It started with a single cashew. My 4-year-old daughter saw a jar of them sitting on the counter and asked to try one. "Sure, that's a great new food for you to try," I told her as she popped it in her mouth.
She didn't like it, but swallowed it anyway, and went on her way. A bit later I noticed a rash on her face. I wasn't overly concerned as she has very sensitive skin and frequently gets rashes that come and go, but I kept watching it. About an hour and a half later, she vomited a couple of times. I was concerned enough then that I called the nurse line of my insurance company, just wondering if they thought I should get her tested for an allergy at some point. After a few minutes of questioning, she told me, "Ma'am hang up and call 911 NOW!" I tried to tell her I didn't think it was anything urgent, but she insisted, so I called 911.
I was apologetic when the ambulance arrived, telling them I didn't think she was in distress, but my insurance company told me to call. They were incredibly nice and said they don't mess around when it comes to kids and nut reactions since their airways close up so quickly. They checked her out, and she was fine, but I immediately called our pediatrician to set up an appointment to see if she did indeed have a nut allergy and, if so, what we needed to do about it. She'd had plenty of peanut butter over the years, so I thought if anything, it might be a tree nut problem, but I was anxious to get answers and banned her from any kind of nuts in the meantime.
The problem is that even after meeting with our doctor, we still have no real answers. She offered to do blood tests, but said even if they showed no sensitivities to nuts, she still wouldn't tell me to give my daughter nuts. So what was the point in the blood test? Nothing really. Based on the fact that my daughter had eczema as a baby and that they say she has asthma (which is based only on a couple of times when she had a cold, they heard wheezing), she's a prime candidate for a nut allergy, and so I should probably assume she could have one and keep her away from all nuts ... for life.
Really?! Just like that?
Obviously I would do anything to ensure the health of my daughter, and a nut allergy isn't the worst diagnosis she could have been given. But she really likes hummus and peanut butter cups, and I don't want her to have to face a lifetime of deprivation if she doesn't have to.
So I feel like we're in this murky place. She could have a reaction at anytime, or she may never. How serious could it be? Does she need to sit at the nut-free table at school? Do I need to call ahead to the airlines when we fly and request a peanut-free flight? Nuts make up a huge part of my diet -- what if I kiss her after eating one? No one really knows was pretty much the only answer I got. A reaction could happen.
Is a good cookie really worth the risk? No, but I also don't want her to be "an allergy kid" if she doesn't have to be one. It seems like every child I know has some sort of allergy, and I can't help but wonder if overdiagnosis isn't part of the problem.
Maybe I don't want to believe that she has an allergy, but I'm not willing to accept that she has one just yet. I feel like I have a lot of research to do, and at least a second if not third and fourth opinion to seek out as well. In the meantime, we'll avoid nuts, and I'm going to go fill this prescription for one of those EpiPens that I've always feared and hope I never have to use it.
Does your child have a nut allergy? What has your experience been like?
Image via Razor512/Flickr