The glass half-full… of peanut butter

By Mir
August 30, 2005

Once upon a time there was an adorable little Monkey toddler who was fat and happy and gurgly and loved creamed spinach. Yes! CREAMED SPINACH. From Boston Market. But I digress. The point is that he happily ate just about anything you fed to him. And anything he found on the floor. Or in the dog’s dish. (I suspect there will be a lot of digressions tonight.)


Then one day I accidentally fed him some poison, and after the excitement that went with THAT, a picky eater was born.

No, I didn’t hand him a brick of D-Con or make him a teether ring out of ant baits. I put him in his highchair and handed him half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My nefarious plan was… ummm… lunch! But he stuck his finger into the sandwich and smeared some peanut butter on the tray and then on his face… and started screaming.

It was loads of fun. There was a lot of screaming and crying; some of it was even from Monkey. He broke out in hives and his head swelled up like a melon and his eyes sort of disappeared and if I’d had some Ativan back then, it would’ve been VERY HANDY I THINK. In lieu of Ativan, I just completely freaked out, called the pediatrician, administered enough Benadryl to dope up a small horse, and held on to Monkey so tightly for the next several hours that it was a small miracle he didn’t die of asphyxiation resulting from my death grip rather than his newly apparent food allergy.

Blah blah blah, allergy testing, highly allergic to peanuts, oh and also all these other foods, SURPRISE!, blah blah blah, read all labels, cook from scratch, you’ll find other foods to feed him.

As it turned out, finding other foods to feed him wasn’t all that complicated, on account of he stopped eating just about everything. That was probably a valid response to what he’d been through. Regardless, I just had this sneaking suspicion that pop-tarts and french fries do not a balanced diet make, and I continued to offer him delicious, nutritious food alternatives that he threw on the floor with relish.

There were other changes after that, of course. Once your child has an anaphylactic reaction to something, you have to carry an EpiPen around so that in the event of another accidental exposure, you can jab a big needle in their leg and hopefully keep them alive long enough to get to the hospital. Good times! Especially since EpiPens are first cousins to Goldilocks, and can’t get too hot (epinephrine will cook) or too cold (firing mechanism will malfunction). That makes things like trips to the beach or afternoons sledding a bit more challenging. Plus it turns out that another of Monkey’s favorite foods–chocolate–becomes much more complicated if you’re nut-allergic. Things like cake and ice cream have a high potential for cross-contamination, making the safest plan for those seven billion birthday parties and “special treat” days at daycare baking and bringing our own treats.

It’s very overwhelming, at first. It feels like danger is lurking everywhere. It takes FOR.EVER. to shop for groceries, now that you have to stop and read every label. Monkey knew before he could speak in sentences that he was never to eat food outside of home without asking first if it was safe for him. He proudly showed off his Medic Alert bracelet to anyone who asked about it. “It say peanuts make me SICK” he would say with a serious face, as young as two.

Years went by, and Monkey outgrew all but the peanut allergy. We’re accustomed to dealing with it now, and it’s not that big of a deal. They used to think that no one outgrew peanut allergy. More recently they’ve found that as many as 20% of people will outgrow it, but still. Would you bet on those odds?

Next week, Monkey starts kindergarten. His allergist recommends a food challenge prior to starting elementary school, for his patients who were diagnosed as babies/toddlers. A food challenge is just what it sounds like: In a clinically controlled setting, you sit your kid down and feed them small amounts of the target food until they either go into anaphylaxis or the doctor declares them no longer allergic.

It’s like Russian Roulette! But with your child!

I was not all that jazzed about the idea of a food challenge. Go figure.

But it turns out that first they do a blood test, and the results of the blood test give them a pretty good idea of whether or not you’re likely to pass a food challenge. The doctor explained that anything over one number is considered allergic, but in fact there is a range between that number and another where 95% of patients will still pass a food challenge. This doctor not only has all the appropriate degrees and certifications, he also has a little cross-stitch sampler with his name in it hanging in the exam room. So what he says must be true.

Monkey had the blood test. A piece of paper came in the mail. The piece of paper said that his number falls into the “95% will pass the food challenge” range. Please call to schedule the test.

My first thought was: HOLY SHIT.
My second thought was: Oh man, I could buy generic granola bars!! (Behold the irony: Monkey doesn’t even eat granola bars. But Chickadee loves them, and there is just one expensive brand I’ve found that is nut-free.)
My third thought was: I am definitely bringing some Ativan with me for the food challenge.

This morning I called to schedule the challenge, and the nurse told me to please bring our own peanuts. Which, I’m sorry, I found… odd. It’s not like I have any peanuts here in the house. I can (and will) go buy some, I guess, but then if he reacts during the test, what would be the proper protocol at that point? Do I throw the rest of the nuts away? Offer them to the nurse? Suggest they keep the rest there in a sealed container so that they have them available to poison the next kid?

