While food allergies have always been around, they are continuing to become a growing concern in our country. Before TJ’s anaphylactic reaction to yogurt in December 2014, like everyone, I knew what I felt like was enough about food allergies…
- I knew food allergies existed.
- I knew some people had life-threatening ones especially to fish and peanuts.
- I knew people carried Epi-Pens for these life-threatening ones.
- I knew that I had to check which students in my class had them and check in with the nurse before classroom parties if a class had any major allergies.
- I knew my husband had a minor walnut allergy and fish allergy, but could eat shellfish.
- I knew how annoying seasonal allergies could be since I had experienced a few bad years of needing Allegra D almost every day back in my 20s.
With all of these “knows,” I thought I had enough insight to this world of food allergies. However, today as I look back on certain moments before TJ’s initial reaction, it is eye-opening on how naive I really was, without meaning to be.
MEMORY 1: Our Honeymoon “Your Salmon Looks Sooo Delicious”
In going to Aruba for our honeymoon, we had heard about the amazing restaurants and food. In fact, it was night one where we had one of the best meals of our lives. Back then, when we went out to dinner, Timmy would usually order filet mignon and I would enjoy fish. During dinner on one of the first nights there, I ordered a delicious salmon. When we were almost done, Timmy asked if he could try some because it looked too good not to. I questioned, “Aren’t you allergic?” To which Timmy said it had been years since he had ever tried it and who knew if he was still allergic. So he took a bite. I worried a bit because I’m a natural worrier but not to the extend at which I should have.
Within minutes, Timmy’s lip started to swell up and he said his mouth was getting very itchy. So we paid and went back to our room. At the room, he complained that his throat was feeling a bit weird while his lip was still quite red and swollen. We were both more scared now. All I had was my seasonal allergy medication, so he took an Allegra-D and we waited to go to sleep to make sure he was okay. He doesn’t have an Epi-pen.
The next morning we woke up, went to the gym and pool all day, enjoying cocktails while laughing at the previous night’s experience.
Now, after TJ’s reaction to yogurt, I would NEVER ever let something like that happen again and react so relaxed like that. Knowing what I know now about how severe and unpredictable food allergies and reactions can be, I know we were lucky. Thank you God.
MEMORY 2: Wedding Walnuts
As if that experience with Timmy’s ” fish experiment” wasn’t enough, there was also some walnuts tried. Timmy and I have been to 37 weddings together to date ( Yes, I’m weird and keep a count in my phone). There was a period of a few years where we had anywhere from 5-9 weddings a year to attend. In going to many of these beautiful events, we learned how common it was for them to serve a salad with walnuts. Most times, Timmy asked for his salad without these or didn’t eat the walnuts in it since he was allergic. However, twice he forgot or didn’t see them, eating some walnuts. In those moments, because nothing happened, we laughed and told friends at the table about our honeymoon fish story.
However, after learning through TJ’s experience, he should NEVER have done that even though both those times he had no reaction to walnuts. Sure, he may have outgrown his allergy to walnut, but I would urge him to go to an allergist and be tested before he ever tried anything else he was or may still be allergic to. Food allergies and reactions can be sooo unpredictable and even life- threatening. You could have a minor reaction to an unsafe food twenty times and then the twenty-first time you ingest it, it could be severe. Therefore, no one should experiment on their own and always ask for a salad that has not been handled with the allergen. (Don’t just pick out the walnuts if you are allergic.) Wedding venues are now becoming more educated about all of this. At one of the last weddings I attended, they mentioned food allergies on the invitation’s menu even.
MEMORY 3: Peanut Free Classrooms
While I was still on maternity last September and October, I heard through colleagues about a new student who would be attending our middle school. From what I had been hearing, she had an allergic reaction to peanuts as a young child and now her parents hired a lawyer to make our school peanut free. Everyone, including myself (I must admit), thought it was a little too much. While I am very empathetic to everyone’s situations, I did enjoy eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches many days for lunch and stressed about what I would eat if I couldn’t bring this to school. ( It’s crazy to look back at what I was worried about back then and how much I have changed in regards to what I focus on now.)
During a conversation with my breastfeeding group moms, I brought this situation up, still feeling that it was a bit overboard. One of the other moms nicely mentioned that she understood where the parents were coming from since her oldest daughter had multiple food allergies including peanuts. She brought up very good points that really got me thinking.
That was the end of October and just around the time when TJ started to have random hive and rash outbreaks. Soon, these parents’ motive and experience would become one very close to my heart. I just didn’t know what we were soon in store for. Now, I relate to these parents. In fact, it gives me a deeper sense of respect to not only them, but all parents out there who are speaking up and doing whatever they need to do to be their child’s biggest advocate. You are all heroes in my eyes.
Because we continue to learn more and more, we realized how lucky we are and smile on…