Adjusting: Peanut Allergy Diagnosis at Age 10

Sometimes the body just knows. It turns out my son’s did. For nine years. When he was a toddler I gave him peanut butter and he smeared it on his face. He got a rash and I waited another year to try again. He wasn’t so interested in peanut butter after that. In fact, for the next nine years, he thought it was stinky and waved his hand in front of his nose and pretended to gag when he smelled it.

He didn’t care for granola bars, the kind with dried fruit and nuts, but he tried them and nothing ever happened. He didn’t like peanut M&Ms, but he ate the chocolate and left the peanut. He ate everything he wanted. Some things touched a peanut, like those M&Ms. Some things included nuts, like pesto. Some things were nuts, like pistachios.

But one day recently, he wanted Pad Thai, a dish that traditionally includes peanuts. I was hesitant. All those years of not wanting peanuts I knew probably meant something. I had thought about getting him tested, but he had eaten so many things in his lifetime. Was I being overanxious as usual? Was I ready for this moment?

“It has peanuts in it, you know,” I warned him.

He looked at the dish and deemed it satisfactory. I put a little on his plate. I almost told him no, to eat something else, but I didn’t. Remember all he’s eaten? I kept an eye on him as he ate it. One bite, two.

“How is it?”

“It’s good!”

Instead of relief, I felt jumpier. I couldn’t eat. I kept watching him. It didn’t feel right. There. He was doing something funny with his mouth, like he had taffy over every tooth and he couldn’t get it off.

“What are you doing with your mouth? What’s wrong?” I asked.

“My mouth feels numb,” he said.

I felt weak. “Stop eating,” I said. I grabbed his plate and began a string of questions. Can you breathe OK? Let me see your tongue. Can you breathe OK? Does anything else feel weird? Can you breathe OK?

He coughed a little. He got the hiccups. I stood there, choked, wondering, “Do I call 9-1-1 now? Is this just the start of a severe reaction?” But I kept it together on the outside. I kept asking questions and watching him. He drank water. I did what I always do and referred to Google. He appeared to be having a mild reaction and Benadryl would help.

He seemed to be getting better, except for the hiccups. He had heartburn. The numbness was wearing off. I called the doctor’s office, which was closed because it was a Saturday. The nurse told me the same thing I had read online. By then my son was outside, running in the yard. I could breathe. He could breathe. I knew we were lucky.

At an appointment last week, my son’s peanut and tree nut allergy was confirmed. After nine years of avoiding peanuts, he suddenly also has to avoid things he has always comfortably eaten: almond extract, pesto, Honey Nut Cheerios, pistachios, and many other things.

Why he chose to eat that dish on that day, I’ll never know. But I’m thankful it played out like it did, in our home with a quick and happy ending. I’m thankful it wasn’t worse. If he ever has another reaction, it could be.

Pieces of a puzzle have begun to fall into place. I checked our pantry, scanned ingredients lists. Granola bars and cookies he’s never liked revealed the words: contains peanut ingredients, peanut flour, may contain peanuts. I could never understand why he didn’t like these treats. In fact, he’d often tell me they tasted like peanuts when I couldn’t see or taste anything.

All this time, he knew. peanut butter

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51 Comments

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51 responses to “Adjusting: Peanut Allergy Diagnosis at Age 10

  1. Wow! That’s uncanny. An allergy sucks, but it’s always better to know. Good luck!

  2. these allergy stories lately are freaking me out. i’m glad you know now. jeez!

    • He’s gone ten years without knowing and I think of all the things he’s been around. I’m actually not too freaked out about it, unless of course he eats it. We’ve passed those younger ages that are so scary, where you don’t know what they will put in their mouths. He must have a keen sense of smell.

  3. so glad your kid is okay. I don’t know what is going on with our planet with the increase in nut allergies in our kids. I am so blessed that our kids can eat all the nuts they want and nary a hive or swelling. but I have to express my opinion, I think it is unrealistic for schools to go completely nut free. I can understand nut free rooms and nut free tables, but to not permit nuts anywhere, to eliminate the exposure to nuts to an entire population, I fear will only increase nut allergies. I just hope that kids with nut allergies will someday outgrow their allergy, or doctors and researchers can get to the bottom of this growing mystery.

    • He’s certainly been around peanut butter all his life in the lunch room and been fine. I am not saying every child is like that. He may be a child who has to actually eat it, other children may just have to breathe it.

      As far as there being more cases of peanut allergies, here is an article I found. Who knows? I don’t see that they are not permitted anywhere. People are just more cautious, which is a good thing.