95% is a pretty encouraging number. But… I can’t wrap my brain around it. It seems impossible that suddenly he could eat whatever he wants. Suppose he scarfs down a can of peanuts, no problems. Could I really just throw away the EpiPens and start buying Chex Mix and Little Debbie snack cakes and Jif all willy nilly? (Ohhhh. We could have Nutty Buddies. I used to LOVE Nutty Buddies.) Or would I constantly be hovering, waiting for the reaction that might appear?

I might be obsessing a wee bit.

Monkey was very excited to hear he might not be allergic anymore, and once he confirmed that the food challenge wouldn’t involve any needles (I may have somewhat glossed over the part where if he has a reaction he’ll get the EpiPen in the leg as well as a nice little trip to the ER), he was pretty stoked about that, as well. In fact, he’s been nothing but optimism. Except, yesterday he got up into my lap and said, “Mama, I have a question.” I nodded, and he looked thoughtful before continuing. “If I’m not allergic to peanuts anymore… would I take my bracelet off?” (He has worn his Medic Alert bracelet since he was fifteen months old.)

“Well sure, buddy. You wouldn’t need it anymore,” I said brightly. His face crumpled.

“But I LIKE my bracelet!” he wailed.

I hope the potential loss of his treasured bracelet is the biggest problem this brings him. And I hope he passes the challenge, because now I really want to buy a jumbo box of Nutty Buddies. Though it does feel just a little selfish to be preparing to subject him to this and thinking all about SNACK FOOD. However, the alternative is to consider that he may go into anaphylaxis from something we fed him ON PURPOSE. So. I’m going with dreams of snack cakes, I think.

Either way, Monkey maintains that creamed spinach looks like puke and he’s never eating THAT again. I guess some things won’t change, no matter what.


  1. big-bad-ex

    I bet that relish is tough to clean off the floor.


  2. Cori

    Woo Hoo for Nutty Bars…but serious anxiety attacks would commence over the food challenge, which, incidentally sounds like something off of a reality show. If I were you, I’d totally put the bracelet away, if he doesn’t need it, with the intention of scrapping it, and Monkey would find it while going through boxes as they put me in a nursing home in 50 years. Let us know how it all goes.

  3. Bob

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you and Monkey.

  4. Peek

    Oh gosh, I think I’d be terrified. I can totally see how you would be “anxious” about this whole thing. When exactly is the test? I’ll be thinking of you and hoping for the best. Maybe if all goes well you could get him a new bracelet, maybe the same kind but with just his name on it. GOOD LUCK MONKEY AND MOMMY!

  5. JuJuBee

    What a little sweetheart he is…wishing you both lots of luck on your test!

    Also? I always ask the comment box to save my info and it never, ever does! Does anyone else have this problem?

  6. Kathy

    The best of luck to your little Monkey.

  7. Sheryl

    Man, I hope he passes. Can’t they test his skin first or something slightly less harrowing?!

  8. Amy

    Oh wow. I have been lurking, and reading for a couple of months. Two weeks ago we went to the allergist with our 13 month old after she swelled up eating peanuts. She currently LOVES creamed spinach! I now own my very own set of epi pens! I feel like I am copying you! Good luck on the challenge test. I feel for you guys.. (my what a lot of exclamation points… I need coffee.) I love your site.

  9. The Other Dawn

    Best of luck with the test.

    My youngest had “sensitivities” to certain foods when she was a toddler. Not as bad as full-out allergies, but it still required a constant monitoring of everything she ate and reading every label.

    Here’s hoping Monkey has outgrown the allergy and you can have a Nutty Buddie frenzy!

  10. clickmom

    In our house 4 of the five of us have allergies, collctively I am on the look out for dairy, wheat, food dye, sorbitol, xanthum gum and more….I would to shop and not have to look at the labels, but I guess that will be another life since I am the one with the wheat intolerance.

    Good luck! I hope he outgrew the allergies.

  11. Leanne

    Good luck, little Nutty Buddy!
    They didn’t have epi-pens when I was a child, no, my poor mother got the thrill of watching me turn blue; and although I like green beans now and love pumpkin pie, I still cannot look at squash without gagging…

  12. Jen

    Best of luck to you both on the test! And if he passes I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t keep wearing his bracelet for fun. Or you could have it engraved with “no longer allergic to” above the peanuts part.

  13. chris

    Oh I hope he passes!

    From a grown up who has anaphylactic reaction to shellfish (and can’t even spell anaphylactic without cheating) and a stash of epi pens that may or may not work. My last reaction was from cross contamination at the chinese buffet restaurant… fun times.

  14. notdonnareed

    Good luck with the test! Allergies are such a mystery to me. Five years ago, my husband developed a semi-life-threatening allergy to dogs, just out of the blue, which really sucked, since we had to find a new home for our beautiful dog. I really hope Monkey has outgrown his; those epipens don’t sound like a lot of fun.

