Now What

I think I’m going to regret this post. Then again, I might not. I have a history of asking for help and receiving advice beyond what I imagined. This may be one of those times.


Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.
? Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

We’ve been on vacation in Lake Tahoe for the last couple of weeks. On Monday we went to the community pool to swim and have lunch. Nico went into anaphylactic shock after eating a veggie burger and garlic fries. We were transported by ambulance to Reno. He’s fine; I’m not.

Thats the short version of events. The longer version involves a great deal of paragraphs and whimpering on my part. Forgive me, lend me your ears, and tell me it’s going to be okay.

The boys ate their lunches in lounge chairs 10-feet away from us because the pool was so crowded. I read a book while I ate and occasionally looked up to make sure they were okay. They were.

Nico called out to me when he was done and asked me if he could go swimming. I looked up and noticed his naked chest covered with sandwich crumbs. I mean, honestly. I couldn’t believe he didn’t notice he was covered in food. Normally I would have him clean himself off, but for some reason I felt like I had to do it. I called him over and nudged the Mister so he could share a chuckle with me over our carefree, messy son. Had I not called him over, he would have been in a very crowded pool when he went into shock. My head would have been in a book.

As he walked up, I noticed his lips looked different and that he had welts around his mouth. He also had crumbs all over his face, so my first thought–trying not to panic–was that there was hot sauce in the burger that “burned” his skin the way orange or lemon juice does when not diluted. The Mister agreed with me.

I asked Nico how he was feeling. “Great,” he said. He wasn’t lying, but in the rolodex of Worst Possible Scenarios I keep in the back of my mind is his old allergy to nuts. I decided to ask the lifeguard for Benadryl.

They didn’t have any, and if they did, they weren’t legally authorized to dispense it. Fair enough, so I walked back with Nico and asked the Mister to go buy some at the store down the street. He was almost out the gate when I called him back.

“I’ll do it,” I said. “And I’m bringing Nico with me.”


If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison’ it is certain to disagree with you sooner or later.
? Lewis Carroll

I started walking towards the car, thinking I would pick up Nico when he reached the gate. Suddenly, that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted him right next to me. I walked back and together we crossed the parking lot. Nico was inexplicably crying, saying he was afraid he was going to be allergic to all his favorite foods and that he would never be able to eat veggie burgers ever again. Dramatic, but I thought he was being 8 years old. No 8 year old wants to leave the pool to go to a pharmacy. I’ve since found out that an “impending sense of doom” is a sign of anaphylactic shock.

We were 10 yards from the car when I felt an urge to run. It felt like someone was pushing me between the shoulder blades, forcing me to move faster. I dragged Nico behind me as fast as I could without hurting him and told him could sit in the front seat as a treat. Really, I was satisfying my urge to keep him as physically close to me as possible. I’m glad I did. I noticed him scratching his palms.

It took us 5 minutes to get to the pharmacy, with each minute bringing a more alarming, more difficult to ignore symptom. By the time we pulled into the pharmacy parking lot, he was coughing uncontrollably and his skin was a bright, angry red from the tips of his ears to the bottom of his feet. There is an urgent care next to the pharmacy. I parked in the first spot I saw with all the finesse of a 15 year old without a learner’s permit.

We walked into the urgent care and that is when everything escalated. They took one look at Nico and called the paramedics. They gave him an injection of antihistamine strong enough to knock out an adult and hooked him up to the monitors. He was hypotensive and tachycardic (low blood pressure, high heart rate), his oxygen saturation level was dropping, his tongue and throat were swelling shut and he was scratching his eyes so hard the nurse debated restraining him. I could no longer deny what was happening.


I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.
? Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The Benadryl started doing its job by the time the paramedics came. Nico’s condition was still serious, but they felt good canceling the helivac (I blanched when I heard it was under consideration) and said we would be safe going by ambulance to Reno. The hospital across the street refused to take us, and rightfully so. They aren’t equipped to handle cases like Nico’s.

