Raising a Child With Peanut Allergies and Identifying the Symptoms
Peanut allergies are on the rise across the world. We are seeing more children with allergic reactions to peanuts than in any other time in history. My son has severe peanut allergies and goes to Kindergarten at a public school.
We have had a few very scary run-ins with peanuts that have taught us some valuable lessons. We are now very familiar with the symptoms to watch out for, allergy tests that can show how severe the allergic reactions can be, and how to avoid peanuts all together.
Should I Avoid Eating Peanuts When Pregnant?
Doctors are still trying to figure out what causes allergies. When I was pregnant with my second child, our allergist told me not to eat peanuts while I was pregnant since my first child was severely allergic to peanuts.
They told me that if I avoided peanuts during my second pregnancy, my second child most likely will not have peanut allergies.
I followed our allergist's orders and stayed away from peanuts. My daughter came out with no peanut allergies; she can eat peanuts now with no problem.
I don't know if this was a coincidence or if it was because I avoided peanuts during my pregnancy with her, but I would recommend not eating peanuts during pregnancy in the off-chance that this was not a coincidence.
Peanut Allergy Symptoms: What is an Allergic Reaction?
When a person comes in contact with an allergen that does not agree with them, the histamines in our body react by attacking the intruder.
When someone has an allergic reaction, the histamines also attack our bodies causing a multitude of harmful to deadly allergy symptoms.
Some of the symptoms in toddlers and children include:
- swelling especially around the eyes, ears and throat, mouth and tongue
- loss of color in the skin
- dark or red circles around the eyes
- a blotchy rash
- itchy, watery eyes
- overall irritation
- a child can look 'spaced out'
- it will also exacerbate any skin conditions they have
- runny nose
- trouble breathing
- tight throat feeling
- a rattling or wheezing sound when they breath
- a belly ache, diarrhea or vomiting
Even if you get past the initial reaction, which happens within minutes of coming in contact with peanuts, most of the time there is a second reaction which happens several hours later which can be more severe.
Our First Peanut Allergy Experience
When my son turned one year old, I was told that I could start giving him peanut butter, amongst other things.
As soon as he put it in his mouth, he spit it out. He didn't even swallow it.
Immediately, he shrieked. He couldn't use his words to tell me how he felt since he didn't have a very large vocabulary at that point. It was very scary!
Immediately, he began to swell up and get a rash across his body. The rash began on his head and worked its way down to his feet.
His ears, tongue, neck and throat swelled up. He turned very pale and looked spaced out, but he was still screaming in pain.
It was the worst thing a mother could see happen to her child. I thought he was going to die.
I immediately gave him Benadryl and called my doctor's office to find out what to do. They told me to keep giving him Benadryl and to watch for the second reaction.
The second reaction came around dinner time. He swelled up even more and the rash spread across most of his body.
I had to check him throughout the night to make sure he was still breathing. I don't know why they told me to keep him at home instead of bringing him in, since it was so serious.
The next morning, I brought him to an allergist to get checked. The rash and swelling didn't go away completely until a week later.
If I would have known then what I know now, I would have brought him to emergency room. He had had a serious anaphylactic reaction that required an Epi-Pen. We were very lucky.
Not all pediatricians fully know what to do when a child has an allergic reaction like this. They recommend Benadryl, but this medication will not stop their throats from swelling shut or their blood pressure from dropping during an attack.
Also, there is something called a biphasic attack. It is a second reaction several hours later that could be and usually is even worse then the first reaction.
Parents should listen to their guts when it comes to their children. If the pediatrician says to give them Benadryl and watch them, but your gut says that they need to go to the E.R., then listen to your gut. It may be more expensive, but they will get the correct care at the E.R.
Also, if you do go to the emergency room and you have given your child Benadryl, it could cover up the symptoms. Let the E.R. know what the symptoms where like before the Benadryl was administered.
Allegy Test: How Do You Find out What Your Child Is Allergic To?
If you believe that you or your child is allergic to peanuts, or anything for that matter, make an appointment with an allergist.
