Monday, February 18, 2013

Parenting and Peanuts

Last week my wife and I discovered that our little boy has a peanut allergy. The specifics about the severity and sensitivity of the allergy are still to be determined by an allergist, but any level of sensitivity is overwhelming.

I guess it shouldn't come as a complete surprise, given his general skin sensitivity. Since birth, his skin has been easily irritated by lots of different things. Even some of the "sensitive skin" variants of lotions gave him red, rashy spots... forcing to use plain lotions without any additions (the logic behind all of this blows my mind). Eczema has been linked to an increased likelihood for food allergies.

Nevertheless, it comes as a bit of a blow to my wife and I to not only deal with the changes to our lifestyle, but also to avoid the game of blaming ourselves for our child's condition. The standard hypothesis in the field of immunology for the general rise of peanut allergies in the US focuses on our over-sterilized environment. In theory, because we sanitize the world for our children, they lack the exposure to pathogens necessary to develop a normal immune response to those things that are not pathogenic (such as peanut proteins).

We've gone out of our way to NOT over-sanitize our son's life. We don't wipe off his pacifier every time he drops it at home, we don't wipe every surface he touches, and he interacts frequently with lots of other children. We've been hyper aware of the need for contact with germs in the environment and have allowed him lots of exposure, just short of feeding him mold and the snot of other children. Despite all of this, his body sees peanuts as an intruder that must be attacked.

Our hope is that he will grow out of this allergy. Granted, it is far from the worst medical condition in existence. Many schools and businesses are aware of the dangers of peanut sensitivities and will do what they can to accommodate. And the changes to our lifestyle overall will be minimal if his sensitivity isn't too severe. We simply have to read labels, ask questions, and avoid direct contact (assuming that he isn't sensitive to airborne particles, but there is no evidence that he is).

As a follow-up to this, my wife and I have agreed that it is best if I choose a peanut-free diet as well. First, it gives me the chance to see what my son's life will look like as an adult. I can relate to his experience and share in his frustrations (albeit from the safety of my lack of peanut allergy). Also, it prevents my son from always being the only one left out in social eating situations. For instance, if we go to dinner or a party and the main dish involves nuts, my son and I can avoid it together. It's a chance to bond over a common diet and I really want to serve him in this way.

I love my little buddy and I just want to do my best to show him the love of Christ in all things, despite silly frustrations like peanut allergies!

1 comment:

Heather said...

Another concern is the need to be demanding of others if we go visiting when there will be food. We want to be flexible- having to request certain foods or bring alternatives just feels so self-focused. But we'll do our best to teach our son how to take care of his body while still putting others first.

Thanks, Josh, for your wish to make a diet change for Aaron! It's a neat idea that will teach him about sacrifice to serve others. (And allows me to still enjoy the occasional peanut butter cup when I'm out!)

(Josh's wife)