We reached the hospital safely and quickly, with Nico monitored the entire time. At the hospital he received more medicine and steroids. After a few hours of observation, we left with 4 prescriptions and an epi-pen. Anaphylaxis lasts for days (tack that on to the many things I learned that day) so he has been on medication and steroids every 6 hours until today. Now he takes one medication daily. Dropping down to only one medication is nerve-wracking enough, but the news I got from the food vendors today was enough for me to officially declare that I am beside myself with fear.


I wish I hadn’t cried so much! said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out.
I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears !
? Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I’ve been in contact with Nico’s pediatrician and allergist since Monday. He has an appointment in July once all the medication is out of his system, but the assumption has always been that his nut allergy returned or he developed a new allergy to another nut. Ergo, we were told to abstain from nuts until he completed testing. The Mister met with the catering company that produces the food for the pool and has pictures of every single item he put in his mouth, along with the ingredient labels. There are no nuts and, according to the catering company, no nuts in any of the items on the menu.

There are eggs, wheat, soy, and dairy ingredients, but no nuts. When the Mister told me this, I demanded to see the pictures and read the ingredient sheet myself. No nuts. I read it twice and then one more time. I looked up at him and said, “Well, shit. Now what?”

Now what? We were going on the assumption that there would be a nut somewhere, but there isn’t. Nico has wheat, dairy, and eggs frequently and soy regularly. Could one of those caused the anaphylaxis even though they haven’t before? He’s had all the above–minus the soy–since Monday and nothing has happened. But he’s also been on mega doses of anti-histamine. As it slowly leaves his body, can we expect him to have another “event” (I can’t even call it by its real name)? What can he eat? What is safe? How am I going to handle the 8 hour car drive home, where we will be crossing stretches of dessert with poor cell phone coverage and no nearby medical facilities?


If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there
? Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Nico’s appointment is the week of the 21st, and I need to figure out what I can feed him safely until then. And because I know someone will ask–I did–I can’t feed him meat. I asked him if he would eat meat, just a little, until his appointment. He started crying and said, “Please don’t ask me to do that.”

Here is where you jump in and say this very same thing happened to you last year, and this is how you handled it and lived happily every after.

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  1. My two cents: I would be flying home in this instance. I wouldn’t normally do it, but I consider it too risky to drive without nearby medical facilities while you don’t know what the allergen is.

    • I’ve been told there are hospitals nearby, but flying back–if only me and Nico–is something I’m considering. Of course, I’ve also been told that the same allergen can be in an airport or plane.

  2. Has he had garlic before? I saw you noted the ingredients list didn’t have nuts, but did it have anything in it that he didn’t eat regularly, or in smaller amounts?

    • Great question that I didn’t address. There isn’t anything he ate that day that he hasn’t eaten in the past as early as days prior, even. He did have pistachios that morning, but that was at least 6 hours before his reaction. The Mister is convinced there was some cross over contamination somehow. I hope he’s right.

  3. Just because there weren’t any nuts in the recipe doesn’t mean there weren’t any nuts in the food? Do they make/grind up all the ingredients for the veggie burgers themselves? Bake the bread? What if someone dumped a little gluten free flour in the dough? Gluten free flour can contain a bunch of things, nuts and almonds among them.

    I don’t have severe allergies but I am sensitive to different things, esp after I went through chemo. And I’ve noticed that sometimes a little of something is OK, but if I overdo it I’m not OK at all. And things like hydration may play in too. Did he eat the same meal several days in a row? Did he possibly become dehydrated in the sun? Sorry I can’t be of more help. I definitely second the flying home suggestion, tho.

    • We checked the actual ingredient labels of the items on the menu. So the veggie burger from Morningstar, the maker of the garlic sauce, the bread manufacturer…everything and etc.

    • Also in re flights: I have an email into his doctors to see which avenue is safest. That’s the route we’ll take, obviously. For them, I suspect they’ll say the car. They reiterated that the most important thing is to control his environment. I suspect they’ll tell me it’s easier to do that in a car with 4 people (and food you’ve prepared yourself) than it is in two airplanes and two airports, but we’ll see. I’ll do whatever they say is safest.

