As you may or may not know our daughter Violet has been diagnosed with a severe anaphylactic allergy to peanuts and all tree nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, butter nuts, pistachio nuts, shea nuts, etc.) and our family is no longer eating peanuts/tree nuts at all. We wish that things about these allergies were simple and straight forward but unfortunately they are not and this is due to a variety of reasons. We are going through a process of learning about living with these allergies so that we can help teach and educate Violet as she grows older and is able to take more independent action towards her allergies. We have decided to share some of what we have learned through Violets paediatric allergist and through the Allergic Living and Anaphylaxis Canada communities. We hope that by sharing our new rules on what our family eats and why we are taking these precautions, we can avoid any confusion or hurt feelings when we stand our ground on what we feel is important in taking care of Violet.
Staying away from nuts is sometimes difficult, but not impossible….It is simply a matter of teaching ourselves the art of reading labels. It is necessary to read all labels looking for nuts or peanuts in the list of ingredients and to check to see if the label indicates that there may be traces of peanuts or nuts in the product, or that it was processed in a facility with nuts or peanuts. If there are nuts, peanuts or traces of nuts or peanuts in the product or if it was processed in a facility with nuts or peanuts we do not purchase the product or serve such products to Violet. If an item does not have a list of ingredients (such as items purchased in a bakery) we don’t buy it or serve it to Violet, even if the vendor says that the item does not have nuts in it (there is always a chance that the product contains peanut oil or may have been cross contaminated with tongs, knives, bulk food scoops, etc.) We have to be very careful because tiny amounts of peanuts/tree nuts (some literature suggest up to 1/1000th of a peanut) can cause a reaction in a peanut/tree nut allergic person and as little as 1/10th of a peanut/tree nut could cause a fatal allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). For now we are very rarely having Violet eat restaurant food, we know that we will have to figure out how to do manage restaurants eventually but for now it is just easier to bring our own food for her or to eat at home.
Although both of us do not have allergies to nuts or peanuts we have decided to make our house a nut-free environment and there are a few reasons for these changes. Obviously Violet’s safety is our top priority and we are more than happy to make a few changes for her. It has been suggested that we are being overly cautious and that we could eat products with nuts or traces of nuts in the house after she goes to bed or when she is not around. We choose not to do this because we feel that having foods in the house that Violet cannot eat poses too much of a risk to her. If the wrong foods fall into those grabby little hands (it’s only a matter of time until she can open the fridge and disarm the child-safety locks), or if a sitter or family member assumes that all of the foods in our house are safe for her while in reality some are not there could be harmful life threatening consequences. We have asked the allergist about this issue and her answer to us was that the risks are too great and that Violet’s health is far more important than us eating treats or Jacob eating a peanut butter sandwich and that we should eliminate ALL foods containing nuts/peanuts or traces of nuts/peanuts from our home….we feel she is absolutely right. We ask that you please do not bring food with peanuts/tree nuts, traces of peanuts/nuts, or food without ingredient labels into our home so that we can keep our house as nut free and safe for Violet as possible.
Because we come to visit at some of your homes we are asking if you will please take some minor precautions on your end as well. We understand that you do not live in nut-free homes and we don’t expect you to get rid of all of your nut products because of us, but we hope that you can please respect our wishes and follow some simple guidelines that will help us keep Violet out of danger. Before we arrive it would be nice if nuts and nut products (nut butters, etc), could be stored out of Violet’s reach and not used while we are visiting. If there is an area where you sit and eat nut products or prepare foods with nut products in them often it would be helpful if that area was cleaned (surfaces wiped down with cleaner, place mats washed or removed, etc.) During the visit we would greatly appreciate it if no nuts or peanuts are served and if items that have traces of peanuts/nuts or items that have been processed in a facility with nuts and peanuts are not served (or we are at least warned about them so that we will not serve them to Violet). Also, products that may have been cross contaminated in your home (jam that has had a peanut butter knife dipped into it for example) should be off limits. If you have eaten a product that contains peanuts/nuts or traces of peanuts/nuts it would be helpful if you washed your hands and mouth before touching or kissing Violet to avoid skin irritation or accidental ingestion.
There are some foods that typically contain nuts, peanuts, or traces of nuts or peanuts such as chocolates, baked goods, ice cream, granola bars, cereals, pesto, Asian foods, cake mixes, carrot cake, fruit cake, etc. Nuts can also be found in strange places such as chilli, salad dressings, barbecue sauces and other condiments, gravy thickeners, etc. The presence is much more widespread than one would think due to the use of peanut oil in foods from deep fried foods to ice cream. It is because of this that it is important to read all labels and not take unnecessary risks. We ask that if we are coming to your house for a celebration or birthday party that you do not take offense if we bring our own food/cake for Violet – it is not that we feel you are a bad cook but just that it calms our anxiety to be 100% certain of what Violet is eating.
Over the next little while we will spend some time with the people we are likely to visit and teach you all the proper use for Violet’s epi-pen (epinephrine auto injector) so that should an emergency occur when we are not present you all will have the knowledge and skills necessary to help save little Violet’s life from this frightening allergy. We will also spend some time educating you on the signs you might see if Violet begins having a reaction to peanuts/tree nuts due to accidental ingestion.
We understand that these guidelines may seem extreme and hard to follow but we hope that you will understand that Violet’s safety is very important to us and that we have to put her wellbeing first. As the years go on things will get easier but at this stage of life where Violet grabs at things indiscriminately, puts hear hands in her mouth, eats things that she finds on the floor, and cannot tell us if she feels like she may be having a reaction we think that it is best to be extra careful. Hopefully we can work together to keep our little one safe and healthy. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask us.
Michael & Melissa