It came on so suddenly, I hardly knew what was happening.
Yesterday, while I was shopping at Trader Joe's with my 15-month-old son, Carson, he started whining for a box of crackers he saw on the snack aisle. I opened the box in the checkout aisle, and gave him one: a tiny little organic peanut butter cracker.
Actually, a tiny little organic peanut butter cracker that could have ended his life.
He put the cracker into his mouth and instantly spit it out. Then he played with it until it disintegrated in his hands. By the time I buckled him into his car seat, he was rubbing his eyes. I thought he was tired. We drove a few miles down the road to pick up Jason, my husband, at work (he works at a hospital), and when I turned around to look at Carson I almost screamed.
My little baby was blotchy and red. There were purple hives all over his face and down his neck. His eyes were swollen. His hands were red and blotchy.
I knew in an instant: He was having an allergic reaction to peanuts.
We rushed him to the clinic, across the street, where they had an Epi Shot waiting. Because he didn't swallow the cracker, it wasn't necessary as his reaction was much lighter than it could have been. They gave him an antihistamine, instead, and a referral to an allergist.
Later, when we got home, and I had a chance to wind down and process what had just happened (Note: This whole experience didn't even phase Carson. He was all puffy and swollen and red with this huge grin on his face walking into the clinic. He smiled at all the kids (who looked back at him a little horrified) and tried to say "fish" when he noticed the aquarium in the waiting room), I realize what a life changing thing had just happened.
While about 20 percent of kids can "grow out of" peanut allergies, the majority have them for life. So, Carson is going to have to learn, from an early age that he has to be extra diligent about what he eats; that a kiss from someone who has just eaten a peanut butter cookie could be the kiss of death (yes, I will be interviewing his potential girlfriends for their ability to take this seriously); that he can't have any peanuts on the airplane, or sit next to someone who has (breathing in the vapors from the bag could be very harmful); and that carrying epinephrin with him at all times is a new way of life.
And with this new reality, Jason and I find ourselves blaming ourselves. Did we introduce peanut butter too soon? Most experts say after 12 months, it's OK, but to be safe, wait till 3. What was I thinking? Was this just hereditary? My mom's late father had food allergies. Maybe a connection? According to some troubling statistics, food allergies in children have more than doubled in the past 10 years? WHY? What the heck is going on here?
I've thrown out all peanut products in our house, including cooking oil, and any other foods that were "processed in plants that contain peanuts." I've made an appointment with an allergist. And tonight, when we went out to a restaurant, I spoke to five staff members, from the waiter to the manager, about whether there was any peanut ingredients in the building. Luckily, it was a pizza place, and the answer was no.
But mostly, we're just reeling from this shock to the system. I've decided that when I explain this all to Carson one day -- when he can understand what I'm talking about -- that I'll tell him about Superman. But instead of peanuts, he had Cryptonite. Not a bad analogy, eh?
So, if you are a peanut-allergy sufferer -- or have a child who is -- please drop me a note. I'm new to this, and a little scared.