Nut Allergy

See Also: More Advice about Food Allergies (nut allergy at preschool/school)

Parent Q&A

  • College and Nut Allergies

    (2 replies)

    How are kids with food allergies managing at college?

    At the risk of sounding like a nervous mother, I'm reaching out to see how kids with nut allergies dealt with being in college and eating dorm food and the like. As my daughter approaches the time to start applying for colleges and I start thinking about what all to consider, I wondered if parents of kids with allergies could enlighten me about if there was anything to consider with college choices. My daughter has a tree nut allergy that used to be mild, but has gotten more severe when she reached high school (our allergist told us that that can happen in the teen years). She obviously carries an Epi-Pen and knows to go to the hospital if she has a reaction. We're all clear on that kind of thing. But I wonder how careful the dormitories are with alerting students about ingredients contained in the cafeteria food. 

    Has anyone had experience dealing with this with their child? Any advice is appreciated.

    RE: College and Nut Allergies ()

    For whatever university you select, I highly recommend that she complete the required paperwork to inform the Disabilities department of her allergies, so she can get housing, dining and academic accommodations as needed. Our youngest daughter did so only after struggling for a year to manage her escalating food allergies. By way of context, she was born allergic to dairy, eggs and nuts. At age 5 she “outgrew them,” but continued to be a “picky” eater. She carried epi pens but never needed to use them. In high school she suffered a concussion and had many, severe headaches for months. In retrospect we think they were due to both the fall and her escalating allergies. She (and we) thought she could manage a shared double room and eating in the dining hall (both required for freshmen), but that was not to be the case. Currently she has many life-threatening food allergies as well as oral allergy syndrome. She has had many adverse reactions (for which Benadryl helped but caused her to have to sleep for long periods) and had to go to the ER twice in the last year. She now has a university private room in a two-bedroom apartment with kitchen (at the same rate as her shared double room in one of the dorms). Feel free to contact me through the moderator if you want to talk further about any of this. 

    RE: College and Nut Allergies ()

    Lots of information here:

    Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Convenient Snacks Safe for Tree Nut Allergy

Aug 2013

Our son was just diagnosed with a cashew allergy and we've been advised to avoid all tree nuts and peanuts (even shared equipment). We really miss being able to give him granola bars since they travel so well. Are there ready-made options as convenient as granola bars which are also safe for kids with nut allergies (bonus points for low added-sugar)? I know I can bake some options, but I don't have the time/energy to bake snacks right now... anon

First I want to say, I'm sorry -- it's kind of a drag and nuts are such a great, easy, healthy snack. Plus they touch so many things when it comes to shopping for stuff. Secondly, check with your school policy about keeping Benadryl with them or even with your child if they're old enough and it's okay. Third, you will need to keep Epipens at school and at home. Our allergist was even willing to sign paperwork for our child to keep it with her along with Benadryl.

Our 10 year old has a tree nut allergy, although we have been fortunate enough to still give her foods with peanuts. A couple of thoughts...check and see if you can give sunflower seeds and sunflower butter (as opposed to peanut butter) and soynut butter (although my daughter didn't really care for the taste of this, but I believe other families have used it).

Other than that, we have had to go the dairy & meats route for snacks -- more than I'd like, but we do lots of cheeses or cheese sticks and jerkies (Trader Joe's sells a turkey jerky that both my tree nut allergic kid and other kid like).

Then of course the usual snacks (after checking the labels of course) such as Trader Joe's dried seaweed (although it doesn't exactly fill you up), fruits / veggies (with a Ranch dip is kind of fun and fills a bit more), yogurts, crackers (we try to avoid the really salty or partially hydrogenated oils stuff) / cookies (we try to avoid the real sugary / partially hydrogenated oils / preservative laden stuff).

One last thought. Get your child to start checking labels and foods themselves too. Potlucks and parties often got us because we'd always forget to check. My daughter is pretty good about checking, but little things will happen like my son eating cashews and then drinking out of her water bottle -- no one thought anything of it and then she took a drink and got the reaction : (. Good luck. Allergies make me nuts too ------------------------------------------- The brand Enjoy Life is probably the most common brand you will find that is safe for those with nut allergies. You can find them on Amazon. They are free of the top 8 allergens. They have granola bars. Another safe go-to snack we use is jerky. Salmon, beef, turkey, whatever you like. After dealing with my kids' multiple food allergies for a few years, I have found that making a huge batch of their current favorite snack, such as muffins, and then freezing them is the way to go. Buying specialized convenient food gets pricey real quick. I love you Enjoy Life, but you hurt my wallet. Good luck! SCB