  4. I had the same reaction once, at the pool no less, and we never figured out why. It was probably an insect of some kind, I had some bug bites on my foot, but I was tested for a reaction to every venom possible, and I didn’t test positive for any of them. The good news is, it never happened again. So, maybe Nico’s reaction wasn’t necessarily to some part of the food? And if it was, I think cross contamination is a good theory.
    Either way, I’m glad everything’s OK!

    • We checked him for insect bites and didn’t find anything–BUT!–we could have easily missed something. I’m glad to hear it never happened again. Thank you! 🙂

      • This is the train of thought I was on too, that maybe it was a bite and not the food. How scary. You did everything right, Mama. Good job.

  5. Aw, man! I have nothing but sympathy for you at this moment. As a teacher, I’ve had kiddos with SEVERE allergies in my classroom, but this beats all. I will tell you that these friends lead quite normal lives, but their parents’ awareness and education has been key. I’ll be thinking about y’all!

    • Thanks, Kate. I know how to handle nut allergies, so I was hoping this was the case. Now that I just got the news they are a nut-free kitchen? #stressball

  6. My husband went into shock driving to our kids high school. He had taken penicillin with an energy drink. Both he had before many times over. He was transported by ambulance after meds given and stayed in hospital for hours. The doctors said it was prob penicillin even tho he had never had s reaction before. He did the meds and steroid thing and thankfully recovered. With age I have learned you can develop more and more allergies. I wish I had some answer for you but I don’t. Just stay on to of it do what you do and pray hard. I’m glad your boy is ok.

  7. Neither of my kids has a nut allergy, but their dad does and it is never good. And it is VERY scary. Even though they say there are no nuts in products, cross contamination is possible. Also, if Nico had a peanut allergy, he could be susceptible to a reaction from other legumes, not just nuts. Garbanzo beans, soy beans, and peas are also in that family. I will keep your son and your family in my prayers. As a cradle Catholic, as well, I think both of your guardian angels were working overtime when Nico had his reaction. Plus your “mom radar” was on high alert. That is why you were able to get Nico treated as quickly as you did.

  8. Does a nut free kitchen mean that all the products they use are prepared in nut free facilities, or just that they don’t have any actual nuts on hand? I guess I also feel like cross contamination is the most likely scenario. But isn’t it exceedingly rare for a kid to have outgrown his allergy and then have it recur?

    I wonder if it’s not unusual for things like this to happen as a one-off. I know that can be the case with things like seizures, especially in kids. They just happen once for no apparent reason and then never again. I’ve known a couple such kids, in fact.

    Anyway, know that you are all being fervently prayed for. I teared up reading your account– I can’t imagine going through that with my own boy. Hugs and prayers and more hugs.

  9. This gave me chills to read. So glad you listened to your heart and were on top of the situation as it was happening. I hope you figure things out soon. It’s so stressful seeing our kids in danger. Sending hugs and prayers from Arizona.

  10. I hate this for you all. As a fellow Mom with a 9 year old son who has peanut and tree nut allergies I sympathize greatly with you.
    I will pray that this doesn’t happen again.

  11. Jules, I burst into tears reading this. I am so glad your intuition kicked in that something wasn’t right and you got Nico treated so fast! I just wanted to share that I have had peanut and tree nut allergies my whole life (I’m 37), and I’ve carried an EpiPen since 5th grade when we first learned of them. I’d tried to be so careful and had never actually had to use one until last Thanksgiving when we were out of town at my husband’s relatives. His aunt, who has known of my allergies for years, offered us all chocolate/oatmeal cookies from a new recipe she’d made that day with the assurance multiple times that there were “no nuts!” I ate one even though it didn’t taste right/good (I just thought it was a lousy recipe and didn’t want to be rude… lesson learned). Within a minute, I started to get a scratchy throat and the same feeling that something was wrong. Then she bit into one herself and realized she’d forgotten that peanut butter was one of the main ingredients! She just didn’t think about peanut butter when I was asking about nuts (she was picturing chopped up walnuts or something) and since it was a new recipe, it wasn’t ingrained in her brain as an unsafe food for me. Needless to say, she felt horrible. I immediately gave myself my EpiPen and we raced to urgent care for the same huge shot of Benadryl, and thankfully everything turned out ok.