  4. So glad his reaction wasn’t more severe! Peanut allergies can be so scary, can’t they? Glad you finally got the diagnosis once and for all. I find it very interesting that he had instinctively avoided peanut products for so many years. Maybe he got just a bit of an oral reaction, and it was enough for him to avoid anything similar.

    • I don’t know what it was. He always just said he did not like the taste. Maybe there wasn’t enough there to do much harm but it had a strong flavor to him or triggered something in his brain, like stay away!

  5. Was it a mild allergy? We found out when my son was 4, and then later found out he was also allergic to hazelnuts even though he’d eaten Nutella for years. Hopefully, one day there will be a way to reverse these allergies, I know the medical community is working hard on it.

    • They didn’t rate his allergy on a scale. They just said he has it, that you never know how severe the reaction or the next reaction will be. Now that he’s had one, it’s a little scary to think the next one could be worse and require an Epi-Pen. But he also knows what that first reaction felt like. My son is also apparently allergic to almonds, cashews, walnuts, and hazelnuts. Walnuts are the only other nut on that list that he has eaten and been fine with. I use them to make pesto and he has never had a problem. But since he reacted to peanuts and all nuts are manufactured on the same equipment (often), he has to avoid them all.

  6. Sorry that this has come to pass but glad it didn’t play in too horrible a fashion. However, I can imagine your fear. I don’t get why he has to stop eating those other foods if they have never caused him problems in the past.
    P.S. I love Peanut butter and think it should be a separate food group. Discovering I was allergic to it would be big bad news!

    • I know. It’s really all about being cautious, things being manufactured on the same equipment in some cases. I’m not sure how I feel about it, whether it’s just being overprotective. He’s eaten plain M&Ms all his life. So now he wouldn’t be able to because of the facility they are manufactured in. I can understand it in a case where a person doesn’t have his history, but with him, really, the kid has eaten some M&Ms! I’m going to read more about that.

      I’m not a huge fan of peanut butter so I wouldn’t be too sad if I never got to again. My daughter would be sad!

  7. It can happen at any age with any food.

    • Yes, my husband started getting a tingling sensation in his mouth after eating apples. We thought it was pesticides or the wax they put on them at first, but now we think it’s actually an allergy to birch. We are a family with allergies.

  8. So glad you were cautious and watching carefully. God does that — puts us on alert when things may not turn out well. Glad you were listening to that still, small voice. Sandy

    • Sometimes I’m very wrong and I overreact, but I’d never known him to eat actual peanut pieces. It made me very nervous. I’m glad he was old enough to tell me how he felt.

  9. It’s amazing how sometimes your body just intrinsically knows these things.
    My fiance has a mild shellfish allergy – was worse when he was a kid. I’ve avoided giving my daughter (almost 2 years old) shellfish for that reason. I just have a very bad feeling, that I need to avoid it.
    I’m glad it all turned out well and that your son is okay. Very lucky!

  10. I think the reasoning behind stopping eating those foods now, is that generally with food allergies, they become worse over time, not better. So what started out (luckily) as a mild reaction that benadryl helped, doesn’t necessarily mean that the next reaction would be mild. It could lead to a much scarier, more serious reaction later on. 😦

  11. I’m glad it ended well and that now you know for sure that he has this
    it must’ve been so scary for you, so sorry you had to go through this
    I’m always scared when I hear these stories but very happy your little one is well!
    you know my little one doesn’t seem to like peanut butter either and I found it weird, now I will take this seriously and check it out! thanks so much for sharing your experience with us

  12. I’m so glad this ended well and your son didn’t end up in the hospital. It’s very scary. My son is allergic to bees, fire ants, and has had bad reaction to other stinging insects. He’s landed in the hospital twice with severe Anaphylactic reactions. He nearly died when he was three from a few ant bites in Florida. It’s so scary. He carries an epipen now (I hope you have one of those) and we’re really careful.

    I hope all goes well for your son. It’s so amazing how sometimes we just know things aren’t good for us or don’t set well with us. Kids are very intuitive. Wishing you all the best of health.
    ~FringeGirl

    • Thanks. These kinds of severe allergies are scary and you bring up a good point. People can have severe reactions to insects, shellfish, and other things. With food I feel like at least there is some control over it. It’s just a bit trickier now. We can’t control insects. I would think that’s pretty tough for a kid. Sounds like you guys have weathered some traumatic situations. Glad they have had happy endings!

  13. Wow! I’m so glad he’s okay. Maybe other people will read this and recognize the signs, too!

  14. I love your blog, I think you do a great job so I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award. You can check it out here http://fourdoodlesandataco.com/2013/10/03/a-liebster-award-thank-you-very-much/
    Hopefully it will generate more traffic for your awesome blog as you certainly deserve it 🙂 I can’t wait to read more.