Taking niece with nut allergy out to eat

May 2008

Hi, I'm looking for restaurants in San Francisco able to accommodate a toddler with a serious peanut allergy. My two-and-a-half year-old niece will be visiting this summer with her family, and her well-being is a primary concern. Your recommendations are greatly appreciated! Auntie Elle

First of all, you are an exceptional aunt! My son is also seriously allergic to peanut and he also has aunts and uncles who look out for him all the time. I get tearful every time I think about all of the things my friends and family did to accomodate his condition. Do you know if your niece is also allergic to tree nuts, soy and beans? Peanut is part of the beans family and there is also a good chance your niece may be allergic to those items as well. Here are my general rules:

1. NO vegetarian restaurant as most of them load the dishes with nuts, beans and or peanuts as a substitue for high quality protein.

2. No South East Asian restaurants, especially Thai and Cambodian. Vietnamese dishes use peanut as garnish very often.

3. Always tell the waiter your niece is severly allergic to peanut. Make sure he writes in down on the order - NO PEANUT. Most restaurants are very familiar with the allergy. This is also important training for your niece. You are showing her how to ask these questions and that it is important to ask. Our allergist told us the most difficult time for kids with food allergy is when they enter the teenage years. When peer pressures kicks in, a lot of good judgements go away.

4. Stay away from the thick sauces and gravies. They may have peanut butter in it as their ''secret'' ingredient.

5. In general, we find ordering from the grill at Japanese restaurants the safest. A side order of grilled salmon or chicken and a bowl of plain rice usually keep our son very happy.

6. ALWAYS bring the Epipen when going out with your niece.

Enjoy your time with your niece. She is lucky to have a caring aunt. annon

Just found out 2-year-old has nut allergies

March 2008

We just found out last week that our 2-year-old son has peanut and tree-nut allergies (particularly cashew and almond). This was based on skin testing, and the biggest reaction was to cashew. He is also allergic to fish and egg, which we had observed already. So far all of his reactions have been hives immediately after eating (sometimes while eating), but we've never knowingly given him nuts so we don't know what his reaction would be. We were prescribed 6 epi-pens and told to avoid all nuts, and read labels for shared equipment with peanuts and tree nuts.

How can we know whether he just has skin reactions or whether he will some day go into anaphylactic shock from sitting next to a kid with a PBJ sandwich? As much as I hate to become neurotic about this, I do need to protect him, but it feels like going overboard to ask his future preschool to go nut-free when we don't know how severe his allergy is (and most allergies are not life threatening). The allergist took it very seriously with all the epi-pens, but also said there was no way to know about severity of his reaction. He said nut-free policies don't really work and we need to focus on making sure he doesn't come into contact with other kids' food, and that children learn this pretty quickly. I have purged nuts from our house and am reading every label on everything I buy, and wondering how my some-day teenage son will carry his epi-pen around without a purse... Any advice from other families with nut-allergic kids? How do you know how severely allergic your child is if they've never eaten nuts? Going nuts

It is not unreasonable to have a pre-school go nut free. Dairy is what will send our child to the hospital. There is a list of other food items that will cause varying allergic reactions. We have provided the staff at our pre-school with Epi pens and instruction of how they are used. We have been educating our child about allergies and what they need to avoid and what a reaction feels like and how to let an adult know that they may be having a reaction. Our child is three. I know how scared you must feel but our babes are really amazing. Teach your son and he will show you that everything is going to be just fine.

It's all very overwhelming but we live in a good place as far as allergy knowledge and tolerance. emge

You are really lucky you found out without your child having anaphylaxsis. Cashew allergies tend to be more severe than peanut allergies and can be particularly life threatening. You should absolutely follow your allergist's advice - to the letter.

You may not know how bad your child's reaction is going to be, but you don't really ever want to find out. You need to tell the preschool, anyone who cares for your child, anyone who prepares food for your child (friends, relatives, restaurants - everyone). Even if you've told them before, remind them. If you leave your child with someone explain the syptoms of a reaction and tell them how to use the Epipen. Never hesitate to use the Epipen. It is important to catch the reaction before it cascades and your child is in real trouble. After giving the Epipen, take them to the ER right away. They might look OK, but they still need additional care. The Epipen buys you time to get them to the doctor. Children's Hospital has a great handout on food allergies. You might consider getting a copy and giving it to the school and anyone who cares for your child.

The precautions are a total pain, and you can feel like a pest when you ask about nuts at restaurants, bakeries, friends, everywhere, but you really have to do it. And, you have to ask every time and read the labels everytime. Menus and recipes change, friends forget.