    All of this to say… do not be afraid to use that EpiPen now that you have it! I had been told to only use it if I was actually having trouble breathing, but just prior to Thanksgiving I read an article by group of allergists advising that if a person with known allergies has any contact with the allergen or even a hint of symptoms, DO NOT WAIT for things to get worse to administer the EpiPen. There is no harm in using it, and waiting can make it harder for it to hold off a life-threatening reaction. I’m convinced that getting it in my system so fast was the reason my reaction wasn’t worse. Anyway, you will all be in my prayers that something comes back on the allergist’s tests to give you some answers!

    • Thank you, Kristi. I wondered if using the EpiPen too soon or too often would result in, I don’t know, an exploded heart or something. I about died when the pediatrician told me to always carry two because one might not be enough. (#*$)@**!!! How much more can my heart take?!

      • I know! I had always been under the impression that it was only to be used in dire circumstances… thanks a lot, doctors from my youth! They now say even if you (as an allergic person) spit out the food, you should still administer the EpiPen. It did make me really shaky for quite a while; I think that’s the main side effect if you used it when it wasn’t actually needed. I now carry two as well (nice that they sell them as a 2-pack) because of that whole “one might not be enough” thing. This is the interview with two leading allergists that I (miraculously) read pre-Thanksgiving that set me straight, in case you’re interested. Be warned, it was prompted by a tragic peanut-allergy-related death of a 13-year-old, but it has a lot of good information:

  12. I know I mentioned this on your Facebook page but I’ve had severe reactions a couple of different times in my life and just general flare ups (a really swollen lip or uvula or eye or hives everywhere) from time to time. I’ve been tested and tested and tested. I’m slightly allergic to dust, dogs, cats, a bunch of different trees and grasses but no food popped (though I’ve noticed if I eat too many strawberries in a sitting, I tend to have a reaction).

    Basically, we have no idea why my body goes into overdrive. We think it might have something to do with an overactive immune system (flare ups tend to happen before or when I’m already sick) or hormones (during my cycle) or a whole bunch of things that happen at once (I’m around a cat, a dog, and I eat a few strawberries). I know that isn’t much help because it’s easy for me to say because it’s ME. It’d feel very different if it were one of my KIDS.

    While I know having the exact cause is comforting so you can avoid it, I want you to know that I’ve lived 37 years with no answers, allergy medicine, and a Auvi-Q in my purse. I don’t even think about it anymore.

    It could very well be a fluke thing. I’m sending prayers for peace and health and answers.

    And most importantly: good job, momma.

  13. I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. I wonder if possibly there were pool chemicals that might have triggered something? I’m totally guessing…I really want you to have the peace of an explanation!

  14. One more thing, at the risk of freaking you out even more… The kitchen may well be nut-free, but these two links below are examples of how nuts can slip through even without the chef’s knowledge and despite his/her best efforts. This first one details how “pink peppercorns” are actually from the cashew family and can cause the same allergic reaction. They were used in a pepper blend in a pasta meal eaten by this mom’s allergic daughter, despite the chef being aware of her allergy and careful to avoid nuts. He didn’t know they were actually of the nut family either.

    And this one is about the recent massive recall of cumin and cumin-containing foods due to undeclared traces of nuts. This is being investigated as “food fraud” where producers may have deliberately bulked up the cumin with peanut shells and almond husks due to low cumin crop and rising prices (meanwhile my brain explodes thinking of people INTENTIONALLY introducing allergens to bulk up their crop and make more money. UGH.)

