So. My world has been turned upside down. Forrest has been diagnosed with a peanut allergy. He is not allergic to tree nuts, which is a small blessing in itself, I suppose. It is just peanuts, and cashews that Forrest can't handle at this time. It is funny. No one in both sides of our family has a peanut allergy yet Forrest is struck with this. It reminds me of how it is kind of the same for me with my Deafness, and how no one else in my family is Deaf yet it happened to me. Like one of my dear friends, Jessica, had said to me today that it is just something that God made them, and he just thought they didn't need peanuts, and peanut products. I am not quite there at sharing similar viewpoint since I am still processing everything, yet her sentiment is something I do agree with. Sometimes, kids are just the way they are, and it takes a very special set of parents to have those children in their lives (not that parents are any less special with children without any issues).
When I saw the angry red welt appear immediately after the prick test on Forrest's arm; my heart sank, and I knew. I wondered if I had done anything wrong during my pregnancy. I took good care of myself, and Forrest while he was in my womb yet I questioned if I had somehow inadvertently caused him to develop a peanut allergy. I had all the should's, and what if's running through my mind. I worried whether my drinking soy milk during pregnancy had led to this occurrence. What if I had eaten something wrong while I was pregnant? Did we give Forrest peanut butter at a wrong time? Should we have waited until he was over a year old?
The allergist we had seen was incredibly kind, and educating. She explained that it was not the matter of timing, and that we did everything right . It just happened to be one of those things. I learned that children, who have Eczema, tended to be at a higher risk of developing allergies, and asthma. It made sense to me since Eczema fell under the category of an autoimmunity disease.
Dr. G was pleasantly impressed with how well I had been managing Forrest's Eczema. I did everything that she had recommended. I suppose it was one of those life lessons that was answered right there because I had grown up with Psoriasis (also an autoimmune disease), and learned how to manage the flare-ups, and to maintain the skin health. Due to that, Eczema was a breeze to take care of, and it was not OMG big deal when I learned that Forrest had it. Nonetheless, I was glad to learn that what I did for Forrest's skin health was proper.
We left the allergist's office with a confirmation that Forrest does have a peanut allergy, but very little information with how to manage it. We left only with a sheet on how to take care of Ecezma, which was something I already knew how to manage, and a prescription sheet for using an epi pen.
Now, for someone who has not dealt with any form of life-threatening allergy; the idea of an epi pen was a bit scary! We received two epi pens with medication inside, and one training epi pen without a needle, and medication to "practice with".
Epi pen, as pictured above, is a training pen. We have two epi pens with medication inside them, which is not pictured, because it has Forrest's personal information on it, and I don't want to share that with the cyberworld! It does look exactly the same as the training pen. The training pen has no needle, and medication inside. In an event of a severe allergic reaction; I have to grab the pen body, remove the blue cap, and stab in Forrest's thigh. The orange cap will automatically pop out a needle that will pierce through even a toughest blue jeans, through skin, and muscle to release medication to counterattack anaphylaxis shock. The idea of using it scares me. What scares me even more is potentially having to watch Forrest to go through a severe allergic reaction. It is really hard as a mom to have to come term that Forrest will potentially experience this.
I've learned so much in the past two days from wonderful supportive people, who have a nut allergy themselves, or have a child with a peanut allergy. I learned that peanuts are not in a nut family, but rather in a legume family that is a fruit with a seed enclosed inside a pod (soy beans, peas, and peanuts). It is very different than seeds that are not enclosed in a pod, such as chickpeas, lentils, and seeds (called "pulse", why, I have no idea) even though they all fall under one category of legume family. Basically, it is like a tiger and a cat being in the same species, but they are two different beings.
It is a bit taunting to go through my pantry because I say around 80% of our ingredients contains peanuts, or are exposed to the peanuts (manufactured in the same processing factory with peanuts in the proximity or on the line). Now, we really have no clue how severe Forrest's peanut allergy is. We know for sure that direct consumption of peanuts do cause a reaction because we have seen it, and has led us to needing to consult with an allergist. However, we don't know if Forrest can eat food that are processed in the same areas with peanuts nearby or on the line with peanuts (for example: Plain chocolate M&Ms are on the same assembling line with Peanut M&Ms). We don't know if Forrest is okay with having peanuts in the proximity to him.We have no idea if Forrest can handle cross-contamination (someone eating peanuts then touching Forrest with contaminated hands, or lips for a kiss). We aren't sure if Forrest will ever outgrow this. There are some cases of kids outgrowing this even though for many, it is a life-long thing.
The common myth is that the more you are exposed to something, the less sensitive you will be to the exposed item, and it is not true with allergies. It can become progressively worse with each exposure. Even so, a mild reaction is not an indicator that there won't be a severe reaction next time. You can have a mild reaction for a longest time, then boom; out of the blue, you have a terrible life-threatening reaction. It is why it tends to be a life-long thing.
We are told simply to be vigilant, and cautious until we figure out the answers to our questions. In the meanwhile, it is basically a trial,and error thing. I don't like it, and there is not much we can do other than follow preventive measures. There are so much I have to learn, and adjust with eating, and cooking. Before this, I've been blissfully ignorant with everything I eat, and cook with. I don't pay attention the labels. I don't think about what I put in my mouth. I don't worry about eating something then touching something else unless if I am handling raw poultry, raw meat, and hot peppers!
After this, I have to remind myself to LOOK at the label before giving anything to Forrest. When we go out to eat, I have to ask the waitress or waiter what kind of oil they are using to cook their food with. I'm starting to tell people around us about Forrest's condition so they'll be aware of it. I am sure that once Forrest starts school, I will have to fill 504 plan, and remind teachers what to do for Forrest. I'll have to teach Forrest how to use epi pen with the training pen, and how to be proactive with his peers. There will be challenges yet to come as Forrest gets older. It is a learning curve for us.
Because of Forrest's positive reaction to peanut allergy, I have decided that for any of our future children; I will not expose them to peanuts, or rather have peanuts in our household. I believe it would be a lot easier that way to manage what goes in and out of our house. I'm also worried that what if our next child will also have a peanut allergy (the allergist said that it is even a gamble, and could happen again or not). I also want to hold off on giving solids to any of our future children until they are 6 months or older to minimize the allergy risk.
It's not the end of the world. Matter of fact, I am glad that we caught it this early, and that Forrest had a VERY mild reaction to peanuts the first time. Not many parents have lucked out the first time around when that happened to their child. Forrest won't know any better. He won't have to adjust because we are already living with no-peanut lifestyle from his young age. I'd prefer that as opposed to him finding out later in his life, and having to make sacrifices by then. It would be harder. It is just Stu, and I that need to adjust. We can handle that. I'm thankful that Forrest is not crippled with something horrible such as Leukemia, or something that we can't manage, you know? Actually, you know what? I think it is HARDER on me than it is for him!
I am hoping that I will find and meet more parents, who have children with peanut allergies, and be able to get support. I am already very fortunate to have Jessica, who is also a parent to a child with a peanut allergy, and I am able to get a hold of her if I need to. I also recently met someone else, who has a tree nut allergy, and has already been a tremendous help to me with understanding where to start with peanut allergy. I feel that I already have a head-start with them in my corner. Even so, I would still really like to get more people in my corner for this journey of dealing with Forrest's peanut allergy.