Of Babies, Peanuts and Allergy Moms

By now, you’ve no doubt heard of the five year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, where peanuts introduced to the diet of at-risk babies 4-11 months old lowered the incidence of developing peanut allergy by age 5 by 80%. The results are incredible and will no doubt change the conversation between allergists, pediatricians and parents for years to come.

More than any other food allergy news item recently, this one has drawn the most emotional feedback from our readers. There are many reasons, not the least of which is that the story is receiving coverage by traditional news outlets everywhere from ABC News to NPR.

That means – as a food allergy mom – you’re probably being inundated with all kinds of advice from people who have absolutely no idea what it means to have a child with food allergies. As parents of a 13 year old daughter with a peanut allergy, we’re hearing plenty of “See… if you had just given her peanuts at a young age she wouldn’t have had this problem.” Our response? Bull$%it!

Allergists have been all over the map on this one: avoid peanuts until age 2/introduce them early, avoid/consume them during pregnancy, avoid/consume them during breastfeedingYou caused this problem if you didn’t breastfeed/you caused this problem if you did.

I see the outpouring of anger, bewilderment, frustration and guilt; but worst of all is the second guessing by women who have courageously guarded their children’s safety in a world that resists even the smallest accommodations – but now wants to give them advice and tell them how they should have done it better.

Pay them no heed. You’ve been on the front lines dealing with an epidemic that even the experts are at odds to explain, much less provide consistent advice on how to treat and prevent.

To my wife Debra and all you wonderful women out there who are fighting the good fight, I salute you. Whether you’ve found yourself consoling a child who couldn’t attend a birthday party because of contact fears, or you’ve taken on your entire school board to ensure a child’s safety, you are the heroes to your children and mine.

And nobody does it better.

Dave Bloom
SnackSafely.com

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52 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Dave Bloom!!!! Why blame mothers who work every second of everyday to protect our food allergic kids. I appreciate the pep talk. -Sarah (mother of a milk, beef, pork and peanut allergic child)

  2. Thanks for the nice pat on the back! We do all deal with the constant fear and anxiety. It’s nice to be appreciated!

  3. THANK YOU for this. You have truly helped me deal with this with your message. Many many thanks.

  4. Thank you for your awesome article! Also, I wanted to know if I can get a larger version of your “We Can Do” Epi-Pen holding hero!? I would love to print this and hang it in my kitchen!

  5. Thank-you a million times. Thankyou!From a mom of 5 kids which only 3 have food allergies and only 1 (the youngest) is peanut allergic 😉 They dont have a clue yet.

  6. Thank you for that. Tired of feeling like this is my fault. Has there been any studies about families that eat organic vs. food covered in Round-Up? I didn’t know anything about how our food was grown until my daughter had peanut allergies. Now that is news I could have used, way before having a baby.

    • Oh my goodness! Your “round-up” comment made me laugh out loud! Thanks for the laugh!
      I whole-heartedly agree.

  7. This is exactly what I needed to hear right now. The guilt was/is killing me!

    Mama to 7 year old, Noah (peanut/tree nut allergic)

  8. Thank you so much for this. This new study has been littering my news feed and its making me so angry. It basically says to me all of your son’s suffering could have been prevented by going against doctors orders. Although he had his first reaction to peanut butter at 6 months when he touched his sister’s sand which.

  9. No one is blaming anyone. This study is the latest in the quest for a cure for this devastating allergy. As the grandmother of a child with a peanut allergy, I am glad that research is being done and that this allergy is getting so much attention. Parents should not be angry at the researchers. I myself want to thank the researchers.

  10. Thank you for this. There’s always the guilt. What did I do? What didn’t I do? What did I do too late? Was it too early? What if…? I needed this. Thank you.

  11. Thanks so much for writing this! I really needed to read something like this today, and I seriously appreciate it.

  12. Well said. This is the only article which I have read that hasn’t made me feel frustrated. My son had a peanut allergy from age 4 even though peanuts were not excluded from the family diet (there was no advice to exclude peanuts in the 1980’s) My son died in 2013 – anaphylaxis due to his peanut allergy. Living with allergies I welcome a cure but a sensible one!

  13. Thank you!people and family were like see. My son had a reaction at 1yr with peanut butter. So who knows only us. This story was awesome!!! We need to be acknowledged!! We take challenges every moment. Keep up the good work and keep love strong!!!

  14. Nope! We found out our son was allergic with accidental exposure at 10 months. I worry news like this will cause huge problems – because parents who don’t want to deal with this will try experimenting with nuts too early. I do have a question, however,how do they know a child is “at-risk”? Are they getting the blood tests prior to this experiment? Do they have ige levels checked?

