On Allergies, Tests and Occasional Whinging
There were scenes of jubilation and celebration in the Russell household last night. We even cracked open a packet of almonds … and no, they weren’t #activatedalmonds. Our youngest has been given the all clear to consume almonds … the first whole nut that has ever passed his lips in his 10 years of life! It’s a big deal for us all. Our boy is anaphylactic for peanuts and ??? walnuts (they rate high but how severe we do not know) and other tree nuts, also with big unknown ticks against them.
Whilst pondering and scheming our overseas trip at Christmas time, it was really weighing on my mind how we were going to deal with our boy’s nut allergy in Europe. Lupin (legume) flour is used extensively in Europe … in standard baking and even in stuffing sausages. It’s rampant! Clinical studies have identified both serological and clinical cross-reactivity between peanut and lupin, although lupin allergy can also occur without allergy to legumes. So even though our boy had consumed other legumes in the past, there was a real chance that, because he rates high for anaphylaxis for peanuts, he could get into trouble consuming lupin containing products when in Europe. I decided to have him tested, under medical supervision in the Allergy clinic with his Doctor present, for lupin and also almonds …. as everything in those beautiful French bakeries has come into contact with almond meal … and I so wanted him to experience the delights of a French patisserie/bakery ….and be able to even just stick a baguette under his arm and nibble on it during the day!
We did all the skin prick tests again and surprise, surprise those damn peanuts just wont give up … it’s not diminishing yet. I am hoping that he is one of the 20% who get to grow out of his allergy … so is he! It’s not so that he can eat peanut paste or a bowl of nuts in a bar … but just so that he can eat a wider variety of foods … and I can even thicken sauces with my favourite cornflour again one day. Nuts are in everything!
Almond came up low again, so we decided to do a food challenge, starting with just wiping it on his cheek, then his lips, then just inside his mouth, then we got down to the actual oral consumption of the damn thing. Oh you have never seen such melodramatics and facial grimaces. It was like he was eating bitumen! The gagging, the shoulder shudders, the flouncing on the couch. Eat the damn 5 almonds so we can get out of here, son. Overall, the whole thing took 3 hours … due to the waiting time in between each test … and the blood pressure tests, respiratory observations. 5 almonds later and no vomits (although we came close) and we were given the almond green light. Lupin didn’t even rate on the skin tests so we are good to go.
He’s really so good with it all, outside the dramatics of the clinic. A super nut detective. And he has perspective on it all too. I have constantly reminded him that he does not have to stick himself before every meal with insulin pens and blood sugar testing equipment, like ID Diabetics do, and I throw in the PKU card often, when he whinges about not being able to have a certain food.
PKU – phenylketonuria, an inborn error of metabolism, is where the body doesn’t make phenyalanine hydroxylase, the enzyme that converts the amino acid phenylalanine (naturally occurring in protein foods, even in high doses in fruit and veges) to the amino acid tyrosine. Phenylalanine builds up in the blood and causes brain damage. I used to be the Dietitian in the PKU clinic at the kids hospital, before having my family. You want danger in a diet and restrictions?! …have PKU, son. A predicament in which a normal protein diet causes brain damage. The diet is so restrictive and dull and the protein powder that has to be consumed (a special formulation made without phenylalanine but with tyrosine) in the past was the foulest tasting concoction you’d ever experience in your life. I don’t know if it has improved in the years since I was in the clinic but I use it as psychological warefare when things get dramatic and irrational with my little one and his peanut infliction. Yeah! #motheroftheyear … I pull out the PKU card and talk about the teenagers I used to see who missed the boat wrt diet compliance when they were younger and who were severely mentally disabled and he instantly gains perspective about his diet restrictions. Works a treat every time.
So we’re free to frequent French bakeries with gay abandon … with severe caution for peanuts, walnuts and pecans. In general, we just have to be cautious and watchful and be armed with the Epipen. Little one is so grateful that we have more definitive answers on some things. He’s even going to take an almond to school today, for show and tell, and eat it in front of the class! After all the dramatics yesterday! I can just see the ‘so what?’ expressions on the faces of his peers. I guess it was the biggest hurdle he’s had to jump in his short life … going against everything he has learnt about preserving his life and putting a damn nut in his mouth and crunching on it.
I’m a bit proud of him.
Oh, and for all those not the slightest bit interested in nut allergy, I Napisan-ed the hell out of my Italian linen covered sofa and it came up a treat. Don’t be afraid of Napisan I say! I ‘soaked’ like there was no tomorrow and lived to tell the tale.