NoPeanutsPlease is an independent blog.

All views, opinions and conclusions are solely those of the author and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by any other party.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Where Do We Start?

So what do you do after the first episode? Where do you start? How do you deal with this?

First thing you need to do is take a deep breath. You quickly realize that this could be something you deal with forever.

After sleeping on things the first night, we happily awoke to see that our daughter was fine with the exception of a nasty cold that since seemed to settle in.

From my initial research I learned that this was likely due to the fact that anaphylaxis is, at its root, an immune response so it is logical that you immune system would be a little under the weather!

I have many questions … here is a random sampling of the rapid fire and often ridiculous things that flash into your mind in a 10 second span: What caused the reaction? How serious is this? Will she grow out of it? Is she okay now? How can I prevent future attacks? Do I need an ‘epi-pin’? Can she go away to university?

The last two questions showed a lack of knowledge of even the name of the life-saving device and the University question smacked of irrational parental panic. But that is where the journey begins for most parents … fragments of often-incorrect information, a mind churning with questions and a healthy fear of the unknown.

Upon returning from the hospital and putting my daughter down for a nap the learning phase of my (likely) lifelong journey with anaphylaxis begins. I opened my Mac and after misspelling anaphylaxis a few times I finally typed it correctly and I received 2.6 million results (within 0.05 seconds no less).

Where do I even start?

How do I get myself up to speed on the issues facing my daughter? I decided to just dive in and used the Anaphylaxis Canada site as my starting point. I began by clicking on a link for “what is anaphylaxis”. (As an aside this is one of the best sites out there.)

I suspect most parents would have to embark from such a humble beginning. Though the medical experts from Boxing Day were fantastic (and I really mean that ... they were fantastic!) everything happened so fast and retaining information was next to impossible.

The biggest challenge is that we are still not 100% sure what our daughter ate, or what she is allergic to. Our best hunch at this point is that she ate a gingerbread cookie (nut-free) that was in a bag with a cookie containing peanuts.

Talk about nutritional terrorism ... something, we are not 100% sure what, could kill our daughter within 15 minutes. That will take some getting used to!!

Our na├»ve layman’s diagnosis is that she appears to be so severely allergic to peanuts that she does not even need to eat a full nut to trigger an anaphylactic response. That’s actually terrifying.

We knew before that she had a contact peanut allergy but we certainly did not know it was this severe. We did not realize that it was potentially fatal.

NoPeanuts Tip:
If your child has displayed even a mild allergic reaction to nuts (or any high risk food for that matter) then assume the worst-case scenario until proven otherwise.

If you child is allergic to a high risk food (ie: eggs, milk, peanuts, seafood, sesame seeds, soy, sulphites, tree nuts), then you are probably safest to assume that your child is severely allergic and at risk for anaphylaxis.

I am not trying to scare you ... it is what it is. Think about it ... you may not know for sure that your child anaphylactic allergy until AFTER there is an anaphylactic reaction. Be ready!

If peanuts seem to create a reaction then keep your child away from all nuts (since most are processed in facilities that produce peanuts) and see your family doctor immediately. You should also have your doctor schedule an appointment with an allergist.

Seriously consider the purchase of an Epi-Pen should one not be prescribed.

To quote the paramedic during our ambulance ride, “peanut allergies are not to be played with”. Though we had already set up an appointment with the allergist, it is still six weeks away and based on my research to this point it seems that we should have had an Epi-Pen in the house in the interim. We didn’t and we unwittingly put our daughter in grave danger as a result.

NoPeanuts Tip:
Learn as much as you can about the allergy.

Once you experience a confirmed allergic response to peanuts or other foods, especially if that reaction was anaphylactic, it is your obligation as a parent to learn as much as possible about what you are up against. This includes first and foremost what foods and 'hidden' ingredients to avoid!

Thankfully you are 0.05 seconds away from 2.6 million online resources to help you research.

Start reading today and contact your doctor / allergist to ensure that you are on the right track.

You can also stay tuned into NoPeanutsPlease.com =)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Formative Experience

We had a formative experience on Boxing Day 2006.

I cannot even put into words the fear, dread, concern, love and helplessness that I felt as my 21 month old daughter struggled for air after an extreme allergic reaction to something that she ate. It was later called an 'anaphylactic' response by our paramedics.

We did not know how it started.

We had no idea what was happening.

Within seconds our daughter could not breathe, had thousands of hives covering her face, neck and hands and was terrified as she lay on the bathroom floor. I raced to call 9-1-1 while Mommy and Grammy attended to our daughter. The ambulance came within two minutes and by the time they arrived things already turned for the better. Our daughter is perfectly fine.

So why am I blogging?

The moment where I dialed 9-1-1 is the critical moment of what I feel is a formative experience. In that moment you are completely terrified and you do not know how things will play out. It was crazy.

I am a changed person. I have read before about severe allergic reactions but I have to admit that until you see it first hand it is too easy to quickly put it out of your mind and move on. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. This is not a statement of judgment … it is what it is.

After last week’s experience I have decided to embark on a journey. The journey will first and foremost be to support my daughter in dealing with her allergy. In conjunction with that I also want do what I can to support current and future parents in their struggle to come to terms with a severe allergy in their family.

This blog chronicles that journey.

NoPeanuts Tip:
I would suggest that you never bake with peanuts for a 'cookie exchange'.

Huh? ... It appears that the offending peanut arrived into our home via an annual holiday cookie exchange among my wife’s friends. Kind of ironic, don't you think? I do not begrudge the well-intended baker in this case as people just don’t automatically think of peanut allergies, or any allergy for that matter. If you do not know who is eating the cookies, leave out the peanuts.