    • They chose babies with excema and egg allergy and did a skin test for peanuts. The researcher said if a child is positive for peanuts already don’t give them any of course. He suggested children with excema be tested early and if negative for peanuts begin introducing them.

  15. Thank you!!! You have brought tears to my eyes. In the wake of new research, allergy moms are bound to look at their precious children and, even just for a moment, succumb to the guilt and fear of the possibility that “I might have done this to him/her.” The recommendations keep changing, and we’re left with the emotional fallout of wondering if we could have done better.

  16. I’m 31, and I’ve had a lifelong peanut allergy myself, so it of habit, I’m a little uptight about what I feed my (allergy-free) 6yr old. When I was a kid, I was the only one in my class (maybe even in my smalltown elementary school) with a severe allergy. There were no rules about what could or could not be brought in by other kids to eat, so I did sometimes feel left out. But those days are gone. While schools do put forth an effort (some moreso that others,) it’s sometimes the parents of the other children who make it difficult for allergy kids. Is it really that hard for your kid to refrain from something with peanuts in it for the school day?? Shut up, give your kid a banana, and stop whining about peanut-free classes and schools!

  17. Sorry guys I call BS on this study, my son had his first analphylactic response to peanuts before age 1. My daughter ate nuts of all sorts until age 8 when she suddenly developed a life threatening allergy to them while at school. I wish early exposure were the answer. I really do, but my truth doesn’t seem to bear this out. Also if early exposure were the answer to food allergies, how are children allergic to common baby foods like dairy, wheat and rice?

  18. No mother should feel like they “did” this to their child. I have 14 year old boy/girl twins. My daughter is severely allergic (went into anaphylactic shock when she was tested) to peanuts and also allergic to many tree nuts. She also has asthma. Her twin brother has no allergies nor does he suffer from asthma. Both children were obviously exposed to the same environment in utero as well as once they were born and they ate the same food at the same time growing up. Obviously something genetically going on there (even though neither my husband or I have any allergies) and maybe something biological triggers it. I don’t know. Thank you for your thoughtful letter!

  19. Thank you for this article…what a lovely thing to say to moms out there. That study was the first thing my co-worker commented on to me when I walked in the door. Very well meaning, but it falls flat when you know in your heart your child is in danger and no amount of second guessing, finger pointing or revolutionary studies is going to change that overnight, if ever. So, thank you for reminding us moms that it’s okay to bite our tongues and remind us to smile and picture a big S on our chests. Our husbands too. X

  20. The incidence of peanut allergy is Israel is about 1 in a 1000 while the incidence in the USA and England is over 1%. The main difference is a snack food in Israel called ‘Bamba’, which is like a corn puff, but it is made of peanut. You can buy ‘Bamba’ in the Jewish foods section of your local grocery store. ‘Bamba’ is fed to most infants in Israel. However, in answer to Alex Darc, the incidence of peanut allergy is not 0% in Israel. There will always be children who develop peanut allergy, but the incidence can be lowered by about 90%.
    PS: I am an allergist and have no financial interest in the company that makes Bamba.

    • However, the incidence of milk and sesame allergies is the big concern in Israel…study results failed to mention this. In other words, Israeli kids have the same challenge as US kids…just a different allergen(s).

  21. So lovely, thanks for sharing. I hope your words lessen the inevitable “mom guilt” some parents will feel after hearing about this study.

  22. Thank you for this heartfelt insightful piece. You truly nailed it. When I wrap my head around it, I will write a piece on the tremendous guilt that is shoved on allergic mothers- whether its nursing, eating or just plain old washing hands too much- we are held to an impossible standard. The media just loves these sensational headlines but when a family is threatened to be kicked of a flight for asking for an announcement of a child’s life threatening allergy, there is absolute silence. Thank you for your voice and advocacy.

  23. I agree!!! Both of my children have food allergies. My oldest had peanut butter and nut products around the age of 6 months. My son has even more allergies and I ate peanut butter like crazy during both pregnancies. “Experts” need to quit blaming parents and find something more important to cure.

  24. Seems we had the same as many others………Our (just) 12 month old touched peanut butter and reacted immediately. Ignorance is bliss.
    Thank you, Dave. So many people have told me what I did wrong.

  25. Very well put. Thanks.

    My son had food allergies within two weeks of being born, he was reacting through my breast milk. He looked like he was in a fire he itched his face so much. Doctors had NO IDEA what was wrong with him.
    Peanut allergy was huge. RIGHT AWAY. At 4 months I took him on an airplane where they served peanuts, it was in the air of the airplane and he was so swollen and itchy when we got off.

    These people make me so angry telling me how this and that could have saved him. Yes I ate peanut butter when I was pregnant etc. He is just allergic. Simple as that.