  15. I was just reading last night about the explosion of nut allergies, and every other kind of sensitivity, in recent years. I’m glad you have a solid answer!

  16. Lisa

    Now a days it just seems to be just a matter of time. My husband and I were never allergic to anything until we hit our late twenties. I’m sure our girls will be allergic to something at some point in their lives.

  17. Wow, you are really lucky! We actually found out about my son’s at 2 1/2 eating Pad Thai…..and we were lucky. The swelling just went away….then. But you know these nut allergies get worse over time. So no one reaction will behave the same way again. I’m not guessing we’ll be lucky the next time..whatever it is will require the epi and an ambulance. My son didn’t have airborne problems at first either but now if he smells it in the air, he has to leave the scene immediately. Anyway, good luck navigating this new challenge. I just wrote about our story here if you want to take a look (my son will be 9 next month, so similar age…)http://afitandfocusedfuture.com/2013/09/03/much-more-than-a-sneeze/

    • I hope it doesn’t come to that but we’ll take each day as it comes. We know any future reactions could be worse. It’s crazy to think he hasn’t had one until now but I think he is much more capable of handling it at this age, except for M&Ms. He is pretty sad about not having those. 😉

  18. Karen, I’m so glad you found it, and in a non-life-threatening (but no less terrifying) way. I’m more glad that your son is fine and knows to avoid nuts.

    I read the article you mentioned to Stacey above — from WebMD. Interestingly, that’s the same theory they have for the explosion of GI problems, too. We are cleaning ourselves sick!

    • I don’t doubt it. Why did that ever happen, I wonder? Was it a marketing ploy that we wash all of our good germs away?

      I also wondered whether so many new processed foods contributed to this. Decades ago, people didn’t have to deal with others giving their kids packaged snacks all the time. Someone like my son who simply didn’t “like” peanuts/peanut butter could avoid it. It probably wasn’t in everything then like it is now as part of this processed food craze. Luckily, it’s not been terrible for us. I’m a cook. I make a lot of our cookies and baked stuff. But boy, he is hurting for chocolate candy. 😉

    • Elyse, my professor (he’s also a doctor) was telling us last week that things like celiac and Crohn’s Disease has been linked to destroying too many of the “good microorganisms” that naturally live in our guts. We were talking about how things can be “too” clean/sterile. I remember as a kid, my gram always used to tell us eating a little dirt is good for us. Turns out she was right.

  19. How incredibly scary! Thank goodness it was a “mild” reaction and now you know for sure. Still, talk about aging a mama ten years. Avoiding peanut products has got to be challenging. We were JUST discussing allergies in one of my medical classes. The professor told us you can basically develop any allergy at any time in your life.

  20. Just read this blog, and my heart goes out to you. We found out about my son’s peanut allergy when he was just over 2 years old (he is 13 now). It was the first time we gave him PB, spread extremely thin on a cracker. Like your son, I think his body knew, because he merely touched it to his tongue and threw it down, crying. We assumed it was a typical 2-year-old tantrum. When he lifted his head off the table, he was covered head to toe in hives. I don’t even want to think about what might have happened if he had actually ingested it. We avoid anything that is may contain, or manufactured in.

    I find it ironic what you said about your husband, too, as over the past few years, I’m feeling like I’m becoming allergic, or may intolerant, to apples. Same tingly feeling. But only raw apples…if they are baked into something, I am fine.

    Good luck navigating the allergy. It’s not easy, but it IS doable! And much easier now, with better labeling, than it was 11 years ago!

    • True, I couldn’t imagine what labeling must have been like 11 years ago. That really must have been hard. Back then I remember being told if there was a rash, to try again, that it wasn’t uncommon. (My son’s wasn’t large and I think I remember being told you could have a contact reaction and not be allergic?? Could be making that up. There wasn’t much concern from what I remember.)

      My husband is the same way. No raw apples but he can eat cooked ones just fine. At first we thought maybe it was pesticides or wax put on them. We tried organic. But they all seem to have the same effect.

  21. Oh wow, scary! That’s good you were able to put on such a brave face outside, and so glad that nothing worse happened. Was his peanut allergy ever confirmed or tested during all those years? How uncanny that his body just knew!

  22. So interesting. I love the way the body works, and that intuition and gut feelings are so often right if we just listen to them. Glad he is okay!

  23. Is he sensitive to soy also? Some new studies show can be similar reactions, when there is a pre-existing peanut allergy.

  24. it really is amazing how instinctual our bodies are! great post.

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