I sometimes daydream about a life without food allergies. Unfortunately, that life is not my reality. I have severe nut (peanuts AND tree nuts) allergies. My family discovered I was allergic to nuts shortly after my mom made a PB&J sandwich for me, and I wouldn’t eat it. Oddly enough, my body intuitively knew that I shouldn’t eat it by, perhaps, the smell.
My mom was stunned that I wouldn’t eat the PB&J sandwich. What kid doesn’t eat PB&J, right? It is often a staple food item for toddlers. Because my mom loves every category of nuts, she was not to be deterred. She baked a batch of peanut-butter cookies (her favorite cookies no less) and even took the time to make the fork print designs on each cookie, and to her surprise, I wouldn’t eat them either. My sister came along 20 months later, and when she became a toddler, my mom repeated the PB&J sandwich and the peanut-butter cookie experiment. It was as if she hit the playback button on the video recording of my PB&J and peanut-butter cookie scene because my sister also rejected both items. It wasn’t confirmed that both of us had a nut allergy until we were at a restaurant and ate a dessert made with a nut crust. Both of us experienced nasal congestion, runny noses, itching of the mouth and throat, and swollen lips.
I had a similar reaction at Sam’s Club when I ate a sample of pistachios. Based on this and my previous experiences, I compiled a list of nuts I couldn’t eat that began with peanuts (peanuts are actually legumes) followed by pistachios. It wasn’t long before I figured out it was best to avoid walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts… in a word, ALL nuts.
Nonetheless, I remember being forced to eat a PB&J sandwich in the 4th grade. The employee in the lunchroom didn’t believe me when I told her I was allergic to peanuts and said I couldn’t go back to the classroom until I ate my lunch. I finally gave in and took a small-like-the-tiniest-bite-ever and instantly became symptomatic with throat swelling and labored breathing. Of course, the school officials had to call my mom and when mama bear (a.k.a. my mom) arrived at the school in lightning speed, it was not a pleasant experience for those involved. Needless to say, that never happened again!
We didn’t take an allergy test or get formally diagnosed back then (just saying this, I realize I sound old). My mom told us to only eat the food she packed for us when at school, and we tried to ask questions about menu items and inform the restaurant employees of allergies before ordering food.
Currently, my oldest child is showing signs and symptoms of food allergies. I pray that she outgrows this as 10 percent of children do, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. On the flip side, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the incidence of allergies is increasing among children. The cliche, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is so true! To say the least, a village definitely makes the task easier. I am so thankful when a mom makes the effort to have allergy-friendly choices available for my daughter and I at a playdate or birthday party, or when a friend defers the restaurant selection to me to ensure there are allergy-friendly menu selections available for us. Also, when another allergy mom makes something for her daughter and mine, that is a consideration I notice and very much appreciate. Honestly, it is a simple gesture of genuine love for a fellow mom that not only makes me take notice, but lessens the burden of worry knowing there will actually be something we can safely eat when we are invited to social events.