      • No way! I wonder if that was the culprit! It’s so scary to read a label and not know if something that sounds safe might actually be an allergen in disguise.

    • SO glad someone mentioned the pink peppercorns. I read about that a year or so ago and have tried to tell as many folks as I know. Hope you have a safe trip home and that all is ok.

  15. Ok! This has happened to us before! Everything will be fine! You will spend the rest of your life worrying, though. I’m sorry that happened. I know how scary and terrifying that is.

    My middle one (Henry) is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, avocados, oranges, and food dye. His first reaction was to peanuts at 18 months old; he picked up a peanut butter sandwich that his older brother had discarded. He didn’t actually eat it—he just handled it. Sadly, he keeps adding new allergies instead of outgrowing them. He developed the allergy to oranges two years ago after eating them for years.

    It is possible that Nico developed a new allergy, but it is more likely something he ate was cross-contaminated.

    Here’s the sort of sucky news: we never take Henry out to eat. Like, ever. He can eat at In and Out Burger (not the milkshakes, but everything else is safe for him), and that is about it. He is sad about it, and the year he realized that Halloween was going to suck the rest of his life was hard, but he has gotten used to it.

    We make from scratch nearly everything Henry eats. He had a reaction after eating bread from a bakery (not a gluten problem, but probably cross-contaminated with nuts), so now we make most of our bread. He doesn’t eat food out of boxes, for the most part. He never ever ever eats a dessert item that has not been assembled by my own hands (nearly half of all allergic nut reactions come from eating a dessert item, so we just don’t buy them). He has quite a sweet tooth, so I bake a lot.

    We travel frequently. It is difficult and takes planning, but it can be done. We just last week went to the East Coast, and our outbound flights were delayed, and it took us nearly two days to get to our destination. Luckily I pack three times the food that I think we need for the trip (I literally have a separate carry-on bag full of food), so we were able to feed Henry the whole time. Nothing exciting—a lot of Ritz crackers and fruit, but it was ok. I told him after he had eaten all the first day food (sandwiches, fun snacks) that I did not have a lot of good meals for him, and he would be eating only what we had until we got to Auntie J’s house and I could make him something yummy and safe.

    Can you stay a few extra days where you are until the anaphylaxis period runs out?

    I wish I had more cheerful things to say here. I know it is so scary and I’m sorry that happened. Sending you hugs and warm wishes. -L

    • Yes, we are here until the anaphylaxis runs its course. Then we wait another 5 days clear of all medication and steroids before he can have testing.

      You work very, very hard for your son. I’m going to take you up on your offer for advice.

      • You know, Henry is almost 8–isn’t Nico 8 or 9-ish? I’d be happy to have your family over some weekend if Nico would like to meet someone else with food restrictions.

  16. i have been thinking of you all since I first heard! Try to calm your worried nerves as much as you can- he will be ok!

    Have the doctors considered an allergy to the pool chemicals?

    I have asthma and allergies. I carry an epi-pen and inhaler in my car and purse. And as someone mentioned above, I have continued to get strange allergies as I’ve gotten older- however, eating no-wheat, no-dairy, and very little processed foods have helped tremendously.

    Sending love!!! You might not ever figure out what triggered it… so get ready to let that go and move forward.

    For what it’s worth, I would rather be in a car than an airplane when having an allergic reaction. However, how many hours away from home are you? Good plan to do whichever the docs say is best.

    Sending love! Soon this will be behind you.

  17. I share the view that your guardian angel took over and had you make all the right decisions for Nico. I have no experience with this situation, but agree with your husband that cross contamination is probably the reason for it. My go-to saint is St. Anthony and his novena, which I say every Tuesday since there is always something to pray about that has me worried. Google it. Good luck, and my vote is for the car and hopefully more good advice on managing that car ride from your docs, I think potential crisis in a plane is a worse scenario, and without your husband with you to assist and support. Sending prayers your way.