    Thanks again, you made my day.

  26. Thank you – that was very touching on an oh so touchy subject. But I have to agree with many others I’m not sure there is a rhyme or reason to all of this mess. I was 25 or so when I became allergic to peanuts. So far my 10 yr old DD has no allergies but my 7 yr old DS was diagnosed peanut and sesame at age 2 and then added shellfish at age 5. My mother has tons of sensitivities (no diagnosed allergies as of yet) that have occured in the last several years…

  27. Thank you! I was in tears during parts of the Diane Rehm show yesterday. He even spoke about mothers and their guilt, how it isn’t their fault. It is just hard to hear that if I had known more and done things differently perhaps he wouldn’t suffer from this severe allergy that limits his life. It is also so conflicting, that his allergies could have been predicted if he had consumed peanut early but they could have been caused by the peanut proteins in the environment interacting with his severe excema. So I didn’t introduce early and I shouldn’t of had it in the house? Thank you for this article and for seeing all allergy moms do to keep their children safe.

  28. Absolutely. For the record, I ate peanut everything during pregnancy and didn’t restrict anything while breastfeeding…until we discovered the allergies. So the science isn’t 100%.

  29. I keep coming back and reading this today – for some reason, it gives me validation that my child’s food allergy is not my fault – but deep down, there’s a part of me that constantly questions everything I’ve done over the last 6 years. I swear I did everything right – exactly what the doctors told me to do and yet, both of my children are food allergic. I pray for a cure, parental understanding and most of all inclusion of my child. Thank you for writing this – it’s brought a tear to my eye every time I’ve read it today.

  30. Very well said, Dave! As a mom, I’m just not sure it’s possible to turn off that little voice inside your head that asks “did I cause/fail to prevent this” – whatever your child’s “this” may be. And a universe of strangers asking that same question sure doesn’t help.

    It’s hard enough to be the soldier at our children’s castle door; no mother needs any of the assembled townspeople second guessing her defense! In my case, it’s the anomoly of adopting and nursing a child who turned out to have a mast cell disorder not very different from the one I would later be diagnosed with myself. The number of people who’ve asked if I “gave” it to him by breastfeeding him – honestly, I couldn’t begin to count.

    It’s hard to accept how little we still understand about the human body – and it’s an act of humility in the face of that ignorance to support one another in our struggles to navigate it all! My heart goes out to all the families reeling with the news this week – hopeful and devastating in equal measure.

    • Cheryl, so many years ago I beat myself up thinking I did this to my 2nd child. She’s allergic to peanuts, beef and wheat among other things. She is now 35 and the mother of 2 herself and a Kindergarten teacher. 23 children this year and having to constantly monitor what they’ve brought to school and had to eat is one of her many tasks everyday. I don’t know how she does it. A while back, she had a fellow teacher inform her that the class would be doing a project with peanuts that day!!!! REALLY???? How ignorant can people be?? So she had to use paper towels the rest of the day every time she touched a doorknob, a desk, anything that the children may have touched, even though she made sure they had washed their hands after returning to her classroom. I commend these children growing up with this and their parents and families!!! God Bless them all and I too am trying to let this news sink in and hope and pray that maybe there is hope for all of them .

  31. Thank you SO much for this Dave! As the mother of a GROWN daughter with peanut/beef/wheat allergies (among the worst of her several allergies)I still can’t believe what they are telling parents to do! I have 3 children, all over the age of 30 and when our 2nd was born she was broke out within a week! I nursed her. Went crazy trying to figure it out. Back then (30 + yr ago) there weren’t the blood tests they have now. So we literally almost killed our own baby! There is no way anyone will ever convince me or her that this is ok! She has a 4 yr old son who does not have it but has not yet tested her 2 yr old daughter. I’m sure she will not be giving her any peanuts anytime soon! She is also a Kindergarten teacher for the past 12 yrs so it makes it even harder for her as the children often have peanuts/peanut products. I wish people would be more understanding of others around them with these horrible allergies and not take it personally when they are asked to PLEASE not eat/have known allergens around someone so allergic to them. Us parents of these children have to be SOOOOO vigilant in protecting our children…even as adults. People without these allergies have no clue what we have to do to keep our children safe.

  32. Hello friends,
    Please don’t blame yourselves! Scientific knowledge is always in flux, and it’s hard enough as a physician to know the answers. As a mom and a doctor, I urge you to just protect your peanut-allergic ones going forward and not look behind you.
    On a personal note, I lived on peanut butter while pregnant with my son. Then ate peanut butter daily while nursing him, until at 15 months when he had an anaphylactic reaction to peanut butter he licked off my finger. He was exposed to peanut butter and still he is severely allergic.

    My heart is with you all.

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