I have to write this down, so that I can remember this allergy journey we’ve been on with Reid. Last year about this time, Reid – at 1.5 years old – was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. First with a food reaction, then with a positive skin scratch test.
The Year Follow-Up
This May, we had our year follow-up with the allergist. We got to tell him about the time Reid bit through a Snickers wrapper and sunk his teeth into peanutty-nuggety goodness at Halloween. We chatted about Reid’s wheezes when he runs after his big brother down the sidewalk.
At that appointment, Reid had a blood draw. They submitted it for allergy testing of all tree nuts (which we were explicitly told to avoid last year) and environmental allergens. I’d been giving Reid Zyrtec for what I thought were seasonal allergies (turned out to just be a cold), and dingbat me gave him Zyrtec the night before our appointment, which pre-empted our being able to administer a skin scratch test for all these things.
That whole blood test/skin scratch test nuance becomes important later. Stay with me.
We left the appointment with a new asthma maintenance regimen to follow and made an appointment to follow-up with the allergist in a month to check on his breathing.
The Results are In
A week later, we got the blood test results back: negative for all allergies except for cats. The nurse relayed the message that we could now try tree nuts “safely at home” and that our allergist recommended we stick to individual tree nuts before moving on to mixes. Done and done.
It’s funny the mindset you get into when you’ve been avoiding something for a year as if it were basically poison. It seems almost unbelievable that tree nuts wouldn’t cause some sort of harm.
I know, I’m living the irony – the TORTURE that Facebook is to read sometimes because some folks are so fearstruck by absolutely nothing consequential when there is hard data available that reinforces that whatever it is is completely harmless. I’m now doing that very thing.
In fact, Andy and I did our little happy dance and immediately started to list all the breakfast cereals available to us given these test results. And yet weeks passed while I consciously opted out of opportunities to let Reid try nuts. We’re about to go on a long car ride… Camping really isn’t the time for this… yadda yadda.
Trial and Error
Honey Nut Cheerios was the first thing we tried. Success! He LOVED it. Devoured an entire bowl, in fact. And he didn’t explode! I mentally high-fived his immune system that day and crossed that off my long list of anxieties.
Last Monday, Andy came up to the bathroom where I was getting ready. He held Reid, facing out, in his arms and said, “Mommy… look at this,” then proceeded to lift his shirt which revealed a red rash covering his entire trunk. I blinked a couple of times, but my mind didn’t connect the dots until Andy said, “He just had a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds.”
The hives came shortly after. We gave Reid the Benadryl, per his allergy action plan, then watched him for signs of any sort of distress. None came, so we called the allergist’s office when it opened and followed their instructions. Reid now fully medicated, he watched Despicable Me, and I googled error rates of food allergy blood tests (15-20% chance you’ll react to the actual food when you get a blood test negative, by the way).
We already had a follow-up with the allergist for Reid’s asthma regimen, so we tacked on “tree nut re-testing” onto the agenda for that visit. Good times.
Back to the Allergist
Reid had his allergist’s appointment today, and I’m more confused than ever. Reid doesn’t have an almond allergy.
We tested him six ways from Sunday:
- Skin scratch test for all tree nut allergens: negative
- Crushed up almond, scratched on the skin: negative
- Gave him an almond to eat: negative
- Gave him five almonds to eat: managed to choke one down before refusing to eat any more because almonds are gross and ENOUGH WITH THE ALMONDS ALREADY YOU CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!
- Crushed up remaining uneaten almonds into vanilla ice cream: negative (and DELICIOUS)
A half hour after the contaminated ice cream treat, Reid’s doctor told me with certainty that Reid isn’t allergic to almonds – or other tree nuts for that matter. We scoured the cereal’s ingredient panel for other possible reactive items, but cinnamon was all we could come up with. Reid eats cinnamon toast and other cinnamon-y things, so… nope.
My prevailing guess is that peanut in some form or another was accidentally introduced to the cereal. It can happen. I’ve seen how it can happen. We in the food industry try so SO very hard to make absolutely no mistakes where food safety is concerned , but it takes one guy not reading a label. Or a label not being where it should. R&D running a test for a new peanut cereal on that line and it not getting sanitized properly. I thank God that Reid’s allergy isn’t life-threatening. I can’t imagine what life would be like for us if it was.