1. Could you really die from eating peanuts?
A: Yes, unfortunately, I'm in that 2% of the U.S. population with a life threatening food allergy. Kids like me with severe peanut allergies or other food allergies can die from reactions to very small amounts of the food that we are allergic to. According to Wikipedia's information about peanut allergy
2. How did you finally figure out you have a peanut allergy
A: I had dealt with eczema and asthma since I was very little. From 3-4 years old, I had some severe asthma attacks and a few random times of bad hives that we couldn't figure out. Then one day, soon after turning five, I took a small bite of a candy at a friends house but spit it out quickly as my mouth began to tingle. Just minutes later I was very sick. My lips and tongue were tingling, I broke out in hives and was having a lot of trouble breathing. Mom noticed that the candy had peanut butter in it before she took me to the Emergency Room.
Days later, allergy tests by a pediatric allergist confirmed that I was severely allergic to peanuts. My parents say they now realize a few seemingly random and unrelated events over the past year and a half... twice I broke out in hives all over and a few other times my stomach started hurting and I nearly fainted... were actually warning signs of my increasingly severe reactions to peanut.
Here's a weird but interesting tip for parents. Since I was old enough to talk and years before I was diagnosed with a peanut allergy, I always told my parents I do not like peanut butter, even though I had never eaten it. Many parents of kids in my peanut allergy study tell the same story, that their children have always insisted they don't like peanuts without actually ever trying them.
3. What else are you allergic to?
A: Multiple testing indicates my only other allergens other than peanuts are dust mites and pet dander. Still, as a precaution, I also avoid all tree nuts in my diet.
4. Do you have to get shots for your peanut allergy treatment research study?
A: No thank goodness. I really don't like shots. But it's not the needles because I do fine when I have to have blood drawn for tests. I even watch as the tubes fill up but my Mom has to look the other way!
5. How can I find out about current food allergy research studies or trials?
A: Current food allergy research studies at Arkansas Children's Hospital. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) site offers information on current food allergy research studies and clinical trials. They even offer you the ability to complete a form online to receive food allergy research information by e-mail.
6. What do you eat when you are on road trips?
A: Cheeseburger or chicken strips from Wendy’s, pizza from Papa Johns or Chick-Fil-A . I also carry a small cooler with safe snacks like grapes, cheese, crackers, etc. My approved diet is only foods that are peanut free and, as an extra precaution, tree nut free. I would love to hear from other kids with peanut allergies to know what fast food restaurants you can safely eat at. Just post a comment to this page or send an e-mail to:
askaboutmypeanutallergy @ gmail.com
(TIP: Do not include spaces in address when sending e-mail)
7. What food do you miss eating most since being diagnosed with a peanut allergy?
A: Banana nut muffins with walnuts and treats from the bakery (cupcakes, cookies, etc.).
8. What has changed about your life since being diagnosed with a peanut allergy?
A: We really don't go out to eat anymore unless we have to because of travel. Being from Louisiana, that's a major lifestyle change! Also, traveling takes a lot more planning now. Lucky for me, mom is a travel agent, so she takes care of all our travel arrangements!
9. Does your peanut allergy affect your friends?
A: Most friends just help me at school and parties to remind teachers and guests that we need to keep foods with nuts a safe distance away from me, and that its OK if I bring my own safe cupcakes or treats to the party. I do miss going out to eat with my friends in restaurants, so mom often cooks in the Summer and invites the neighbors over.
10. What does your school do to keep you safe from peanuts?
A: My mom got real involved with the school to explain to them about my peanut allergy and some precautions we needed to take at school. My school is not officially "peanut free" but has been great at taking steps to create a safer but mostly normal school environment, including sending a letter to the parents of my classmates.
11. Why doesn't my peanut allergic friend eat birthday cake, even when there is no nuts in it?
A: Because baked goods from the store or your friends mom are often at risk for something called "cross contamination". Cross contamination happens when the same bowls and spoons used to mix cakes and candies with nuts in the ingredients are also used to make the cakes & candies that are not supposed to have nuts in them. Even with good cleaning, trace nut amounts can accidentally become part of the ingredients. What's the big deal you wonder...well in testing, I have had a strong reaction to just 1/100th of a peanut!
12. Does the EpiPen® hurt when you use it?
A: Don’t know, never used one. I had not yet been diagnosed as peanut allergic when I had my most severe allergic reactions, so I didn't carry EpiPen at the time. I have been told by those who have had to use them, "It's like a bad bee sting, but it beats going into anaphylactic shock!"