Follow Peanut Allergy Family as we take a journey of a college student traveling to Japan with a severe peanut allergy. Over the next year, I will be sharing with you our preparation for my daughter to travel to Japan with a college tour group. This is a large endeavor for any college student, but even more so for a student with a severe peanut allergy.
I have to admit I am both nervous and excited for my daughter. What obstacles will she encounter not only leading up to the trip, but also while on the trip? This is a wonderful opportunity for Nina, and I am hopeful we can navigate through all of this preparation so she can have an enjoyable and safe trip.
I recently read an article about a teenager who ate a pretzel snack mix and died from an anaphylactic reaction. His mother had read the allergy warnings (which only stated it may contain tree nuts). Thinking the food item was safe for her peanut allergic son, they both began eating the snack food. Minutes later, the teenage boy began having issues and turned to his mother and said that he thought it might have peanuts in it. His mother then read the entire label of ingredients and peanuts were listed, even though peanuts were not listed in the warnings.
This was a truly sad story and made me think about how diligent you always have to be when reading food labels. It is never enough to read the warnings. It is always worth the extra time to read the entire label.
Do you read the entire label or only the allergy warnings?
My daughter, Nina, and I are greatly disappointed with Krispy Kreme. We can no longer safely eat there with Nina's peanut allergy due to their product changes and the incorporation of products with tree nuts and in the near future the incorporation of products with peanuts.
We have enjoyed Krispy Kreme doughnuts for years. Nina and I had to drive over 80 miles to get to the closest store to us, but that did not stop us from going there several times a year. We always purchased them from school fundraisers as well. They were always worth it!
Even though Nina is 19, she is still saddened that she will not get to have Krispy Kreme doughnuts anymore. I wish food companies would become more allergen friendly than to change in the opposite direction. So many families are affected by food allergies, and it's so hard to have to take away a food that was once safe.
Where will we get our doughnuts now?
Nina's first year of college flew by! I can't believe she already had her last final of the year. Our experience with having a peanut allergy at college has been a positive one. She was able to eat on campus at their dining hall without any problems. Nina was able to view the menus ahead of time from their website and all allergens were clearly labeled for each item and selection at the dining hall.
Nina is attending a private college, so her classes are smaller in size. She had no problems at all with students eating any kind of peanut items around her. They were all very aware of her allergy and were careful around her.
I strongly believe that awareness is the key! I hope that more people with food allergies are able to have positive experiences while attending college.
My 19 year old daughter is flying for the first time today. She has a severe peanut allergy and carries epipens with her. I'm very excited for my daughter as she is traveling with her college group, but it is also very scary to me. Not being able to be there to help her is hard, but I know she is traveling with an excellent group of people. We notified the airline of her allergy and that she carries epipens. We also labeled her epipens with her prescription as was the requirement. My daughter, Nina, will notify the flight attendants of her allergy as well. Now I wait to hear that all went well. I wait anxiously to find out she was able to board the plane and arrived at their destination safely. In about a week, we will repeat the process. Her return flight has a layover, though. Which means two flights, and two times to wait to hear that all went well. It's hard to have a child with a severe allergy. It is equally as hard to have them become an adult and then not be able to always be there with them to protect them.
Update: The return flights home were a success! Other than an hour delay, both flights home were problem free. My daughter was able to pre-board with a friend and wipe down seats. No peanuts were served on any of her flights.
Check your EpiPens and make sure they have not been recalled. The article below provides a listing of those EpiPens that are affected by the recall.
I have looked into component testing several times throughout my daughter’s journey with a peanut allergy. I've read about there being some kids misdiagnosed with a peanut allergy when they actually have a birch tree allergy. This made me interested in having my daughter receive component testing due to her many outside allergies including a birch tree allergy. Nina, now 19, is the one who will have to make the decision on whether or not she would like to have component testing done.
Why haven’t I already had this done for her prior to her turning 18? The first reason is because it is still fairly new to the United States and I wanted to wait and see what results people were receiving. The second reason is because quite honestly I am nervous to see what the results are and if we can trust them.
From what I have researched, over 13 allergenic components have been identified in peanuts: http://www.questdiagnostics.com/testcenter/testguide.action?dc=TS_Peanut_Component_Panel
I found this information in a more easily read format regarding component testing: http://www.allassoc.com/a-new-test-for-patients-with-peanut-allergy/
Basically, if your test reveals a high total peanut level and most of it is component #2, then you are more likely to have a serious peanut allergy. If you have a high level, but it is mostly component #8, then there is a lower chance of a serious allergy if there is an allergy at all. So it comes down to component #8 resembling birch tree pollen, to which my daughter is allergic to. This is why I have considered component testing for her.
