to have a totally peanut-free home. Have you ever had someone brush their hands off before shaking your hand as they were indulging on the peanuts/nuts in a serving dish at a party? If those hands are wiped on a towel or the upholstery nearby there is a risk you can unexpectedly encounter peanut. Travelling is a huge problem to Australia as it is 34 hrs door to door for us. I have to take all my food and the airlines do not restrict what you bring on board so with many flights not providing meals, you could encounter a seat mate with a peanut butter sandwich beside you. If they hand out peanuts then the entire flight can be eating them and when they get up they use the seat ahead to support them and leave peanut residue wherever they touch, not even talking about the smell of peanuts which is so nauseating for me. You need to ensure that peanuts are not provided as a snack before you book a flight. Air Canada our last flight had me pass along a bag of cashews to my seat mate and my husband noticed so she asked for it back and I handed it back and then after explaining to the man she passed it back to him via me so he could eat them on his next flight or in the airport. I was not happy to learn he also was headed to Australia. The airlines just do not get it! The U.S. seized my banana and orange which I explained was to be my dinner but the kindly customs guy went away and switched mine with his. I also carry Raincoast tuna in a snaptop can as a lunch or dinner with my homemade bread and the customs in U.S. also said there was too much liquid in the can and was going to take it until I asked her to ask her supervisor. I had bought other cans and weighed the liquid before leaving and their can has been filled with no oil, broth or water so has less liquid than other cans and they do not process the flavoured tuna with Thai. Look for Raincoast Salmon and Tuna which are both outstanding. Be prepared to open a can and weigh the liquid in case you are questioned about the amount in the can. I also learned I could peel an apple and cut it in sections, put it in a baggy with a bit of lemon juice so it doesn’t turn brown and nobody took it away from me. The same goes for peeling a Clementine and they last overnight. So make your own bread in a breadmaker and butter it and you have dinner. I do not eat any airplane food as there is no peanut-nut-free menu and I still do not trust the mass food supplier that your meal will not have come into contact with your allergen in their kitchens. You might be allowed to take a whole loaf of bread in luggage and then if staying where there is a fridge or when friends/family, freeze enough bread for a return flight home. When you read all the recalls by the CFIA, do you really trust any manufacturer to provide you with peanut/nut-free food when you are trapped in an airplane for a 14 hr flight and no place to land? Christie’s once labelled their RitzBitz Cheese as peanut if you can believe that. They later told me that Ritz Crackers are okay as they are manufactured in another plant. Whatever food you are eating that is manufactured you need to call them to learn what else they produce in their plant. I am thrilled to use Renee’s Dressings and Chapman’s Ice Cream with the logo peanut-free as I hadn’t eaten ice cream in over 15 yrs. Grissol products are also safe. That said, consider that staff may bring in a peanut butter sandwich for lunch even though the peanut-free companies likely have banned this practice. The airlines will also tell you they can’t stop passengers from bringing peanuts on board and I did see someone with a bag on one trip. Be prepared to bring wipes to clean the seats you will be using and check down the sides as people stuff packaging down there as well as in the pouch on the seats in front. Wipe hand before you eat is a must practice anywhere. It has not been easy to tell people you cannot eat their meal not because of the food but because of where it has been prepared (cutting boards, knives, spoons, pots, cookie sheets, etc.) People that you think get it often still don’t. I recently had dinner with a friend that won’t have me for 2 weeks after they have had nuts or peanut in the house and supposedly scrupulously cleans everything. She brought out the gorgeous apple pie along with peanut butter ice cream she thought was butterscotch and this is after the previous time buying ice cream with nuts in it I am allergic to. My own mother told me that she wished the Bulk Barn wouldn’t put the peanut butter next to the minced meat for the pie she had made for Xmas. I truly feel so fortunate to have survived to my age with so few reactions and I now just say I am paranoid about peanuts and bring my own food. or eat before or after we go out. I recently offered our home at the last minute for a potluck supper planned by all the neighbours with cottages around our home as a major storm began at 5 p.m. You guessed it, I didn’t know most of these 48 people who arrived and there was a bowl of nuts on the table along with a peanut butter dessert on my buffet in my peanut-free home with an Anaphylaxis sign on the door. All you can do is be ever vigilant and definitely carry 5 of those wonderful new Allerjects as they take up far less room when travelling and will help someone to use it for you as they talk the person through it. I now will not go to isolated areas where you are not close to a hospital. Think about the fact you can die in less than 15 min.so check before you go somewhere. In Australia we went to a barrier island and I later realized we had no cell phone with us and were a long way from the city hospital. If you do go outside of a safe range, be very sure each and every piece of food you take is 100% safe so you won’t have a reaction. If you head to Europe, be prepared to encounter the unexpected as in Nice, France we had to check out a half dozen restaurants to find one that didn’t cook in peanut oil. Who knew? Call me Paranoid but I am a SURVIVOR.

  3. I’m also a child of the 70s and 80s with a lifelong peanut/tree nut allergy. Thankfully, the pediatrician my parents took me to was fairly well versed in allergies and anaphylaxis, so I was tested very early and was given Benadryl and various asthma drugs when I had reactions. It was just weird feeling like the strange, defective kid who couldn’t eat “normal” kid things, who thought she was allergic to chocolate but it was really a cross-contamination issue, who would have trouble breathing around cats. I once got into an argument with the stupid mother of one of my friends, because she insisted that there’s no such thing as being allergic to dairy.

    I don’t think I had an EpiPen until I was well into high school, and now the thought of being without it makes me queasy.

  4. This is so familiar! I was born in ’81 and I, too, was the only person I knew with an allergy until middle school, when I think there was one other kid (in a school of over 600 students.) The world has definitely changed since then. People (even emergency personnel!) often didn’t believe my parents, I wasn’t officially diagnosed with allergies until age 4, and wasn’t tested in any way until age 6 (and then only because we switched pediatricians and the new one had a focus on allergies.) Nobody got it but we muddled through, with accidental reactions being par for the course. My kids are in a much more aware world now.

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