Raph has successfully almost outgrown his milk and egg allergy. His doctor thinks for sure next year (I've heard that for the last couple years but I digress) he will be completely nonallergic to milk and egg. At any rate, those allergies have weakened significantly and if he rolled around in egg whites and drank milk he might not feel well but he wouldn't be too terribly sick. Its comforting because at least they are getting better.
Peanuts on the other hand are a whole other beast. Only 20-25% of people with peanut allergies every outgrow their allergies. Its a crap shoot and all you can do is wait and see. So far Raph's RAST scores have only gone up, not down, for peanut. This means that he is not outgrowing it any time soon and with little exposures here and there it may have gotten worse. Its the cumulative effect of repeated trace exposures that can sometimes dictate the outcome of consuming an allergen. Sometimes not...you just don't know until you know.
Last week the person who makes copies for Mike's office brought in some cookies. She regularly gives them cookies and they have always been chocolate chip, sugar or oatmeal raisin. You know, regular. Mike brought home 2 bags. One had oatmeal craisin and the other chocolate chip. Raph ate part of an oatmeal craisin and Colin ate part of a chocolate chip cookie. Colin left about a quarter of his cookie on the counter when he was finished. The boys went to bed and Mike and I cleaned up. I ate the rest of Colin's cookie...it was peanut butter chocolate chip. We threw out the other peanut butter cookie and said it was good Raph doesn't like chocolate and had the oatmeal cookie. By the way, Mike tasted Raph's cookie first just to make sure.
A little later Raph wakes up and is upset because he's suddenly so stuffed up. We bring him to the living room to calm him down and help him blow his nose. As he sits in the rocker with Mike I can see that his eyes are swelling and tearing. His nose is running and he's scratching his head. I immediately think of the cookie. I know he didn't eat that particular cookie but it came from the same source and he and Colin were wrestling around after dinner. We watch him and he starts to wheeze, his lips and mouth are swelling, he says his stomach hurts and the back of his mouth hurts. I gave him Benadryl and his inhaler. Nothing.
I called the allergist's exchange and talk to him. I describe the situation and he tells me to give Raph more Benadryl, Zyrtec and his inhaler again. He said he's having a systemic reaction to the peanuts but its mild. We don't need to give him the Epi Pen just yet. While I'm on the phone Raph is doubled over in pain because his belly hurts so much and is getting worse. My doctor said to give him the medicine and use the Epi Pen.
In 6 and a half years I've only thrown away an Epi Pen because it expired never because I actually had to use it. That was about to change. All those years of fear and anxiety came to a head at that moment. It was not dire, he was not turning blue and I was not in a panic. He was, however, having a "mild" systemic reaction. It didn't seem so mild to me but I know it could have been much much worse. I have Raph sit on my lap and Mike used the Epi Pen on his little leg. He didn't cry, just jumped a little when the autoinjector rammed the needle into his leg. That was it.
Within 2 minutes his eyes looked normal, his lips weren't swollen, his breathing was quiet and he perked right up. I suppose anyone injected with epinephrine would perk up but you know what I mean. His hands were a little shaky but he was calm and sat up watching cartoons with us for a while. He was no worse for the wear and he felt fine. Its amazing what medicine can do. Especially when the outcome is so drastic and so quick. When you can actually see the changes happen right before your very eyes.
Now, all of this happened without him eating a peanut. His exposure came from his cookie touching the other cookie or Colin touching him with crumby hands. I know there is some outrage on the part of parents of non-allergic kids when a school or a facility is peanut free. I think what people do not fully grasp is how little it takes to make a child very very ill. Your kid might be grumpy if he can't eat a PB&J sandwich at lunch but his choice could potentially kill my son. Raph has no choice. These are the cards he has been dealt and its not something he can change. Many people think the solution is to have the allergic child sit at a peanut free table. That works to an extent...assuming the peanut eaters clean their hands and face after eating lunch and don't contaminate anything in the interim.
Think of it from the allergic child's perspective. They often watch as other kids get a special treat because they can't have it. They are forced to sit away from their friends through no fault of their own. They did not make that choice but you did make a choice when you sent a peanut butter sandwich to school. Wouldn't it make more sense to have the children who choose to eat peanuts sit elsewhere? If they want to sit with the rest of the kids then they can choose to eat something different next time. My son does not get a choice yet he is ostracized on a daily basis because of biology. Just think about that before you are outraged at the mere suggestion of something being peanut free. Just think about it...