My daughter also has a cashew allergy. I found out when she was two, ate a piece of nut the size of a pinenut, and almost died - 911, paramedics, ambulance, Children's Hospital. She had never had any sign of being allergic before. At four, she had a second anaphylactic reaction (less severe) after eating at a friend's house. I wasn't sure if she was really having a reaction and took her to the ER. The doctor looked at me like I was an idiot for not giving her the Epipen. I felt like an idiot then, but at the time I took her in, I thought it would be overreacting. They really pounded it home - you need to react quickly and agressively to stop the reaction early.

The Anaphylaxis Network has some kids' books and tapes about food allergies. My daughter likes the ''Alexander the Elephant'' ones. Also, they have Epipen cases and carriers that don't look like purses! Dealing with Same Thing- Unfortunately

I understand what you are going through w/a food allergy diagnosis. My son is anaphylactic to tree-nuts & gets hives or wheezing & severe coughing from foods made on the same equipment (it's NOT a law to include shared equipment info on labels, so not every company does it).

The reason we know my son is anaphylactic is he had one bite of cashew butter when he was 13 mos old & nearly died. You can't be certain whether your child would experience anaphylaxis unless he has an episode, however, judging from your child's reaction to trace amounts, test results, & your doctor's advice, I would consider it a strong possibility.

Never be w/out a set of epi-pens! You are NOT being neurotic! Even hives can kill & nuts are like a lethal poison to your son & the epi-pen is the only chance you have of reversing a reaction in case of accidental ingestion. Also, while most food allergies may not be life-threatening, nut allergies are the most often fatal. On a positive note, current research may lead to a treatment for our kids in the next 5-10 yrs.

Re: preschool, whether your child needs a nut-free one depends 1) on your child (will he eat ONLY his own food?) & 2) on the school's ability to keep trace amounts of nut butters & foods off the surfaces & toys, since it's possible he would react to contact w/these trace amounts. My son (now almost 5) can not be entirely trusted around food that is not safe/potentially not safe for him--he is very smart & cerebral, but can be impulsive at times & has picked up food off the floor at friends' homes & popped it in his mouth before I could react. He once dove for crushed peanuts & candy in a parking lot, & recently he trustingly accepted unsafe food from a teacher (who forgot about his food allergy), even after being reminded just before to only accept food from Mommy or Daddy.

All that said, it is possible to keep your child safe w/ constant vigilance, lots of planning, educating anyone who cares for your child about his condition & how & when to use an epi-pen. It is also not too early to begin teaching your son how to keep himself safe.

A great support organization is the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) FAAN will have a fundraising walk in SF in September & it would be a great place for you to learn more.

Feel free to contact me if you wish. I wish you the best in keeping your child safe! hring

Our 36 month old has peanut allergy too, as well as a handful of other allergies to random foods. Our son's reactions have always been that he will get a handful of hives around his mouth after eating the offending food. But that's it so far.

From what I understand, the latest research and thinking on food allergies in kids is that almost all grow out of them, and that contrary to earlier thinking, avoiding those foods does NOT increase the chances that it will get worse. In fact, avoiding may contribute to NOT growing out of it so easily. Already our son has grown out of several. You should only avoid them when you need to avoid the reaction it causes--like if it causes eczema (because that is ongoing and can be painful) and if it's potentially serious, like with peanut allergy. If the reaction is something that comes and goes without really bothering the child, don't worry about it.

The problem with peanut allergy (and a few other potentially serious ones) is that it is one of the foods that can have a potentially serious reaction. So because of that, you avoid it like crazy and carry the epipen. That said, research now shows that most kids do outgrow peanut allergies, and that most who are allergic would likely have only mild reactions anyway. But you do never know. AND, esp w/ peanut, you never can know if it is truly mild or not. One time he may have a mild reaction to peanut, but then the next time he might have an anaphylactic reaction. You can't really know.

All that said, I think you just do the best you can--carry the epipen, give one to the preschool and teach them how to use it, and most of all, teach your son he can't have nuts, can't eat other kids food, and needs to always ask grown ups if there's nuts in stuff & tell them he is allergic. Our son seems to get this already. He had lunch at a friend's the other day, and he asked the mom. We are serious about it, but without trying to scare him. And, we always take whatever opportunities we can to tell him what other people are allergic to, too. We are comforted by the knowledge that he will probably outgrow it, and that if he does accidentally eat a peanut, it will probably not be a big deal, anyway. Finding that balance--between caution and comfort--is key, in my opinion.

