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Fictional Character with Peanut Allergies

Hi,

My name is Helen Mason and I am a children's author. At the moment, I am working on a book in which one of the characters has peanut allergies. I need some help with some details and wonder if members here would be willing to provide some information.

For example, how easy is it for someone who is allergic to peanuts to get a reaction to them. Could they, for example, get it by touching peanut butter cookies, even if they didn't eat them?

Or would they have to touch their lips with the crumbs in order to get a reaction?

Might the reaction from that type of contact be less severe than a full anaphylactic response they would get by eating the cookie?

Thanks for your help. I am trying to show a young non-allergenic boy stumbling towards a friendship with the allergy sufferer. It is not the main theme of the book, but is an important thread.

I know that I am asking what you may consider to be stupid questions. I apologize. As I learn more, the characters are changing.

Helen

By Emmysmom4 on Sat, 03-09-13, 21:58

Hi Helen,
I am new to this website and joined after reading your post. I think it is extremely important for everyone to be a little more educated about nut allergies. I am so happy that you are planning to write a book that involves a child with such an allergy. Times are changing...just as we have all accepted computers, cell phones, automobiles etc as part of our daily lives, there are dangers that are present with these wonderful inventions. We have learned to embrace and navigate these things in our lives. Unfortunately there are some not so wonderful things that have also been more prevalent in today's world...like food allergies. I have a 12year old daughter and a 2year old son. The difference in 10 years is incredible. I am roughly speculating but I'd say that about 2% of the kids in my daughters grade had a food allergy. According to a friend who is a kindergarten teacher, there is some where between 15-20% of the incoming students with a food allergy...and rising. I'm sure as an author you are doing some research and fact checking of your own.
To get to some of your questions...
First you should know that every persons allergic reaction is different. Some may have an upset stomach with mild discomfort. This is an intolerance not an allergy. Some will become violently ill, blood pressure may drop and pass out, hives and rashes, swelling of the tongue throat etc. when they ingest a contaminated food. My son is what I've been told is transdermal. If he touches something that has protein, oil, etc...his skin will respond with blotches and hives. If he ingests it, it is systemic and a much more serious reaction. My first inclination that he may be allergic was when my daughter ate a pb&j sandwich one day. My son was 15 months old at the time. I told her to wash up because we should not be so careless with it around my son (as the dermatologist had suggested that he might have a higher chance of food allergies because he had eczema as a baby). She washed her hands etc. An hour or so later, she was playing with my son and blew raspberries on his stomach, within 2 minutes he had a trail of hives on his stomach...she was upset and told me that she didn't wash her face/lips as I had asked her to. We couldn't be sure if this was the cause as he seemed to have random little hives show up from time to time. My daughter was very upset so I down played it but filed it away in my head. A few months later my son was made some toast that the butter knife had been used to make a pb&j sandwich earlier that morning. The knife looked clean but had peanut oil on it still. My son got blotches on his face, and every where he touched with his buttery hands got blotchy, since it was also systemic he got hives on his torso, his eyes and nose were watering and running and red, he was rubbing them like crazy. Then he started to get a little cough...this happened within a matter of 5 minutes. We gave him Benadryl and called the pediatrician and brought him in. Blood test confirmed that his #s were low yet he has very high allergic response. So yes, a kiss can cause a reaction, a hand shake, touching a toy that someone else touched with hands that may have nut protein on them. We have to read all labels for food, skin care, hair care, dog food, drinks etc. We have been practically prisoners to our house as it is the only known safe place. I fear every time we go any where. How can you explain to an 18month old that there is so much danger? Even a trip to the play ground can be hazardous. I've tried! Watched parents as they leave their children's pb sandwiches on the picnic tables and the birds scoop down take the pieces and drop it in various places on the playground..or the parent following their child around feeding them fruit and nut bars... It is such a scary place. At Christmas time we went to my sisters house...even though we scrutinized over all the food and she thoroughly cleaned the common areas, he had a reaction sitting on a rug in my nieces room. She had eaten pb crackers in her room and didn't vacuum. My son is now 2 and 3/4 years old. We talk to him about not eating nuts etc...but it's more than just educating him. We have to make sure that everyone around him is educated about it. That they wash their hands and faces before engaging with him. Every time he has an exposure, the reaction can/will get worse. According to my sons allergist 20% of kids can out grow the allergy. He feels that the less exposures he has the greater his chances are to be one of the 20%. I really hope that your book can help other children and parents understand the allergy a little better. To know that we all just need to be a little more careful. I hope that your story will be able educate people and also teach empathy for those that deal with it everyday. Unfortunately there are so many people who feel that it is not their problem and are inconvenienced when a child with allergies is around. I've been on both sides of this...with one child not allergic and one that is. For those children and parents who do not have an allergy they are lucky...I'm happy for them...it makes their life so much easier. But please don't shun the children who do. Please don't break rules by bringing foods into places that it is prohibited...please be a little more conscience of highly allergic foods being fed to your child in play areas. The food allergy increase is of epidemic proportion and I hope that they will soon figure out how to stop it and cure it. I fear sending my child to school. I fear him dating someone and have an anaphylactic reaction because his girlfriend ate something with nuts. I fear some bully at school will drop a peanut in his pudding to see what might happen. For the rest of my life...i will worry. I hope that others can help educate people also. I think the more awareness we have...the sooner we can figure out what is causing this drastic increase in food allergies. I wish you luck with your book and am happy to give you more information if you like. That is...if you are still awake after reading my very long post. :). There is one more thing I'd like to say... I am blessed that my child has a nut allergy. He could have so many worse things...and I am blessed.

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