This is the first in a two-part series by Brandi Yee - wife, blogger at Yee Wittle Things and Mom of two, one of which has a severe peanut allergy.
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Allergies have become a part of society it seems now a days and it's getting harder and harder to avoid. Yes, I'm used to allergies on my side of the family (seasonal allergies, pet allergies, and food allergies to shellfish, strawberries...just to name a few!) and I fully expected our kids to have some form of allergies themselves. With that being said, I honestly never expected one of our kids to develop a life threatening allergy. That was a life altering "surprise" and one that we haven't experienced on either sides of the family...until now. What is the culprit? Peanuts. What's even more surprising, is that peanut allergies are one of the most common allergies in children. I never knew that until my (now 3 year old) daughter was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy herself.All it took was a couple bites of a homemade peanut butter cookie after she was a year old, and our lives would take a different course. I knew to look out for a reaction, as it was her first taste of the nutty sweetness, but don't think I was quite expecting anything to happen. Being familiar with allergies and how to recognize reactions, I knew instantly that when swollen bumps began forming around her eyes and mouth, that this wasn't going to be pleasant. Head to toe hives, swelling throat, ears, eyes and wheezing in a matter of minutes, would be the start of a whole new way of living; for both her and us. We made it to the hospital JUST in time and I'm very thankful for that. It took days for the swelling to go down even after she was administered 3 types of different medication. We were advised to carry an Epipen at all times and keep one in our house as well. What has stood out in my mind the most, is the doctor telling us that the first reaction is MILD compared to future reactions. With hers being such a severe first reaction, we don't want to find out what a future reaction would involve. Changes had to be made and regular caution would become a part of the family.
Two years later and Epipens constantly within our reach, we've learned how to cope and manage with this new addition to our lives. It took some tears and stress-filled moments to reach a point where we felt we are doing everything we can to keep her away from any peanut-related situations. There may be only so much in our control, especially when out in public or at playgrounds, but the caution we use daily has prevented her from (fingers crossed) having a second and possibly more fatal reaction.
Yes, my purse is almost like luggage now. I'm prepared for anything and people have made comments (jokingly of course) about how much it weighs. But you know what? My purse holds everything I need to help keep my daughter safe if we're ever in a situation where peanuts pose a threat. I not only carry an Epipen in my purse, but I also carry Benadryl and a syringe to administer if such a reaction begins to arise. A cell phone can also be important for any unexpected times when 911 is needed. It's important to be prepared. Better safe than sorry as the saying goes, and it's the motto I live by now.
Know how use to an Epipen. This includes you and people who are close in your lives. There are information packages available and the most important thing to know, is how to administer the Epipen if an emergency presents itself.
Note: It's extremely important to keep Epipens up to date and to be aware of expiration dates on them. One thing I have learned, is that even if you buy them on a certain day, it doesn't mean you have a year from the date of purchase. They have a shelf life that will likely vary from the day you purchased and could even be off by a matter of months believe it or not. You can also sign up to receive email reminders for your Epipen's expiration dates.
This is extremely important, especially for food allergies. I am VERY fortunate that I was already used to reading labels because of healthy choices (such as trans fat, cholesterol content, sodium, etc.), so it was not an inconvenience for me at all to take an extra few seconds to read for allergens. Whether it's the actual allergen in the product, possible traces of the allergen, or manufactured in the same plant as the allergen, you need to be aware of this before purchasing. I'm very fortunate for the better awareness by companies today in regards to not only peanut allergies, but many other allergies as well. And just because something has the peanut-free symbol on it, I still have the habit of flipping over the product and reading the ingredient list.
Location, Location, Location
Be aware of your surroundings and scan areas, such as park benches, picnic tables, playgrounds, sand boxes, grass, etc. for anything that could pose a threat. For us with the peanut allergy, we have to constantly watch for dropped peanuts and shells from squirrels, or people that have flicked them on the sidewalk or grass. I've seen many peanuts and shells laying around, even in our own yard from squirrels. Always assess the situation and the location.
~ Stay tuned for part two of Brandi's story on Friday. ~
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