Geez. How do I begin my very first blog post…such pressure! Even more pressure because this…this is the post where I introduce you to my family, our journey into the peanut allergy world and why I started this blog. So here we go…
Our Food Allergy Family
To start with, my name is Lauren. I live in the Charlotte, NC area and visit both North Carolina and South Carolina on a daily basis since we are right at the state line. I’m married to my high school sweetheart. We’ve been in the Carolina’s (via Michigan…and yes, I am a Michigan State University alumni…not that other university in Michigan) since 2010 and have two amazing children.
Lucas – he’s our peanut allergic kid born in the summer of 2014.
Lillie – she is our non-food allergy big sister born in the fall of 2011.
Combined, Lillie and Lucas are one powerful duo. Sure, Lillie loves to toss her brother around…what are siblings for? They keep me on my toes. In the end, I am just a normal mom. Actually, since December of 2012, I became just a normal mom living in a food allergy world.
2015 B.R. (Before Reaction)
Lucas was born into this world in the summer of 2014. He didn’t show any signs of an allergy – let alone a food allergy – until he turned one. Around the time he turned one, I did notice some eczema on his ankles and elbows. He was written a prescription lotion for this in terms of management and flare ups.
Also, looking back on it…doubting myself to see if I missed any signs…I question myself. There were quite a few times when Lucas would eat whatever random puree food we had (of course, you don’t write down these things for the 2nd child), would cause him to have a itchy, red, small patch on his right cheek by his mouth. This would clear up and then flare up again, but I never questioned the food.
There was also one time…and I am like 80% positive it was after eating peanut butter in some capacity…that one of his ears became itchy, as well as the skin right below it on his cheek. I didn’t think anything of it, but was sure to wash the area and apply some cortisone cream. Obviously, this “reaction” did not last long.
December 12, 2015 and the Days After
The morning of December 12, 2015 was a special day. My mom (Nanny as she is called), Lillie, Lucas and I were going to visit Santa! We were running late – like always – so I made some peanut butter toast in a pinch for Lillie to eat while I gathered all our clothes to go out. After we were all dressed, I noticed Lucas eating some peanut butter toast that he snatched up from our kitchen island. I assume he got some on his skin as well, since, at the time, he was almost 16 months old…a very messy age. We were all ready to go. Within minutes of Lucas getting his hands on that peanut butter, I noticed he began to itch and sneeze. I was thinking to myself, this can’t be a reaction, we have to go see Santa! Sure enough, his eyes became itchy and watery. I quickly washed off his skin and gave him some Benadryl (minimal amount). I called my mom to tell her we were on the way to pick her up and what was happening to Lucas.
Here is a video of Lucas’ reaction:
Here is another:
Of course, looking back now, I should have taken him right to the emergency room. What if his breathing had stopped? What if the reaction continued? Now I know.
As you can see, his eye became swollen and his lips too. He developed a few hives – all above the neck. Eventually, things went down. He was acting normal-ish during this reaction time, but still manged to flip out on Santa’s lap. I took him to the pediatrician that afternoon and they advised I make a allergy appointment ASAP and avoid all peanut products.
The picture of Lucas and Lillie by the tree is from the night of the reaction. It really put things into perspective. God, what if something bad had REALLY happened? We were on the cusp of a life change or was this a fluke? I didn’t really know any other moms (closely) that had kids with allergies -just one who I thank at the bottom of the post. We had this dead space of time from the reaction until we visited a specialist. What do I do in the meantime? How do I approach eating out? What about the food in my house? What did I do wrong and how did I miss this allergy? What if he has more allergies and I miss this?
On December 17, 2015 Lucas’ peanut allergy was confirmed. He had a reaction in the real world from peanut butter + an in office skin test confirmation. He was also tested for tree nuts, but this came back negative. Trying to process, receive and understand the information from the board certified allergist and his support staff just wasn’t working. I was scared. Plus, Lucas had me all distracted with his toddler antics. I wanted to make sure I asked the right questions, but how do I ask the right questions when I have no understanding of this life situation? I heard words like anaphylaxis, Epi-pen prescription, FARE, strict avoidance. It was like in one ear and out the other.
Shortly after our appointment, we picked up our Epi-pens and I had to learn how to use it. I had to teach Lucas’ dad how to use it, as well as our family. Such a scary thing, to think about giving your child a life saving shot. Such self doubt and second guessing yourself on the signs and symptoms. Eventually, I made my way to the FARE website to learn about other names for peanuts, resources, how to handle a new diagnosis and so so so much more! I also found a local food allergy group for Charlotte called Parents of Allergic Kids. Of course, I made my way into several Facebook groups that introduced me to terms like cross contamination, how to read labels, coping with a new diagnosis, examples of reactions and things that REALLY scared me. Seriously, it was like I couldn’t turn it off. It made me even more manic, but, like a close allergy mom friend told me, it will be a roller coaster of emotions and understanding. Boy, was it ever.