Most allergists also treat asthma, since children with allergies have a higher risk of also having asthma.
What to Expect From a Trip to the Allergist:
- The doctor will collect information from the parents and examine the child.
- It is a good idea to take pictures of your child when they do have an allergic reaction so you can show them to the doctor. That way they can get a good idea of how severe the reaction is.
- The initial appointment will take around 2 hours. They will do an allergy test on your child.
- The test involves dipping a couple dozen needles in different type of allergens and pricking the child's skin with each needle.
- This well help the doctor to determine which allergens your child may be allergic to. If a prick gets a red, itchy, swollen bump, then your child is allergic to that allergen.
- The bigger the red area around the prick, the more severe the allergy.
- If your child shows that he or she is allergic to a food allergen, your allergist may send your child for blood work to determine how severe the allergy is.
- It is very tough to see your child go through all this, but it is worth it to determine what they are allergic to and how to avoid or treat them if they do run into these allergens.
- If a child is found to have peanut allergies, or any other food allergy, you will be given an Epi-Pen Junior.
Remedies and Cures
- The best remedy for peanut allergies is avoidance. That is easier said than done though. Oftentimes, peanut and tree nut dust can mix together when processing.
- Even though a child is not allergic to tree nuts, he or she could still have an allergic reaction to it because it may have peanut dust on it. This is called cross-contamination.
- My son's allergist told me that peanut oil is okay as long as it has been processed.
- Do not use peanut oil from Nature or Organics stores since it will have some of the allergen in it.
- If you eat out at Chick-Fil-A, the peanut oil that they cook their chicken in is okay. The peanut oil that Chick-fil-A uses to fry their chicken has been processed to the point that it no longer has the peanut allergen in it.
- Watch out for Indian and Asian food, since they add peanuts and peanut butter to many dishes.
- Watch out for Bar-B-Q restaurants that provide pails of peanuts and let patrons throw peanut shells on the floor. Even when my son walked into one of these restaurants, he began to get pale and have dark circles around his eyes and get the spaced out look. We turned around and went to a different restaurant!
- In fact, our allergist told us that peanut oil used in the home is okay as long as it has been processed, but always speak with your allergist before using any peanut oil.
- He said not to buy unprocessed peanut oil from health food or natural food stores since the allergen is still in them.
- When going to birthday parties or get-togethers, ask to see the box that the snacks or cake came in. It is easy to find out if it may contain peanuts. If it does, let the child know that it has peanuts and give them a different snack. When we go to birthday parties, I usually put a kid-sized candy in my purse (that contains no peanuts) just in case the cake may contain peanuts. That way, my son doesn't feel left out.
- Check ingredient labels when you are grocery shopping. Manufacturers make it very easy to find out if a product may contain peanuts. They put an allergy warning in bold letters at the end of the ingredients list stating that a products does or may contain peanuts or any other common food allergen.
- Always carry an Epi-Pen Jr with you and have an extra one for any other caregiver or teacher that is around your child a lot.
- If your child does come in contact with peanuts and begins to have a reaction, administer the Epi-Pen into the child's outer thigh and call 9-1-1 immediately. If you do not have an Epi-Pen, give them Children's Benadryl or a half dose of Adult Benadryl and call 9-1-1 immediately.
- Once the child is at the hospital, the doctors can watch for breathing problems, make them comfortable and help to reduce the allergic reaction.
- Make people aware that your child has peanut allergies. If others know, then there is less of a chance that your child will accidentally be given a peanut product.
- You could also buy a peanut allergy bracelet and have your child wear it to make sure others are aware of the allergy when you are not close to your child. Some of the bracelets look cool and fun, so the child will want to wear them.
- Educate your child. If they have had an allergic reaction to peanuts, they will know that it is not fun and that they do not want to have that happen again.
- Show them pictures of peanuts and peanut products so they will know what to avoid. Show them how to check ingredient lists for peanuts.
- I usually avoid chocolate candies for my child with peanut allergies. The fruit candies are safer, but you still have to watch the ingredient list.