I feel compelled to say, I am in no way a medical professional and everything I said is just my own opinion, based on my experiences... Good luck! another nutty mama

My son, who is now 2, has been diagnosed with peanuts and nuts and also egg allergies. He had a pretty strong reaction one day when he was one, with a peanut butter cookie, and that's why he was tested for allergies. We found out that he was potentially developing an allergy to eggs also, although he never showed a reaction when eating eggs.

If your son has shown an allergy to some food already with a visible reaction, chances are that he will react very strongly to ingesting nuts or peanuts. Nuts and peanuts are strong allergens. I too thought it was a bit much to demand that my daycare goes totally nuts and peanuts free, but contrarily to your belief, food allergies are often life-threatening. It is your son's life, and you want to protect him from such an event.

The other reason to be strict with his diet right now is that he may grow out of his allergies. Just this reason should be a great motivation for you to really avoid any food he might be allergic to for a couple of years, or until his skin test show better results.

I would recommend subscribing to the FAAN network,, it is a great resource to learn about allergies. They also have many educational tapes or DVDs that you can use to educate yourself or the daycare providers.

If I were you, I would follow the allergist recommendation and be patient. Another mom

I'm sorry to hear about your son's nut allergy diagnosis. We found our son is allergic to peanuts 3 years ago, although it was the hard way -- he ended up having an anaphylactic reaction and we had to rush him to ER. As dramatic as that sounds, we have only had one incident since then and it was resolved without having had to use the Epi-pen. A couple bits of advice:

- Your son is still too young for you to know how severe his nut allergy is, especially if he has never eaten it. My son didn't eat a peanut between age 1 and 4, and when he had that one fateful bite, he had a full-blown anaphylactic reaction. So you should assume that your son's reaction is severe if ingested, but probably okay if he has been around peanuts without having a reaction.

- I agree with your allergist that nut-free policies are very hard to enforce -- a classmate's babysitter or grandparent might make a PBJ sandwich by mistake, etc. My son's second reaction stemmed from eating a candy bar that he had found, so it had nothing to do with what other kids packed in their lunches. I believe that educating your child and being very vocal in asking the teachers and parents to create a community of support is more effective. If all of the kids in his class learn that they cannot share their lunches, he is more protected than going with the assumption that all of the food in the classroom is ''safe.'' Your son must also learn to ask about ingredients -- of course, you will need to remind him constantly and be extra vigilant at Halloween.

- Buy yourself some OTC Primatene mist inhalers. They are about $18 a pop (a few $ less for Walgreen's generic brand) -- it contains the same drug, epinephrine, as the Epi-pen but is an inhalant and is thus less invasive to use. We used it to treat my son's second reaction and it was very effective -- it prevented a trip to the ER.

- We have four complete ''allergy kits'' that include one Epi-pen, Primatene Mist and meltable Benedryl, which should be your first line of defense, phone numbers and instructions. We keep one with my son's teacher in the classroom, one with the school office, one reserved for playdates and one for home.

So, welcome to your new reality. You will learn quickly how to live with your son's allergy and you *will* get used to it. Oddly, I think my son (who is now 7) enjoys the attention he gets from announcing his peanut allergy -- I think it makes him feel somehow special. Go figure. Good luck!

I'm an adult with life threatening allergies to all tree nuts and peanuts. I've had these allergies for ~40 years. When I was a small child, I would wheeze and throw up. When I became older, the allergy got worst. Unfortunately, I was never informed by doctors to take Benadryl or carry an Epipen until I was 22. As a teenager, I almost died 4-5 times from this allergy; but I did not have Benadryl or Epipen on hand at these times. I did realize I was sick enough to go to the ER which saved my life. As an adult, I've been to the ER 3 times in the last 15 years. My worst reactions occurred when I didn\x92t take Benadryl immediately. Benadryl significantly reduces the severity of the allergy for me. From the research I've done, ~9% of children outgrow tree nut allergies. Even as an adult, if I accidentally eat something with nuts, I don\x92t know how bad the reaction will be. I have to wait an hour to find out. My worst reactions came from eating foods where nuts were well hidden in the ingredients and very hard to detect when I first put the food in my mouth; foods with ground up nuts in breads, donuts, or sauces, especially sauces used in Indian food.

So, here is my advice based on years of experience. If you go out to eat, tell the waitress/waiter that your child is deathly allergic to all nuts and to please ask the chef if there are any nuts in the food. If you don't use the word ''deathly'' some wait-staff don't pay attention.