    • I told my family that the hand of God moved me around like a chess piece. 🙂

      I will absolutely google St. Anthony and his novena. Funny, I remember that being my mom’s favorite saint as a kid.

  18. Hi Jules, I’m so sorry to hear this account of what happened to your son, but if it makes you feel any better, I know exactly how it felt for you. I found this post because someone linked my post about pink peppercorns in your comments, which is great as it may solve the mystery for you as it did for me. However, my latest post on my site adds four more possible hidden nut allergens: sumac, argan (oil), shea butter and mango ( I would go back to the food vendor and check if they used a 4 blend pepper, as I think that is the most likely ingredient to be in your son’s food out of the 5 ingredients.

    My daughter is going off to college next month, on the opposite coast, and to say I’m concerned is the biggest understatement of the century. All we can do is arm our children with enough information, decision making skills, an Epi-Pen and loads of prayers; the rest is out of our hands.

    Good luck, and please let me know if there’s anyway I can help.


    • They used “Montreal Steak Seasoning” on the french fries. The listed ingredients are: “Coarse Salt, Spices (Including Black Pepper And Red Pepper), Garlic, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavor, And Extractives Of Paprika.”

      As for your daughter leaving for college…sigh. I know from my experience that I worry more the older my kids get. It’s a lot easier to control the environment of an 8 year old than an 18 year old.

      • Very true, it is much easier with an 8 year old. That labeling is terrible, as it states what it includes, but makes it sound as though there can be other spices which aren’t stated. Good luck, I hope you discover the culprit, and your son stays reaction free.

  19. Your poor things. I have no allergen experience but regarding the drive with patchy cell coverage – is it the sort of route with lots of truckers on it? Because they could use their radios to get urgent medical assistance if anything happened en route – if it’s not a super busy route you could befriend a specific trucker at a service station and ask if you could follow them and flash them down if anything went wrong.

    Lots of love x

  20. I am so sorry that Nico and you had to go through something so scary! As a mum I felt terrified just reading your account of it, but also immensely grateful that your great mum instinct worked overtime and so fast.

    Is it possible that someone else had eaten nuts or food with allergens and unknowingly contaminated with their hands the pool chair where your son sat later? Kids often put their fingers in their mouths and you said there were crumbles all over him, so perhaps allergens from the chair got to his mouth while eating with his fingers?

    My son once had an allergic reaction (very swollen lips, face and hands) when he was 2. The tests couldn’t find any specific allergy, so we guessed that the allergen was in the antibiotic (Ceclor) that had been prescribed to him. That antibiotic (or similar ones) was never prescribed to him again and he’s been ok since (he’s 29 now :).

    I wish you, your sweet son and all your family the very best and to be safe always 🙂

    • I concur with this idea. If the kids who sat at their chairs before the boys ate had PB&J, and just wiped their hands on the chairs…. I can absolutely see that happening.

  21. I have no specific advice re: allergies, but thought I would pass on my mom’s black bean burger recipe in case you decide to start making burgers from scratch as a safety precaution. Other than eggs, which you said he’s had before, I don’t see anything that you listed as a known allergen in the ingredients.

    Saut together 1 cup diced onions and 1 cup diced mild peppers. Place into a food processor. To the food processor bowl, add 2 cups cooked black beans (drained), 4 eggs, less than or equal to 2 cups rolled oats, some hot pepper paste (my mom makes her own, so substitute something you know is safe) if you like spicy foods, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (this could be omitted too). Blend together in the food processor until pured, adding oats as necessary to firm them up.

    Form into patties and cook in a few tablespoons of oil. Cook them covered in a cast iron pan or other heavy skillet. (My mom uses a 1/4 cup measure to drop them and spread them out into patties.) I would imagine these could be made ahead and then frozen, although they never last that long around here.

    Black beans are very nutritious and making the bean burgers at home might give you some peace of mind because you’ll at least know exactly what is in them and the kitchen in which they were prepared. If you cook the beans from scratch you will know there is no cross-contamination there either.

