There are peanuts in my pantry.
At my house that’s a big deal. I have two daughters, five and seven years old. They are both very allergic to peanuts.
But now, my oldest daughter is eating a small piece of peanut and has no allergic reaction. My youngest will soon do the same.
How is this possible?
Let me tell you about a miracle called OIT. That’s short for Oral Immunotherapy. We are so fortunate to live in a city where it is available.
Here’s how it works: You start ingesting a very small amount of peanut powder (mixed with Kool-Aid at our allergist's office) and very slowly increase your dose. We increase that dose once a week, but it can be done more slowly if you wish. The up-dose is done at the doctor’s office – in case there is any sort of reaction.
Then we take the same dose every day at home until it’s time to increase next week. You can’t do any sort of physical activity for two hours after taking the dose. Walking around is fine, but no running, jumping, or acting kid crazy.
For my older daughter, crying has led to a few hives during that two-hour window. Unfortunately, I can’t just give the kids whatever they want for two hours every day. That has been the extent of our reaction so far – just a few hives.
For us, the treatment is expensive. That part will depend on your insurance. For us, we spent $3,000 and hit our deductible in the first month. Now that we’ve hit that, we spend about $160 a month.
For everyone, the process is time consuming and a big commitment. Yesterday my older daughter cried when I picked her up from school because she just wanted to go home, not to the allergist's office. But for any parent who has experienced the heart stopping terror of a food reaction, it is worth it.
A well-meaning parent once gave my younger daughter a Butterfinger candy bar at school on Halloween -- the most hated holiday of the year for parents of children with food allergies. We did not know she had eaten peanuts… and it took a lot of detective work to figure it out. By the time we did, a lot of time had passed. She threw up twice, had hives all over her stomach and her airway was constricting.
On the way to the hospital she fell asleep. I thought she was dead.
Just remembering it makes me cry. I could tell you more stories. Most parents of kids with food allergies can. For me – no matter what the financial cost, hours spent at the allergist's office and in the car getting home in rush hour traffic… it is all so worth it.
The final step in the treatment is a 24 peanut challenge in the allergist's office. If we pass that, the girls still have to eat eight peanuts a day for the rest of their lives to maintain their immunity.
I think peanuts are delicious and hopefully they will too.
We have 14 weeks left in this journey. I can almost see the day that I don’t worry every time we eat outside our home and worry even more when they're at a friend’s house. Are there peanuts in their pantry? Does the parent know how to use an EpiPen?
I can’t wait to wave goodbye and know they can safely eat whatever they want.
To find out more about Oral Immunotherapy and Christine's experience, go here.