If your child is having any type of reaction, give them chewable Benadryl tablets and watch them carefully. If they are wheezing and developing hives, or have any swelling anywhere on their body, or if they begin to throw up, or become light-headed or faint, use the Epipen. Only use one Epipen and bring them to the ER. Make sure you tell the ER that you have used an Epipen. One really good doctor I have, recently told me that if I\x92m having mild reaction but if the Benadryl isn\x92t doing the trick, that I should take Zantac. He reports that the Zantac gives you a better bang for your buck and it\x92s a good second line of defense after the Benadryl. But, this is only useful for an older child or adult who is familiar with a severe allergy. If the Benadryl doesn\x92t quickly alleviate the allergy, move to the Epipen. Email me if you have any questions. danisue

Should mom avoid peanuts while breastfeeding?

June 2007

Hi -- my wife and I are trying to decide how militant to be about eating peanuts while breastfeeding. I lean towards ''skip it -- not worth the risk,'' while she leans towards, ''you're so overprotective!'' We have NO family history of peanut or nut allergies, although there is a family history of hay fever, seasonal allergies, asthma, and allergies to penicillin, sulfa drugs, and cephilasporins... I've got all those things mentioned, except asthma... by brother has it. Anyone have any thoughts on this one? Thanks! kevin

I wouldn't risk it. I avoided peanuts w/my first pregnancy, and my now 4 year old son has no known allergies. I was more casual w/my second, and my now almost 2 year old son has a variety of allergies, including dairy. We haven't even had him tested for peanuts. From the day he was born he was reacting to what I ate (horrible, bloody diarrhea and eczema). Like you we have no family history of any allergies. I wish I had been more careful! c

well you're cautious, and maybe that's a good thing. I breastfed four, ate peanuts and nary a one has an allergy to peanuts. It's odd that growing up I didn't know a single kid with this allergy and now it's seems like there are a couple in every class. Would make an interesting research project. mother of 4

I, like you, was very concerned about allergens while I was breastfeeding my two sons, who are now 6 and 3. I did have food allergies as a child and was vigilent about nuts and shellfish during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Neither of my boys has had any issues with either now, or any other allergies. My two sisters-in-law both ate nuts and shellfish and the three kids they have between them have allergies to common allergens, including nuts, and severe and painful excema as a result. I don't know whether it's related, but one of them did tell me that she wishes she'd been more vigilent like I was. In my younger son's preschool class, there is a severe nut allergy (the boy has to have an epipen on site), and it's kind of scary. I figured, why risk it, when it's not that long of a deprivation and it can potentially help you avoid a lifelong problem for your child. Good luck. Kristin

My husband has athsma; I was diagnosed as a child with penicillin allergy (may or may not be accurate). I didn't know about the breastfeeding/peanuts thing, and so ate quite a bit of peanut butter while breastfeeding. My child (now 6) has no food allergies, indeed, is allergic to nothing that we've ever noticed. And he eats everything -- nuts, shellfish, soybeans -- you name the potential allergen, he's eaten it with no ill effects. Just one data point

I ate peanut butter throughout breastfeeding with all three of my kids, and none of them has peanut allergy. With my middle child, I took my midwife's advice and avoided dairy products while nursing (because my family has a history of multiple allergies and asthma). He is my only child that doesn't have allergies or asthma. Coincidence? Who knows. stilll eating pb

My husband and I have no peanut or nut allergies in our families either, but our son is severely allergic to nuts. I have no idea why he is the only one - our first child also has no food allergies. Our doctors have told us that although allergies are inherited from one or more of the parents, they tend to manifest in different ways. So my allergy to pollen makes it more likely that my kids will also have allergies, but their allergies are likely to be to different things. I ate nuts when I was pregnant and breastfeeding, but none of the doctors can say for sure whether that is related to my son's allergies. With that being said, in hindsight, I would have been happy to avoid nuts if there was a chance that would have helped. But Asian countries eat way more peanuts than we do, and they have a much lower occurence of peanut allergies. Not sure how helpful this is, but just wanted to share my thoughts... Mom with no Nut Allergies Either

I have found several articles that indicate a lean towards skipping the peanuts- an incresed risk of allergy for kids under age 3 due to exposure. a mom

I'm so glad you asked. I would recommend against eating peanuts abd all tree nuts while breastfeeding. My family, like yours, has no history of food allergies, but many of us suffer from seasonal allergies, hay feaver and asthma. I now can make a connection between coming from an allergic family and eating peanuts and tree nuts while being pregnant and breastfeeding. The results- my child is severely allergic to it. Doctors may not see a direct link between the two, but believe me, it is worth it. Those allergies are severe and life-long. I hope this helps. A mom