  22. How scary! Thank God you made the decisions that you did and that he is okay. We found out a couple months ago that my 9-month old is allergic to peanuts. Thankfully she only got hives that resolved within an hour but now she does have an allergist and EpiPens. If you’re looking for some reading on the subject while you’re waiting to meet with Nico’s allergist, my daughter’s allergist recommended this book, which may answer many of your questions (except, of course, what he reacted to!).

    Sending good thoughts your way for the rest of your vacation, and for safe travels home.

  23. Praying for your family. I am a long time reader with a 9 soon to be 10 year old son. I cannot imagine how scary this must have been. Hoping you find out what caused this soon. Best, Tash

  24. Oh my gosh! So glad Nico is ok! I pray that you find some answers and that it never happens again. God is definitely present when our intuition kicks in!

    Just to get you thru (and fed) check out hungry hungry hippie. She will post her meal plans for the week and she has a toddler with allergies (nut +). She didn’t feed him or her family much meat before his reaction, but does feed more meat now. Her blog isn’t focused on her sons allergies, but she does talk about what she feeds him and she researches everything. She has done a few posts about snacks and other processed items that are safe.

    Prayers & Best wishes!

  25. Gosh, so sorry that you are going through this. Am sending you all much love and prayers from Dorset u.k did anything have cilantro in it? I have just been reading about violent reactions to it through a chance remark on another blog, and when several of the commenters remarked about having to carry epicens because of it my thoughts turned to you. Just worth mentioning ,I hope. Blessings for your return journey. Pennyxx

  26. I’m so, so sorry to hear that this happened, Jules! Ironically, I’ve been jealous of your Tahoe photos on Instagram, wishing we’d had a more relaxing summer vacation rather than the very hectic road trip we took a couple weeks ago. I don’t know when life will return to “normal” for your family, but I’ll be thinking of you and hope this was just a crazy one-off event for Nico.

  27. I’m really sorry so hear that Nico had such a scare. 🙁

    My first anaphylactic reaction [that I remember] was when I was seven and stung by a wasp. I’d stepped on a honeybee while barefoot years before [I was probably around four-six] and had no reaction, but have both times since the wasp [a honeybee, and a “sweat bee”; weirdly, all three times I had the reaction I’d been stung on my left arm]. They gave me an epinephrine kit to carry after the first time — this was before EpiPens, so I received an orange plastic box with alcohol swabs, a tourniquet, and a needle pre-filled with epinephrine — and strict instructions not to mess with it myself. [Of course, once it expired I remember jabbing it into my gramma’s coffee table to see what would happen — I was a well-behaved child, but who gives a child a regular hypodermic needle to carry around?] Now I have EpiPens and carry Zyrtec or Claritin with me in case I need it [even though I do take Zyrtec daily now].

    Thankfully, my only life-threatening allergies are to stinging insects [which we’ve discussed before, as it makes me allergic to honey and beeswax], and Sulfa drugs [though no one in my family can remember how or when this was discovered]; all of my other allergies are just annoying/inconvenient, and make the daily allergy medications necessary — dust, mold, various pollens [including the dogwood tree in my backyard which I didn’t know I was allergic to until I realised I got a rash every time I touched it], fish/fish oil/caviar [only realised when I held my cat’s treat between my lips as I used my hands to zip her treat bag closed], sheep/wool/lanolin [I’d previously avoided wool because of the scratchiness, but decided to crochet with some random wool yarn I’d been given and got a rash every time I picked it up], kiwifruit, artichoke, endive/chicory, and Cabbage Patch Kids cereal [which, apparently, loads of other kids were allergic to as well, so they stopped making it when I was a toddler]. I also have sensitivities to dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) [they depress my breathing like in anaphylaxis] and pineapple/mango/papaya [they have similar enzymes as to what’s in kiwifruit]. I also have eczema, and oral allergy syndrome — meaning that produce I’ve had my entire life can cause random minor allergic symptoms because of the pollen on them — recently I haven’t been able to eat fresh cherries, even though I can eat anything prepared that has cherries in it [e.g. I’ve cherry Activia Greek yogurt every day for breakfast], and things with tomatoes sometimes give me a rash around my mouth].

