This is a guest post.
I remember the first time I gave my daughter peanut butter. I was terrified, and had my cell phone in one hand, queued up ready to dial 911 with one press of a button if needed.
I have friends whose children have a severe, life-threatening allergy to peanuts–and other foods. I know how serious it is.
My daughter had no reaction that day and is not allergic to peanuts. Ironically, it took me months to recognize the food allergy she does actually have.
She is allergic to strawberries. But I did not perceive that it was a food item causing her type of reaction. As far as I knew, food allergies manifested as swelling, itching, rashes and a tightening or closing of the throat. My child did not experience those symptoms initially.
I dismissed it as seasonal allergy symptoms.
What happened in the beginning, whenever she ate strawberries, was that her nose would run, her eyes would water and she would sneeze. My husband commented at one point that he thought she might be allergic to strawberries.
It wasn’t until she developed what seemed like more traditional food allergy symptoms that my internal alarm went off.
One evening as we enjoyed a family movie night, our daughter began to complain she was itchy and hot. With only the light from the television, I couldn’t really see her. Then she said she needed to use the potty.
When I turned on the light in the bathroom, I was shocked by what I saw. Her face and lips had transformed into a huge, red, swollen rash.
She had consumed a large bowl of strawberries after dinner.
I screamed for my husband and grabbed Benadryl from the medicine cabinet. After giving her a dose we watched carefully, phone in hand. Debated whether we needed to call 911 or drive her to the ER.
Thankfully, she was OK. We did not need to take her to the hospital. But we did make an appointment to see her pediatrician for allergy testing right away.
It turns out I wasn’t entirely wrong. My daughter was experiencing something called Oral Allergy Syndrome. It is a cross-reaction between plant pollens and food proteins.
In other words, she is allergic to strawberries because she suffers from seasonal allergies. The doctor explained that any time she was exposed to strawberries, the reaction could vary from mild to life threatening. There is no way to know. And yes, the reaction could potentially be fatal. It’s close to impossible to know your child’s allergies, pre-exposure, so early food introduction can help with the help of these guides at WhatToExpect.com.
We treat her condition the same way a parent would treat any food allergy. We have eliminated strawberries from her diet and work hard to make sure she does not come into contact with them. Her teachers and anyone I ever leave her with are made aware of her condition and given an EpiPen Jr. along with instructions on how to use it. And I have one with me at all times.
I often feel guilty I did not take my husband’s concerns more seriously or recognize the reaction my daughter was having. But I will always be grateful we discovered her condition before it was too late.
Elizabeth Flora Ross is a freelance writer for WhatToExpect.com, living in Florida with her husband and daughter. You can find her on her personal blog, The Writer Revived. She is also the creator of The Mom Pledge, an anti-cyberbullying campaign aimed at moms.