Why I take Peanut Allergy Advice for Kids with a Pinch of Salt.
So the results of the latest study are in. King’s College researchers have tested 628 babies prone to developing a peanut allergy by exposing them to peanut products (not whole nuts) and over 80% of these babies didn’t go on to develop the allergy. It’s wonderful news.
But I think many of us who are parents to nut allergy kids had kind of beaten them to their conclusion. When you keep a food away from a child until they are three years old (or extend that to the age of five, as cited in the BBC’s article on this study) their immune system sees it as an enemy… and reacts to varying degrees.
None of this is rocket science – whether there is a history of allergy in the parents or not. But now we have had a host of scientists confirm what most of us who have had to reach for the Epi-pen with shaky hands at the mere touch of a peanut have long suspected. Well done guys. Pity you couldn’t have shared that with us British and American Mums and Dads a little sooner.
I realise I may sound a little uncharacteristically bitter.
But that’s because when we are pregnant, and when we become parents, most of us are so keen to ‘get it right’ that we are following all of societies guidelines with military precision: Don’t eat this, don’t drink that, don’t have a sauna, don’t breathe in paint fumes. You name it; we will make sure we don’t break your rules. And all too often – as in my case – we’ll avoid our own plain common sense intuition.
I always suspected avoiding food was illogical.
But of course just like most British parents, I dressed the nut avoidance thing up with the choking hazard potential. Still it nagged away at the back of my mind. What will happen when my daughter has nuts for the first time? And then I forgot about it. Time went on and it just seemed easier to keep avoiding the nuts. We weren’t a family of peanut butter in sandwiches revelers either, (I’ll leave my penchant for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to one side for the moment…) So my little girl was 4 going on 5 by the time she had her first taste of peanut.
Which wasn’t so much fun.
It didn’t as much as enter my head when we were baking the Peanut Butter Cookies in Lorraine Pascale’s quite un-aptly titled ‘Baking Made Easy‘, that we were headed for A & E. My 4 year old (as all 4 year olds do) asked to sample some of the dough.
It was the teeniest weeniest of pieces, but it was enough to have her running from the kitchen like I had just put ants in her pants. ‘Yuck! It’s making my tongue all spikey!’ she said. I just assumed she didn’t like the taste. Maybe it wasn’t sweet enough? It was the first time we’d made it after all. Shit! What am I saying? It was the first time we’d made it! The first time she’d ever tried nuts. Tentatively, I told her to keep calm (I was talking to myself); Mummy was coming with some water. When I looked at her again she’d had botox. I didn’t hesitate for a second. I whisked her in one arm, my baby in the other and drove straight to the medical centre which was luckily 5 minutes from our home.
An adrenalin shot in the buttocks later and all was well.
Except we were living in Spain; not exactly a place that is renowned for peanut allergies – or allergies of any kind as it happens. The trip to the state GP was laughable. I had to beg and plead for a blood test to be carried out, even more so for an Epi-pen to be prescribed! I think in hindsight we were just unlucky with our particular paedeatrician. Still, I was pretty outraged by his indifference at the time.
We went private in the end.
Pinprick tests confirmed a substantial allergy to peanuts. My daughter’s arm had become a scientific experiment. Tree nuts were tested as well, but for now there was no reaction. Yet the allergist advised complete nut avoidance. She was quick to warn things could change at any moment.
It’s something you live with.
Like brushing your teeth, you make sure the injections are constantly in your handbag.
The schoolteacher has a set in the drawer. We always ask about menus when we eat out. Children’s birthday parties require a little more planning. But I am pleased to say, it’s something we handle well and it feels completely within our control. We just won’t mention the bird feeder incident of summer 2013. Needless to say you’ve gotta think outside of the box when it comes to nuts.
Still, the question remains…
Why in Spain is my daughter (more or less) the exception to the rule? Well, that would be simple. The Spanish feed their children nuts – yes, even whole, I have watched them – and nut products from birth. By which of course I mean once a baby is weaned. And not just nuts but all the other things that we seem to be notorious for developing an allergy of in the UK and US – seafood and honey to name but 2. Whilst I am in no way advising that UK parents start buying in jars of peanut butter, I do think a total avoidance of anything needs to be questioned. There’s so much wisdom in the ‘Everything in moderation’ saying.
Exposure testing needs to be developed.
In the UK this is available, but only currently in a handful of counties. The minutest percentage of peanut dust will be ingested by a peanut allergy sufferer under extremely controlled medical conditions. Gradually, over a designated period of time, this will be increased and increased to improve the body’s tolerance. In most cases, eventually the patient will be able to freely eat peanuts. And so the story has a mostly happy ending.
I also think we create these epidemics.
An allergy is born. The momentum builds. We take notice, we talk about it, the media harps on about it, we talk about it some more, new cases evolve, and the media has another field day. And on and on and on. This is also known in Quantum Physics terms as the ‘Observer Effect’. Even a skeptic of mind power would have to admit, we do have a crazy number of allergies that have come into being from seemingly nowhere in the year that is 2015. Unhelpful peanut info increases allergies.
But for all my utter belief in the Law of Attraction…
This is my daughter we are talking about, and for now we are not about to walk the path less tread. We will wait for the day when one of these new exposure trials becomes available where we live, and we will patiently welcome peanuts into her life, little by little, 0.1 of a gram by 0.1 of a gram until eventually her body accepts them; she can throw her Epi-pens away and eat Peanut Butter cookies at last. And as sure as the sun sets, that day WILL come. For one, I have visualised it, so it’s a sure thing. For two, science is catching up with humanity’s past silliness, our constant labeling of food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
I really can’t wait for that day. You have no idea how much I miss Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!