It all started when my son was about 18 months-old. He was playing with a Nerf ball with my husband in the family room. Within moments of playing with the ball my son’s face began to swell and he had hives along his mouth and cheeks. Especially as first time parents, my husband and I were stricken with sheer panic because we had no idea what was happening to our son.
We rushed him to the doctor and after a blood test confirmed it, we found out our son had a severe allergy to nuts – every kind of nut. While hearing this news we were still really confused with the diagnosis because our son never ingested a nut.
We retraced our steps from that day and realized my husband was eating peanuts prior to playing with my son and holding that ball. So the oil from the peanuts (perhaps found its way onto the front of his shirt) and the residue on his hands (from touching the peanuts and then touching the ball – and then the ball touching my son’s face) was all it took. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if my son actually ate a peanut that day.
We weren’t equipped with Benadryl.
We didn’t have an Epi-Pen.
We had no idea this whole food allergy world existed until it reached our home which is why I wanted to publish this post.
I know there are many families out there that don’t truly understand the size and scope of this allergy. We are not talking about the kind of allergy that shows up as an irritating runny nose or a cough that lingers for weeks and doesn’t seem to go away.
We are talking about the kind of allergy that is the difference between LIFE and DEATH.
I know we don’t live in a bubble and I can’t protect my child from every aspect of this environment. But I am in total control of our reaction to what happens in this space and it is my job as a mother to be an advocate for my child.
I didn’t tell you about the time I witnessed my own son’s lip and face blowing up because a friend’s dog licked him (we later found out the dog food that the dog ate that morning contained traces of nuts).
I didn’t tell you about the time we were in Disney World about to watch a show when a boy who happened to sit down next to my son whipped out some peanut butter crackers. This forced us to immediately get up and move our seats and as we were packing up our things THOSE parents mumbled under their breath that we “over-reacted.” Maybe we should have continued to sit next to them and then they could have watched in horror as our son went into ANAPHYLACTIC SHOCK.
I actually have shared the time my son put his lips to a Blue Bunny Ice-Cream cone and the time he mysteriously broke out in hives at Rockefeller Center. But somehow, it’s still hard for me to come up with the right words to explain to those that don’t deal with this daily how serious this allergy truly is.
Yes, I was THAT mom on the second day of school calling the Principal and requesting another reminder that we are now a nut-free school. A nut-free school means that you don’t send your child in with a peanut butter sandwich.
I actually liked it better last year when the school was nut-friendly because everyone was extremely cognizant of children who suffer from this allergy. Teachers diligently made sure children washed their hands after every meal and my son sat with other “allergy kids” at a completely separate table. Since food containing nuts were being allowed in school, this actually gave me peace of mind that teachers, parents and administrators were on top of the situation at every waking moment because they had to be. However, now that we are a nut-free school there is a sense of complacency and it makes me worry because teachers and administrators are assuming that parents are following this nut-free rule but the peanut butter sandwiches keep rolling in.
I know I can’t expect every parent to be as diligent as we are since other parents are not obsessing over labels like we have to but I know damn well if it was YOUR kid, you would want ME to think twice before sending my kid in with a peanut butter sandwich.
So you think I obsess over food labels and I continue to be THAT mom?
You’re damn right I am.
If there’s anything you take away from this post, let it be this; please have a little more compassion, empathy and understanding for moms like me, moms who are just trying to ensure that their child is safe. If it was YOUR child, you would be doing the EXACT same thing.
So the next time you see me on the ball field, in your child’s classroom or in the parking lot at school, cut me some slack. I’m just doing the best I can as a mother to protect my child who suffers from a life threatening allergy – because it’s a matter of LIFE and DEATH. Period.