Before the new year, we went back to the allergist for a further Peanut Component Testing for his IgE antibodies. His test confirmed the allergy present for Ara h 2.
Lucas was exposed to peanut butter early in life. He was exposed to products that may contain peanuts, made at a facility with peanuts or were run on the same line as peanuts.
Living with food allergies is NOT easy. It affects our daily lives. It affects Lillie’s life too. Siblings also bear the burden and I always need to remind myself, that someday, they will understand how important their role is in their brother’s or sister’s life.
From the moment we received the diagnosis, I will gladly and candidly admit it has been an emotional roller coaster. You fear for their safety. You are their only protector in life – what if you fail them? Will Lucas ever live a normal life. Think of all the childhood and life experiences he will miss. He’ll always be on guard…asking questions of his surroundings. How will this diagnosis affect our family life? Sure, after I became more educated about the allergy, I’ve calm down. But, man, do you really need to find the RIGHT information from the RIGHT source. Food allergies are such a scary thing and it seems like, these days, people gravitate to the worst possible scenarios…and I did that.
I have the knowledge, now I need to do my best to be his advocate. Sure, people will question me. I will be “that mom”, but when your child’s health…life or death…is brought into play, you better assume that I will ask all the questions I need to or try to educate you on how you can help me keep a watchful eye on my child. It does take a village. I would do the same for any child out there.
Lucas is a healthy and happy kid. Sure, his mom is his #1 protector at home and out of the house, but until he can voice his allergy, I am his mouth piece. Now we live life reading labels, looking at allergy menu’s online, wiping down tables and grocery carts with Clorox wipes, asking our friends for ingredients of party menus and just managing it day by day! Our family still continues to educate ourselves and others, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We live a normal life. With food allergies become more common everyday, we know we are not alone and the nation at large is becoming more knowledge, although plenty of misinformation and myths are out there.
Empowerment + Why I Started Peanut Free in the Queen City
It took a long time for me to get this off the ground. Once we had our diagnosis in December of 2015, I thought to myself, hey, now I have a reason to blog – my life has just become a whole lot more interesting! I struggled with the question we always ask ourselves – how do we find the time? As the months passed by, I found myself still updating my social media accounts on Lucas’ journey, as well as wishing I had an outlet to post a humorous take on the food allergy world, air my frustrations, show off peanut allergy tools and resources I’ve found and more. I couldn’t really find a blog that posted what I wanted in terms of information seeking, but also focused on the Charlotte, NC area at large. I’m not all about recipes or crafting or just focusing on the medical side of things. I wanted something with variety with a local spin – so here it is – Peanut Free in the Queen City.
I want this blog…and my message really…to serve as a way to empower not only families living and surviving in the food allergy world, but to also educate those new to the allergies, someone not familiar with peanut allergies, caretakers, teachers and more! I’m all about empowering siblings of food allergy kids. I always remind Lillie that she needs to keep a watchful eye on her brother, just as I do (although you can only expect to trust a 4 year old so much). She consistently reminds strangers – and even friends and family – of Lucas’ allergy and makes sure people do not hand him food that I haven’t checked. How awesome is that? I want her to play a part in her brothers life, through the good times and bad.
Becoming a parent helped me become such a more compassionate and understanding person. Becoming a food allergy mom has helped me become a more empathetic person. Put yourself in my shoes. How would you feel in my position? What would you do to help others understand your world? You would hope that others would extend an olive branch of support and compassion.
I also wanted to create a kinda judgement free zone. Every parent is different. How we react to every situation is different. This is the same with food allergy parents. We have missteps, but we need to learn from each other with an open heart and open mind. I want this site to serve as a way to vent, show the humorous side of the food allergy world, share general parenting tidbits, and more!
Let’s Wrap It Up
I’d like to extend a huge thank you to our family and friends (near and far) who have supported us from day one. Through their patience and openness to understand this life threatening disease, it makes our daily life much easier. I’d also like to thank a family friend who has a husband and son dealing with food allergies as well, for she was such an amazing guide to local matters and served as one of my major resources when it came to the food allergy world.
In the end, I am just a food allergy mom. I am no expert. I am living in this peanut allergy world asking for patience and understanding from those familiar with food allergies and those who aren’t. As parents, let’s continue to support one another and to help each other grow.