  15. susan

    Interesting because as I read the first paragraphs I thought about how my mom always told me how I was allegic to every new food and the doctor said, just keep feeding it to her, she’ll outgrow it. I don’t know if they considered the whole “I might die” part of the equation. It was after all in the dark ages of the 50s. :) Thank goodness I did outgrow the allergies though because I love Nutty Buddies.

  16. Julie Neaman

    My son is 3. We learned of his allergy to peanuts when he was 11 mos. He grabbed his sister’s pbj off the table and took a nibble. Anyway, his cap rast blood test inexplicably came back neg. this summer. So we did a spt test – also neg. Woo Hoo Never thought we’d be in this position. We went for the food challenge. Unfortunately, my son failed the food challenge. I hope Monkey fairs better. Sending prayers and good vibes your way. BTW, we are going to try again when we are staring down the barrel of kindergarten. Best of Luck!

  17. Colleen

    Wow, I don’t know if I would be brave enough to do the test! Good for you!!! I guess they don’t tell you the scary stuff that is sometimes involved in parenting!

  18. Randi

    That sounds like the test they do to see if you’re a “bleeder”…not quite a hemopheliac, but you bleed more then the normal population. They bring you into a room, cut you, and time how long it takes for the bleeding to stop.

    So much for the age of technology! Best of luck to Monkey, and I think you should get both kids “ID” bracelets if he’s not allergic anymore…one for him to replace the old one, and one for chickadee so she doesn’t get jealous!

  19. laura

    I’d like to make him a bracelet that says “Creamed spinach makes me SICK.” He could wear that forever, because there are some things you just don’t grow out of. Good luck, Monkey!

  20. Fraulein N

    I hope the food challenge goes well. I can understand Monkey not wanting to part with his bracelet, poor little guy.

  21. susan

    Hey! You could get him a new bracelet that says “Peanuts don’t make me sick.”

  22. Snow

    You do realize, of course, that he’s going to get to the Food Challenge and refuse to eat anything at all, right?

    I wonder if I could get B to eat something like spinach if I told him it was a Challenge. Hmmmmm…

  23. Amy

    Ah, food allergies. Both mine are allergic to dairy and one is also allergic to eggs. Fortunately they only get hives and digestive tract issues but still, reading labels is a pain in the ass! As is cooking without cheese! Or raising a toddler who can’t eat Kraft Macoron*i and Cheese.
    Doctors have been telling us–they
    ‘ll outgrow it for years, but so far, no dice. Sigh.

    Good luck with the test! Bring on the Nutter Butters!

  24. crystal

    my husband is allergic to pork, to the point where he can’t breathe and vomits, yet he still eats it and he’s the one who buys it. rarely, though, because i myself am not very pork happy. last night, we had pork. our son, who is almost two, has never had pork or been in contact with any pork-like substance. my husband and i looked at each other, asked each other if allergies are inherited, and then proceeded to administer small bites of pork to see our son’s reaction. luckily, he passed with flying colors. my husband, on the other hand, got sicker than a dog.

  25. ben

    Best of luck to Monkey!

    (was he up all night studying for his test? Heh)

    No food allergies here (in my immediate family), but we know folks with them. I hope you can soon complete “Iron Chef – Peanut Challenge” at home!

  26. Amy

    If he passes this, the first thing I’m going to do is send you a Kentucky Derby pie. Which is nothing but love in the form of chocolate and nuts. So I’d be keeping my fingers crossed if I were you!
    Go Monkey!

    p.s. I hate that I’m the 3rd Amy to comment. I need me an original nickname. Any suggetions? ;)

  27. vkj

    If Monkey doesn’t need his bracelet any more you could save it and hang it on the tree every Christmas.

  28. trusty getto


    Sounds like a “WHY DON’T YOU JUST SUE ME FOR MALPRACTICE” challenge!!

    And I just love that creamed spinach from Boston Market, if I may say so.

  29. Theresa

    Love them allergies – NOT! I have my fingers crossed for monkey. That is one tough allergy to live with.

  30. Carmen

    Best of luck to you. I’ve decided that I’m never food challenging my multiple anaphylactic reaction kid. No way, no how.

    I’ll keep all my bendy parts crossed for you both!

  31. carolyn

    That sounds scary, good luck!!

  32. Psycho Kitty

    As the mother of a No-Nut Girl, I must say–good luck, you!

  33. Mamacita

    Good luck with the peanut test; I’ll be thinkin’ about you both.

    Just think: Payday Bars!

  34. Zuska

    I’ve never heard of Nutty Buddies, but if Monkey passes his test with flying colors, I vow to go out and eat one in his honor!!! Heck, MegaBoy and I might even be willing to spring for a Batman watch to replace his treasured bracelet!!!

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