Nina has carried her epipens with her for years and yet has never had to use them, not even once. She had two minor reactions when she was young to tasting a tiny amount of peanut butter, but they were not anaphylactic. Her nose became stuffy and she became tired from it. Which I guess could be a cross reaction. She has vomited from ingesting foods we thought might have been processed in the same facility as peanuts, but then again that could have been coincidental. She was able to eat plain M & M’s without problems as a small child, but she stopped eating them after having her first blood test (after the reactions to peanut butter) showed she was in the high range for a peanut allergy. She was an 11kU/l which is in the high range.
Several years later, Nina had allergy testing using the skin prick test. This was after many double sinus infections. We found out she has many outdoor allergies and animal allergies. She once again scored high for a peanut allergy. 4+
I do worry that we will find out that she’s actually allergic to birch trees and not to peanuts and all these years of avoidance and strictly reading food labels, etc., has been unnecessary. Nina feels differently and believes that she would not have been able to eat peanuts anyway due to her cross reacting with them if indeed she only has a birch tree allergy. On the other hand, we could find out for sure that she does indeed have a severe peanut allergy as we have always believed.
When I first found out Nina had a peanut allergy, it was years ago before most companies put allergy warnings on their food labels. Reading each individual ingredient was cumbersome but absolutely necessary. The companies didn’t specify as to whether or not items were manufactured in the same facility or even worse on the same equipment. Within a few years, though, we started noticing more warnings on food items.
It’s very scary to have a small child and have to read labels so intently. Even as Nina got older, it didn’t get any easier. There was always the worry of what if this item gets recalled and really does have traces of peanuts in it.
I’ve emailed so many food companies and restaurants throughout the years asking about the ingredients they use, and whether or not they use peanut oil at all. Sometimes places or products are safe to eat and then they change something and are no longer safe. There is never any kind of notice with it. You have to read the labels every single time and check the menus / ingredients for every meal you eat at a restaurant whether it be fast food or fine dining.
It can become overwhelming at first, but it becomes routine as the years go by. It feels almost normal and seems odd to you if someone asks you why you are reading every label. It’s hard for others to understand what has now become a normal obsession that is necessary for the survival of your child.
I am very glad that there are warnings on food labels now and that the warnings are being placed in visible areas. Restaurant websites have also become a valuable asset in the struggle to find a safe place to eat.
Nina brought her lunch to school with her everyday since peanut butter and jelly was sometimes served in the cafeteria. She would purchase a milk in the earlier years, but as she moved to the next building, the milk was located inside of the kitchen where peanut butter maybe. We felt it no longer to be safe for her to grab a milk that might have been touched by someone who touched a peanut butter sandwich.
They designated a peanut free table for Nina, but she ended up always eating alone. It was very difficult for her. We came up with a plan to have her sit where she felt safe (instead of a peanut free table by herself). She would look at what everyone was eating and if no one had peanut items on their tray or in their lunch she would sit at that table. We also either put paper towels or large napkins in her lunch box so that Nina could place them on the table to sit her lunch box on. She would then eat the items out of her lunch box without placing them on the table. This worked out well for her through the rest of her schooling.
The peanut free table is a fabulous idea and was great of our school to do for Nina, but when there is only one child with a peanut allergy, it makes it hard for them to find others who will sit with them at lunch. Students would worry that they would get in trouble for sitting there with her.
Now that Nina is in college, she is able to eat in the cafeteria at her university. They are very aware of food allergies and post allergen warnings as needed. I don’t believe she has found any items with peanuts in it (aside from prepackaged candy in vending machines) in the
My daughter originally did not have a 504 plan for her peanut allergy when she began school. She carried an epipen with her (in her waist pack) and the school required her to have and carry doctor’s orders with her at all times. Eventually, it became apparent that we would need a 504 plan for her. It was needed to prevent peanut items from being consumed in the classroom, on the bus she was riding, or at her cafeteria table. Even though Nina brought her lunch everyday, it was hard for her to find a place to sitduring lunch that someone was not eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or something else with peanuts in it.
Riding the bus was another unsafe place for Nina due to students eating candy with peanuts in it. The 504 plan covered these types of situations and people were now accountable for making sure the area was safe where Nina was.
Halloween parties at school were a difficult time for Nina, but after the 504 plan was instated for her, things changed. Peanuts/peanut items were not allowed. Notes were sent home stating there was a student with a peanut allergy in class and that those items would not be able to be brought in. This made life much easier for Nina and school became more enjoyable.
We still had issues throughout the years, but they were fewer and we had a legal document to fall back on and a 504 Coordinator we could contact about issues. I was very lucky that my daughter was so diligent from a very young age about avoiding peanuts and not eating food from others. She was also very diligent with washing her hands. You never know what you might have touched that could have peanut residue on it.
An informational article regarding 504 plans can be found on the FARE (Food Allergy Research & Educations) website:
This was our family's experience with having a 504 Plan for Nina's allergy. I know opinions differ on the subject. In the end, it was the right decision for us.