Friday, January 15, 2010

Thriving with a Nut Allergy

While sifting through the family pictures the other day, I began thinking about how far we've come with my daughter since her first severe allergic reaction and nut allergy diagnosis at the age of 4. The birthday cake photo is a picture of her a few months before her first, life-threatening reaction. We didn't know about her allergy at that point--the homemade cake is there because that's what she wanted! (A lucky thing she likes mom's cakes, as it turns out).

The first picture is her happy, sassy, self, nearly 10 years old. She's doing really well and we've managed the allergy--with her help, I may add--better than I thought we would when I first witnessed the allergic reaction that shook our family to the core.

I know that many of you have young kids who have recently been diagnosed and I remember what a frightening time that was for me. You feel alone and worst of all, you feel that your child can never have a normal social life, school life--any kind of life that you believed they could have. That's what I thought at first and thankfully, I was wrong.

Your child can thrive with a severe nut allergy. As my daughter approaches her 10th birthday, I've been remembering all the fun things she has done on her own--things that I thought a child with a life-threatening food allergy possibly could not do. However, my daughter has done so much. She's been having a great life, just one that's a little bit more cautious with food.

For example, my daughter has flown on an airplane, participated in Girl Scouts and Girl Scout day camp, gone on many play dates without me, been in dance classes and performed in shows, gone to summer science and computer games camp, moved to a new school and made new friends, joined Student Council and other extracurricular activities, joined the family for restaurant meals, eaten lunch at school, gone on field trips without incident and much, much more. Because of this blog, she's even been interviewed for our local newspaper.

Is there ever worry about her nut allergy on either her part or ours? Of course. And it will always be there. But I think a little worry (and I said a little, too much is not good!) helps us to keep our guard up and helps her stay reaction-free. The one thing we know is that there are no guarantees, so we must always be vigilant. However, when things goes well, I'm willing to be that we celebrate a little more than families without food allergies might do.

We have many more challenges ahead of us as she grows and becomes even more independent but I'm happy about all that she's overcome so far. And if we can do it, you can too.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your post. Our daughter is 3.5 with a life threatening peanut allergy. Our world got rocked to the core almost a year ago when she had anaphalaxis from eating a pb easter egg. It is nice to hear about older ones that have been able to manage it so well. It does seem that nobody understands sometimes as so many friends say "well don't you have her medicine if she did accidently eat peanuts". They don't understand its a little more complicated than that!
Thanks again for your blog,
Karen Stinson

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the encouragement! :)

Anonymous said...

i love this post--thank you!

Unknown said...

This is both comforting and encouraging. Thank you. Love the birthday picture.

ashleyjoy said...

My daughter was diagnosed just a couple of days ago with a severe tree nut allergy. I'm wondering how safe peanut butter is for her to have. I don't want to even let her touch any nuts at all but her doctor said that it "should" be safe. She started out the year in the hospital and I don't want to repeat the experience if at all possible....just wondering what you think.

Jenny said...

Thanks everybody, glad you find this post helpful.

Ashely, I'm sorry to hear that your daughter went to the hospital. If I were you, I'd make sure to have her tested for peanut allergy. I'm definitely not qualified to offer medical advice, so if you are at all concerned or think you want another opinion, by all means keep in touch with your allergist until you have all the info you need. Best of luck to you!

Lisita said...

My daughter is 4 and 1/2 now and has had her nut allergies since she was 20 months old. It's fun to imagine her 10, like your daughter. It's great to see an example that she's happy and continuing to thrive. Thanks for sharing!

Jane Anne said...

This is such an encouraging upbeat post. Thanks for sharing. Your 10 year old is beautiful. The Day Camp- that's one of the things that scares me. My son can't wait until he can go to Cub Scout camp with his older brother. It seems like a nightmare to me (they serve PB&J as a lunch option every single day).

Thanks for such an encouraging post. My 6 year old has had a wonderful start to school this year. I am so thankful.

Jenny said...

Thanks everyone for the comments!

Jane Anne, I was completely freaked out by Girl Scout day camp. My daughter brought her own food every day and her leaders were there and knew how to help her if she needed it, so that was good. The Girl Scout camp enrollment form had a space for discussing allergies and I went over everything with the camp director (over the phone) before it began.

Here's the funny part--I kept waiting for "the call" from camp and when it came it was because my daughter wanted to know if she could have the s'mores. The worst thing that happened to her is that she scraped her foot on the bottom of the pool and needed a Band Aid. :) Whew!

Not to downplay how much you have to prepare for camp, but I just wanted to let you know that if you take precautions it should work out fine. Also, since they serve PB&J, find out if you can seat your child at a peanut-free table with some other kids. I'm sure yours won't be the only one with a food allergy!

Good luck!

Mary G. said...

Excellent post and appropriate timing for me- just what I needed! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I'm so thrilled to have found your blog. My older daughter, now 5.5, was diagnosed at 20 months with a severe tree nut allergy that later included peanut allergy as well. She just started public school this year and it was the scariest day of my life (her private preschool went nut-free for her)! It is encouraging to read about how your daughter is thriving and participating in activities without mom nearby. That is really my biggest fear - managing her food allergies from a distance.

We are being extremely cautious with her younger sister, though the allergist thinks she will be allergy free. As of now we treat them both as having nut allergies.

Again, thank you for this blog and for sharing your stories and experiences.


Jen said...

As a mom of an almost 10 year old child with multiple food allergies I want to echo your sentiments and encouragement. They do get to live normal lives and what I also realize is that the allergy, for better or for worse, has contributed to my son's independence and responsibility for himself. He has matured a lot faster than his peers, and that is not all unfortunate. In some ways it is a gift. No I am not grateful for my sons food allergies but over the years I have been able to accept them (on good days) and even see how they have shaped him, as a leader, and as a mature compassionate child

Heathere said...

What a phenomenal post! Thank you!!! I love this blog and all the resources it provides, but of course, our fears sometimes outweigh out joys in thinking about the future. That being said, I KNOW that our son and daughter will have wonderful, fulfilled, active, healthy lifestyles, even with their life threatening allergies! This article just reinforces that. It's parents like all of you that makes this challenge so much easier! Thank you!!!!!

Jenny said...

Thanks to all who posted here. I'm so glad that this article encouraged you -- the main goal of this blog is encouragement and education. All the best to all of you!