I was sitting in our playspace eating a handful of peanuts waiting for a child, any child, to come play with me. My littlest came over. He’s 22 months old. He looked at the peanuts in my hand I looked at him. He looked at me. I nodded. That was it. An hour later we were at the ER.
My other two kids do not have nut allergies. I can remember my pediatrician saying to me when my oldest was about T’s age now. “If you’re that worried about peanuts just drive over here to the hospital parking lot and give him some peanut butter.” As I gave T that second peanut I remembered this sentence. I thought to myself, well we have nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon if something happens. It’ll be fine anyway. No one is allergic to nuts here.
He ate three more.
It started with some coughing. Trying to get the peanuts out of his mouth. He spit them up. Not vomited really, just spit them out. He started rubbing his mouth and tongue. A few minutes later I could see he had a slight rash on this chin. Was it from the rubbing? He’s coughing some more. Then he throws up. Was it from the coughing? He has a pretty sensitive gag reflex. The rash is worse now. Are they hives?
What the fuck is happening? Are you kidding me? Did I just give my kid peanuts and he’s ALLERGIC to them? O.M.G.
I call the pediatrician’s office and explain to them what happened. Can I give him Benadryl, will that help? Yes give him Benadryl. They tell me they’ll call back in 20 minutes. If he’s not better they want to see him. They tell me if he’s worse in one minute to call an ambulance. WHAT?? I have zero experience with food allergies, let alone a possible anaphylactic peanut allergy.
He’s coughing more and it’s turning into a wheeze. His nose is running. He keeps scratching his chin. Breathing gets better and then worse then better. I am 12 inches from his face staring at him. He’s just watching Mickey Mouse giving me sidelong glances like mommy is crazy.
I call the pediatrician again. The nurse says come in. I say do you really think that’s neccessary? (Please remember I have no clue what a peanut allergy can do and the state of health insurance in this country and our huge deductible makes me question every fucking health decision I make. Including this one apparently). She says she’ll talk to the doctor maybe they can just prescribe us some streiods for him. That soothes me for a moment. It’s not that bad. I hang up thinking to myself should I really be the one to make the decision as to whether or not I give my not yet 2 year old steroids?!
I call my mother. She’s a nurse. I ask her about allergic reaction to peanuts. She asks what I’m seeing. As I describe my baby to her I realize it’s just time to go to the doctor. Nothing is emergent but something is definitely and terribly wrong.
I gather the other two from upstairs, we get in to the car and head off to the Pedi. (For those of you judging my lack of action before now need to know I live literally 1 mile from one of the best Pedi ERs in the state. If his breathing had changed from a wheeze to something else I would have just called 911. I felt the need to defend my parenting for a moment.)
We are half way there and he vomits. A lot. He is strapped in at an incline and helpless to the vomit pooling in his mouth. I slam on the brakes pull to the side of the road and get him out of his seat and out of the car. I pull the phone out of my pocket and call my husband.”Please get in the car and bring me some towels. You need to take the other two I have to go.” He’s there in a flash. I clean T up and off we go.
It gets much less dramatic, but no less serious from here on out. We arrive at the Pedi’s and go right in they give him prednisone and tell me he has to go to the ER for observation. He is clearly having and acute allergic reaction and the second instance of vomit is indicating it’s escalting. I assure her I know the way to the ER.
A lovely doc looks at his throat says it’s swollen and they need to give him an Epinephrine shot. He tells me I’m sure you have all sorts of questions about this. He says it’s not so serious that we can’t have a discussion about the shot but he really needs to have it. Do I have questions? I say I’m good with that much discussion, please go get the shot. He leaves. I call my husband to tell him we’ll be there for 4-6 hours.
He goes to pick up the Epi Pen from the pharmacy so it’s there when we get home. We stay for 4 hours and watch Mickey Mouse on a continuous loop.
The next day comes and he doesn’t relapse or have any kind of escalation in symptoms. The ER calls to check in on us. I call the Pedi to schedule an appt, they had the name of an allergist ready for me.
So the takeaway here is this: if you have young kids and are unaware of their nut allergy status you should at least know what the symptoms are.
From the Mayo Clinic:
An allergic response to peanuts usually occurs within minutes after exposure, and symptoms range from mild to severe. Peanut allergy symptoms can include:
- Skin reactions such as hives, redness or swelling
- Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat
- Digestive problems such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting
- Tightening of the chest
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Runny or stuffy nose
Do you see that? He had ALL those. None that needed a call to 911, but he definitely needed medical attention.
If your child has any signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis, severe dizziness, severe trouble breathing or loss of consciousness call 911 or your local emergency number.
Do you have kids with peanut allergies? How did you find out?