Before Christmas, L broke out in hives. I don’t believe it was anything food related…I’m actually concerned it could have been dog related, though it could have been from being sick with pneumonia I guess…The outbreak was slow, but scary, especially because L told me his throat was scratchy.
He had two teeny tiny bug bite-looking bumps on his neck at lunch time, told me his throat was scratchy at nap time, and was scratching his back like crazy by dinner time. It took me THAT LONG to put all the pieces together and take off his shirt to see what the problem was. I still have guilt over it. I tried running down what he had eaten that day, but he hadn’t eaten anything out of the ordinary. It was a few days after we started medicine for pneumonia and two days after starting a probiotic. The only thing different about that day was that his dog-owning grandparents watched him that morning, but that had happened numerous times at our house without incident.
The urgent care doctor determined it was probably the probiotic since L hadn’t had a previous reaction to any of the other medications he was on. The Zyrtec I gave L shortly before leaving for urgent care cleared things up within half an hour and we haven’t had another episode since.
Before I called the pediatrician for advice on where to take L (it was 10 minutes before closing time, because of course), I googled hives and showed some images to Mr Boots to confirm that the bumps looked like L’s. L managed to catch a glimpse and freaked out. Until then, it had been hard to explain hives or what could happen to him because we’ve never experienced any kind of major allergic reaction from food. Even if his hives weren’t from eating something with an allergen, he’s had an experience he hasn’t forgotten. Now we can tell L he can’t have a certain foods because it could give him hives (or “bumps” as he calls them), and I can tell he’s starting to understand a little bit.
Discussions about L’s food allergies occur on a daily basis – usually multiple times – and have since L was diagnosed with a peanut allergy two years ago. G has been quick to pick up that his little brother can’t have all of the same foods he can, and will even go as far as to remind people that L can’t have peanuts but he can. I talk about food labels and try my best to explain to a 3 and 4 year old why they shouldn’t share food or accept it without knowing what’s in it first. It’s a never-ending work-in-progress for sure.
Despite the guilt I feel over not catching on sooner, part of me feels grateful for the experience. The hives were a lesson in what could happen if L ate something that contained peanuts or coconuts, but I still felt like I needed help. So, I borrowed some children’s books about food allergies from the library.
This isn’t for pre-schoolers, but I found it helpful because it showed pictures of what children look like when they are having an allergic reaction to a food. I learned a few things as well. Like, did you know that before 2004 there were 20 different ways to label milk? And peanuts can hide in your BBQ sauce? I honestly finished it and wanted to buy it for family members who (I feel) still don’t seem to think L’s allergy is a huge deal. I didn’t read this one to the boys, but it would make a great reference book for elementary school kids.
My boys loved this one. It has questions at the end that teach kids what foods are safe and which ones might have hidden allergens. I think this book helped give G (almost 5) a visual of what was okay to eat and what was definitely not. It helped him understand that there are some foods we always need to check labels on (like candy and popcorn). I love the message that even if someone can’t eat a certain food, they can still have fun.
We were able to make this relateable to L because Nutley broke out in hives from eating peanuts. Plus, it showed Nutley going to the allergist for his annual allergy test, just as L does. I loved that once Nutley let his friends know what he was allergic to, they made sure to bring nut-free snacks because they care about him. Bonus: this book has a nut-free banana bread recipe in the back which is really delicious!
This was glossed over by my boys, but I read and enjoyed it and thought it was cute. It’s about two friends, one with a peanut allergy (Paula) and one without (Regina). A fight ensues when Regina, who is planning a birthday party, gets upset when Paula tells her she can’t eat the cake because it has nuts. What stood out for me, as a parent, was how would elementary-school aged best friends (and their parents) wouldn’t be aware that one had a food allergy and try and be more inclusive? Despite this, I think it’s a relate-able story for kids who might have friends who don’t quite understand why food allergies are dangerous, and how a simple act of kindness can mean everyone enjoys the fun. I also really liked how Paula didn’t shy away from letting her friend know she has a peanut allergy. It’s my hope that L will be just as confident in letting people know.
I’ve added Nutley and the BugaBees to my book wish-list. I believe having books about food allergies on hand all the time will be more effective in teaching my boys about food allergy awareness than periodically borrowing them from the library. I’d love to know…