I have had a pretty severe peanut allergy since I was a child--the only one out of six siblings to have it. Now I have two children of my own. I never, ever ate peanut products while pregnant or nursing, and neither one of my children has ever ingested peanuts. I had them tested for the peanut allergy just as a precaution, and lo and behold, one is allergic to peanuts and one isn't. So I think it just goes to show that the causes of food allegies are probably far more complicated than just what a mother eats while breastfeeding her child, or even what a child eats when they are young. I think genetics plays a huge role, and there are no guarantees that anything you do or don't do can change that. anon

10-month-old just diagnosed with peanut allergy

August 2005

We just found out that our 10-month old son has a peanut allergy. I inadvertently gave him a few pieces of my daughter's cereal, which contained peanut butter. We took him straight to the emergency room, after he broke out in hives and vomited. We felt very fortunate that it wasn't worse, but are frightened and distraught over the prospect of another accident peanut ingestion. I'm curious how other parents deal with their children's peanut allergy. While we're aware that about 20% of children outgrow their peanut allergy, we feel like our son has been given a life sentence. Are there any helpful resources on dealing with this? How do other parents ensure that other people don't give your child food that may contain peanuts? Are there any pediatric allergists that you recommend? Any tips on dealing with this would be greatly appreciated. Janice

My child also has a peanut allergy. You have to become a peanut-free home. You will also have to treat your older child like she has a peanut allergy to avoid exposing your son inadvertently. (I say this because I mix my kids up all the time - sticking a pacifier into my preschooler's mouth, etc.) You will have to read labels and approve everything anyone else gives your child. You will have an epipen and will have to teach other caregivers to use it just in case. Benadryl makes chewable tablets and I recommend getting those to carry with you whereever you go. James Nickelsen is a wonderful doctor(allergist), you should definitely try to see him. I know it's hard, but you will get used to it and hopefully your son will outgrow the allergy. BTW, sunflower butter is a very tasty substitute for peanut butter. Erin Moore

Our daughter does not have the allergy, but she has been at school since kindergarten (she'll be a freshman in high school this year) with a boy who has a VERY serious case of it -- and I want to assure that all parents will take your son's condition seriously. You need to be up front about it. You need to be very clear about it. As long as it lasts, you need to tell teachers, playdate parents, etc., exactly how dangerous it can be and how they need to be careful giving him anything to eat. I think the basic rule is -- if in doubt, don't! If it doesn't have a list of ingredients to make sure there are no peanut byproducts, don't! I am sure you will get other useful rules from parents with children who share the allergy. Good luck.

My 3.5 year old son has a ton of allergies, the most severe being peanuts and dairy. He was diagnosed when he was 1, and we had to be very diligent initially about controlling his environment. We didn't keep any food in the house with peanuts in it and make sure that his older sister knew that she should never give him any food without checking with us first. Same with any visitors that came to our house, or any houses we visited. If there were any foods he was allergic to sitting on a low table he could reach at friends' houses, we would ask to move it to a higher table or just keep a really close eye on him. It got much easier when he turned 2, because he knew not to eat anything he wasn't familiar with without asking us first. Eating out at restaurants is more challenging - Asian restaurants often use peanuts or peanut oil in their dishes. We usually bring food for him when we go out, or order something relatively safe (like hamburgers and french fries, after making sure the fries aren't cooked in peanut oil). It was hard at first, and we felt the same way about the life sentence. But it just became second nature after awhile and has not really negatively impacted our life. It will be more of a challenge when he starts kindergarten, but I think the schools are more aware of the issue as so many kids now seem to have peanut allergies. In fact, the incoming kindergarten classes at my daughter's school was asked to not bring any peanut products into the classroom. Hang in there! In the same situation

We found out our child had a peanut allergy around the same age (10 months). He's now 4.5 years old. While at first it seems so scarey, living with the allergy is very manageable but you do have to keep up your guard and teach your child how to manage it as well. Here's what we did.

We had him tested at an allergist. He tested negative but then we had him eat peanuts at the doctors office where he did have a reaction within an hour. They treated him right away and was told he might likely drop the allergy within a year or two. So we kept him away from peanuts. Don't keep peanuts in the house, tell all caregivers, friends, watch at parks and parties. Read all labels, make sure no one offers him any food (you do have to educate the public, especially well meaning people wanting to give your child cookies). And we travel with a bottle of Benedryl all the time. He's not so sensitive that we need an epi- pin but I know others who do.

He still has his allergy as far as we know and will continue to have him checked every year or two. So we continue to keep peanuts away. He knows what happens when he eats peanuts so will not go near it. Halloween time he went house to house saying ''Trick or treat, I'm allergic to peanuts!'' He'll wait to dive into the candy after we've checked everything.

