The Peanut Allergy Mambo
Ten plus years ago, I took then infant Tall Girl (Tall Baby) to visit a Mom and her son I met at our church’s Mom’s Morning Out. We had a very pleasant visit, but two things disturbed me. The first was that she had the kids’ TV blaring non-stop in the background for the entire visit. The second, was a bucket of cleaning supplies, including a huge jug of Pine Sol without a child-safety cap, left out in the open in a hallway right beside the kids’ play area.
“My God!” I thought. “Doesn’t she read parenting magazines?!?”
So, the news that more educated parents produce more allergic kids didn’t surprise me at all. When we Gen X’s were children, the occurrence of allergies was almost non-existant among our playmates, way lower than they are among our children. Something must have changed in the environment that we raise kids in, or the way that we raise kids, that has led to this change. Obviously, it is the more educated parent who follows all the “latest and greatest” advice, dispensed by in demand pediatricians, hospital websites, and parenting magazines. I’ve also heard the theory that autism is caused by a Vitamin D deficiency, the reasoning being that upper class parents are mostly likely to listen to warnings about the sun, leading to a steady increase in the number of autistic kids as income rises.
I have a weird perspective on the childhood allergy “dance.” (Well, if you’ve got to dance, it might as well be something Latin and spicy.) During my pre-kid 20’s, I was diagnosed with hayfever and cat allergies, and began taking Reactine(TM). What started as ½ a small tablet every two days, soon turned into one extra-strength pill daily. After about 8 months, I just decided not to take them anymore. I suffered a little at first, but by the time my daughter was born 4 years later, I was virtually allergy free. So, I definitely had an opinion on the allergy situation.
Fast forward 5 years to Art Girl. Her persistent sniffles were identified as something called environmental allergies. She took a daily nasal spray. One day at the breakfast table (it’s always at the breakfast table,) she rubbed something – probably peanut butter – into her eyes that caused her whole face to swell up like that blue lady from Avatar. Then, she lost her voice. The nurse on the other end of the Health Hotline thought it might mean her throat was closing. I hung up and tried to get into my doctor. That lady told me that I could only bring her in if I waited 4 hours. I rushed to the Walk-In Clinic, and the doctor thought that maybe we should try eye drops. I started shouting about her airway, and he gave her a steroid inhaler that was lying around in the supply room. Later at a follow up appointment with our regular doctor, I had to tell multiple people what happened, and none of them bothered to tell the doctor. He thought we were just there to get a stronger anti-histamine for her sniffly nose.
That was 2 ½ years ago and Art Girl still hasn’t seen an Allergist, or had a “proper” allergy test (she has had a blood test which seems to support her throat feeling itchy whenever she eats peanuts.) She is off the nasal spray, her ear tubes have fallen out, her hearing loss is gone, her reading has caught up to grade level, and she’ll eat chocolate covered almonds by the handful. But because of the Bureaucracy of Childhood that us parents function in, I am constantly going on and on about this peanut allergy. I had to fill out a two page form for school, paragraphs for the Girl Guide Sleepovers, and had a one-on-one consult about it with her summer camp leader. Everyone official I speak to about my sweet little girl, I have to stop the conversation and say “Oh, I have to tell you: she has a mild to moderate peanut allergy. We think.” No matter how well we function with that green 2 kg tub of Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter sitting in my pantry, she is an Allergy Kid, and I am an Allergy Mom.
While I bristle when people try to support me by crying for school nut bans, I understand some of the crazy. There is only so much of telling people over and over about one little, almost insignificant part of your kid, before I starts to twist your reality. I’m guessing that Art Girl will outgrow this, like her other allergies, but who wants to be the Mom who nearly kills their kid testing that theory? So I guess we wait. And fill out forms. And all the while I wonder if it was something I did to her that caused all this trouble in the first place.