Alyssa was almost two when we noticed that she had a reaction to nuts. She was given walnuts, which at first we didn’t notice had caused her any reactions. However, by the time we took her to bed, her whole body was covered in spots and she was really itchy. I gave her Benadryl and didn’t try giving her walnuts again, but never bothered to restrict her from other nuts. I’m sure she’s been exposed to nuts since, but in small insignificant quantities, which has never caused me to worry until I made peanut chicken: two dinners in a row we noticed Alyssa’s chin and cheeks turn red. I called our doctor who set us an appointment with an allergist.
After telling them our story, the allergy doctor wasn’t entirely sure that it was in fact an allergy because of the timing of when she had the reactions, but continued on to administrate the test. It was done on her back and she remained still for it. Once the doctor finished administrating the test, I pulled down Alyssa’s dress, and waited with her for the results. The doctor had left us alone and we were drawing pictures together when I noticed Alyssa trying to itch her back, “no, no, don’t scratch” I told her, and she listened.
A few minutes later the doctor, along with her colleague came back to see the results. I lifted Alyssa’s dress and there it was: “It looks like Mum was right”, the colleague confirmed, “she has an allergy to peanuts and tree nuts”, I should have known as soon as she tried to scratch at her back. My mouth went dry. “Do you know the -
“the severity? No we can’t know unless she has a reaction. What we do know is that she is definitely allergic”. My heart sank.
“She’s gonna need an Epi-pen”. I wanted to cry. I worked as a camp counseller and teacher, I knew what allergies looked like, but I had never imagined that my own baby would be allergic to anything. “I’m sorry, that’s probably not what you wanted hear”. It definitely wasn’t. I was suddenly shaking, thinking about the idea of having to administrate an Epi-pen to my Alyssa. I started thinking about all the things I’d have to do differently. I’d have to make sure that our home was nut-free, make sure every daycare, school, camp, extra-curricular activity that Alyssa ever participates in will be aware of this allergy. And the worry. I’ll now always worry about the what ifs, and how severe this allergy and its reaction can potentially become. This is by far what parents dread the most, having to deal with restrictions in their child’s life. No matter how small, any restriction will always be a huge burden. Neither Michael nor myself have ever had any allergies, and so, dealing with our child having one, seemed like a very scary thing.
The doctors went over with me how to use an Epi-pen and made an appointment to see us the following year, to see if the allergy might decrease or disappear within time. Alyssa was in good spirits and I was trying my best to keep composed for her sake. We went into the washroom and I was washing her hands when I decided to break the news to her. “Alyssa, the doctor says that you can’t have any nuts”. I looked into her big brown eyes, and she looked back at me taking in what I had just told her, and then she spoke up.
“Well, I don’t need nuts anyway, I’d much rather have a cookie!”. I laughed. I felt much better. Alyssa didn’t see anything wrong with it at all, she optimistically looked at the situation, since she was never really crazy about nuts in the first place. Allergies are quite common now anyway, and since we are able to deal with them and to keep them under control, it’s not that bad. Having to read, ask and inform people about my daughter’s new found allergy is really okay, and not a big deal. I realize that I’m grateful because it could be a lot worse.
Finding it out this way was not a tragedy, but rather a potential life saver, or a way of protecting my child from something harmful. I recommend to any parent, if they notice any abnormality with their child, to check it out immeditely and not be afraid of what they find, but rather learn as much as they can about whatever it is. Even though it may seem awful to find out that something may be harmful to your child, being strong and optimistic will help to support them in their quest to live a normal and healthy life, even with restricitons.