There's an organization called the Food Allergy network'' that is helpful. Once you get used to it, it is not so scarey. Good luck. Nina

Our daughter, now 3 1/2, also has a peanut allergy we found out about when she was around your son's age. It's been simple and fine, just don't let your child have peanuts or peanut products. Schools are used to kids with a peanut allergy. You can keep your supply kit of Children's Benadryl and an EpiPen (prescribed by your ped) in your car or with you at all times, just as you might a first aid kit. Since we found out, she's had accidental bites once or twice and the Benadryl cleared up her reaction. But recently we were recently at a party and let her pick her own dessert.....I didn't know there were peanuts in the cookie until she was choking & vomiting, then I smelled peanuts on her breath. We took her straight to the emergency room and they gave her the epipen there, since we had become careless and weren't carrying our ''peanut emergency supplies'' with us. I felt bad for my daughter explaining she couldn't have peanuts when other kids were having them. But many of my daughter's friends have food restrictions-we know several vegetarian kids, one who is allergic to avocados, one who doesn't drink milk, etc. So our daughter discusses with us how she can't have peanuts, so- and-so can't have meat, her baby brother can't have honey, etc. And the parents of her friends have been very concientious when she's at their houses, we just constantly remind people when we drop her off so it's in their mind. Karen

I have advice coming from the angle of a daycare position. I run a daycare center and we have several children that are peanut allergic. MAKE SURE... I repeat... MAKE SURE you have an 8 1/2 X 11 flyer with your child's photo on it stating the peanut allergy and INSIST that it hangs in a couple of different locations on site at your child's daycare/preschool/kindergarten classroom, etc.

For the most part our kids with allergies know what they can and cannot eat, but they are gradeschool ages and we still have those flyers hanging. Your young child will not know at this age.

Make sure an epipen is on site at all of the above sites. And make sure you teach a FEW of the teachers how to use it and what to look for. Maybe even add it to the flyer.

We serve snacks to the kids daily and we keep a seperate container of safe foods for our peanut allergic friends. Some of our kids are so deathly allergic that they are seated with a teacher who can monitor others' food at lunch and snack times. Even the spreading of peanut butter on a table can inflict harm to some!

One year, the allergy was taken so seriously that I bought ONLY foods that did not contain nuts so that there were no mistakes.

You've got to make sure, too, that you and your teachers know that many, many, many foods are made in factories that make other foods with nuts, so those foods should be avoided, too.

You'd be amazed at how many processed foods have nuts, peanut oil, or are made in factories that make other foods with nuts. Take, for example, MnMs. You think the plain ones are safe, but they are made in factories that make the MnMs with nuts. Start to read labels... many, many crackers and cookies have peanut oils or something like it.

It may be that your child is not as allergic to those foods as other kids. Watch what he eats and see what is OK for him. And, don't feel ashamed to ask for accomodations to keep your child alive!! daycare director

we had a similar experience at 12 months with almonds. Get an appointment with an allergist as soon as possible. We went to Dr. James Nickelson. He was great, but it took 4 months to get an appointment. The nurse gave us helpful info to get through the interim period. Our general practitioner was very unhelpful and advice swung from ''never give him almonds again'' to ''are you sure that it was the almonds, maybe he was choking?''. The allergist tested our child, intelligently assessed the allergy and give me solid, reasuring advice on how to deal with eating and all of the social implications of a nut allergy. We ask about food contents a lot, but still eat out where we like: the blessing of a more mild allergy (albeit still labeled potentially life threatening). We remind caregivers endlessly: yes, it is a drag to feel nuerotic. We bring the epipen everywhere. That is the extent of it and we keep our fingers crossed for the three year test! The food allergy network has a list of foods to avoid and those with ''hidden'' nuts. They have info online: google it. marjorie

I have a peanut allergic child too. We discovered his allergies when he was about 18 months - he's now in high school. Yes, it is scary but there are things you can do to help keep your child safe and yourself sane. One of the first things you should do is go to and become a member. They are a tremendous resource for advice, educational materials, and general support. They even helped me whan a local day camp wanted me to sign a special waiver (written just for us) saying that my then 6 year old was entirely responsible for anything related to his allergies and they had no responsibility - I don't think so!

Education, both for yourself and those around your child is also critical. The good news is, it seems more people know people with serious food allergies so getting folks to take it seriously is getting easier. Try to make easy for people to support you. I know it's hard, but coming from a positive place (here's how we can keep him safe) instead of a fearful place (here's what will happpen if you screw up) can make things easier.

I may sound calm, but please don't think for one second I don't worry about my child or assume the universe will keep him safe. It's just that although I do worry about his safety, I want his world to be as big as possible. To facilitate this I've done trainings at every single school, summer program or sports program he's participated in. He's never missed an overnight school field trip. Neither of us believe his allergies should rule his life. Also, since he's now a teenager spending more time away from me and out with his friends, I'm in the ''letting go'' phase of allergy management since the responsibility is resting much more on his shoulders than mine.

Good luck to you. It's hard now, but you'll manage this. Everyone has some challenge in life and this just happens to be ours. Not Easy but Not Impossible

I just wanted to make a quick point about the epipen, as a friend who occaisionally cares for a child with a life-threatening peanut allergy. My friend has given me the epipen to have on hand and the briefest instruction on how to use it, but I only recently found out that if the person has a serious reaction, the epipen will not itself solve the problem. Administering the epipen simply gives you enough time to get the child to the ER. If you do give someone an epipen to administer in an emergency, make sure they know how to use it and that they know to call an ambulance or get the child to the ER too. Not to freak you out. My friend's daughter has never had a problem in the 5 years she's been coming over for playdates. But it does help to feel more prepared in case of emergency.

I wish you all the best in dealing with this. I know it is stressful, and an extra hassle. But it is manageable and most people are now aware of this all too common problem and willing to make whatever accomodations are necessary to keep your child safe. --a sympathetic mom

Why is there a growing number of peanut allergies?

Jan 2003

I'm curious what the theory is regarding the seemingly growing number of children who are allergic to peanuts. Why the increase, why potentially fatal, anyway to reduce child's chances of developing, anyway to test safely? Thanks. Concerned mom

My son is allergic to peanuts so I've done a fair amount of research into the subject.

First, why the rise in allergies? No one really knows, but pollution might be a contrbuting factor. It is potentially fatal because tissues in the throat and mouth area can swell up to the point where air can not enter the lungs-- anaphalatic shock. Your child's immune system will either identify the proteins in peanuts as OK, or as not OK. It is not something that develops with increased exposure. Also, it is a myth that you can grow out of it. Fortunately most reactions are not severe. With my son it has been stomach cramps and puking, and some facial swelling.

As to testing, it is a simple allergy 'prick test'. I think kids have to be six or so to be tested. I wouldn't test with food if your child has EVER shown ANY type of response to peanut products. Helene

I read an article a while back that said that exposing kids to peanuts before the age of 3 was more likely to cause an allergy, and the increase in breastfeeding over the years has caused babies to be exposed from mom's intake of nuts Jill

In the last newsletter a parent wrote ''Your child's immune system will either identify the proteins in peanuts as OK, or as not OK. It is not something that develops with increased exposure.'' That is contradictory to my personal experience as well as what my allergist told me. I ate peanuts, peanut butter, and other products containing peanut with no problems all through childhood, adolesence and into my adult life. One day when I was 24 I ate a handful of peanuts, sat down to watch TV, fell asleep for about an hour, and woke up covered with hives and breathing congestion. Because of the severity of my reaction the allergist did not perform skin tests to confirm my allergy, but did a blood test instead. It came back inconclusive. About six months later I had an inadvertent bite of a food containing peanuts and again experienced symptoms of congestion, this time with in a half hour. The allergist told me quite specifically that it was an allergy that had developed over time with me, and that with repeated exposure to peanuts the reaction would get worse and worse. I was also warned that my body could become even more sensitive to these proteins resulting in the allergy to crossover to other legumes. The rate of progression to life threatening reactions is different for every person depending on their own immune system.

As I have children I was quite worried about them also being allergic to peanuts. What I have been told by several doctors is that my allergy makes the potential of their developing allergies in general more likely, but that doesn't mean that they will necessarily develop one to peanuts/legumes or tree nuts. Rose

Nut-free chocolates

I wanted to let people know that there is an alternative for chocolates available. I am not associated with this company at all. My son has allergies and I ordered candy for him recently and wanted to pass the info along to others who may have the same concerns. For those people with peanut and tree nut allergies it is very difficult to find chocolates that are safe. This company does not use peanuts or tree nuts at all. Many companies use the same manufacturing lines for candies with peanuts or tree nuts and for those that do not contain these items. They clean the lines between manufacturing runs, but they cannot guarantee their products will be free of the nuts.

For those of you with peanut or tree nut allergies and for all chocolate lovers I would like to recommend the Vermont Nut Free Chocolate Company. The chocolates are delicious and they have some very cute novelty items like chocolate bunny or bear or T-Rex pops. They can be reached at or 1888-4-nut-free