    Oddly, some of my allergies/sensitivities [lactose intolerance (no dairy milk, limited ice cream, sour cream, and cream cheese; firm cheeses, cottage cheese, and yogurt okay), kiwifruit allergy, and dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine sensitivities] didn’t start until immediately after my appendix burst when I was 16 — I’d had all of those without issue beforehand, but couldn’t afterward. I’m vegetarian now, and already avoid most animal/insect products, so my allergies to those things seem like they’d be somewhat easy to deal with, but until you’re looking most people have no idea how many things they’re in.

    Okay I feel like I’m all over the place and rambling, so I’ll stop there. I hope that Nico is feeling better, and that you figure everything out.

    • One thing I wanted to mention but forgot because I’m now allergic to both fish and lanolin, I have to take a vegan multivitamin and vegan vitamin D3 [I’m super-pale, therefore deficient], since D3 is usually sourced from one of those two things. The vegan vitamins are hard to find, and expensive. :/

      BTW, the typos in my above comment are vexing me. X(

  28. I have severe allergies that come on just like this. I unfortunately grew into mine and they got worse every year I got older. I am allergic to tree nuts but it really encompasses so much more and I really never know what is going to set it off. Things with pits, like avocados and cherries are the worst, but I’m also allergic to raw carrots and apples as well as edamame and almonds. Get a thorough allergy test done and just listen to him when he says he doesn’t want to eat something because it “makes his throat itch” or his stomach hurt. My mom didn’t know my allergies and I just refused to eat things for a long time until I had a horrible reaction to a kiwi my senior year in high school. The only thing that has helped me is family and friends listening when I say I don’t feel good… takes the pressure off not wanting to eat something because of my own intuition. And the epi-pen is a life saver… teach him how to use it and to trust his instincts. I hope all works out for you guys!

  29. It did happen to me. Full body reaction June 1987 right after I took an Excedrin washed down with a Pepsi. I never get headaches, but that day I did and the only thing available was Excedrin. I rarely drink Pepsi, but that day I did just to wash down the Excedrin…

    I’ve avoided the combination for years, but strangely enough, I am not allergic to aspirin, acetaminophen, or caffeine, which is the recipe for Excedrin. Not allergic to Pepsi. I might never know what really caused it.

    Praying for Nico and the family. It’s weird living with the uncertainty and the questions.

  30. Morningstar uses Nuts in their veggie burgers!!!!! As of 5/6 years ago they didn’t to have them listed because they consider it a spice or natural flavor and the amount is small enough they don’t have to label it as anything else. Ask me how I know.

    As soon as I read which veggie burger Nico ate, I started freaking out even though I don’t even know you. I’m wishing that I had read your blog post on Friday, so I could have passed that info to you sooner.

    • I have the ingredient label and it says no nuts. I should see if the amount or their labelling policy has changed. !*#&%$#!!!! NUTS ARE NOT A SPICE.

      • But grounded muscat nut is a spice, which goes very well with certain vegetables (potatoes and pumpkin among others), so maybe there are others?

        • There are several spices that are called nuts, but aren’t. Nutmeg is another example. When I say “nuts” I mean true tree nuts. Morningstar–if this is true, still googling–knows better than to call all nuts ‘spices’ because some spices have “nut” in the name.

          Interesting that I found this after Miranda’s comment:

          The lesson learned for me is this: there is a reason the doctors and allergy boards I have read suggest making everything and trusting nothing. There is nothing wrong with using nuts in food preparation. I don’t expect the world to go nut-free, but I would like to know when I am buying something with nuts.

        • “Muscat nut” [en franais ‘noix de muscade’] est appele “nutmeg” en anglais. Mais elle n’est pas une noix ou un allergne vritablement.

          (“Muscat nut” [‘noix de muscade’ in French] is called “nutmeg” in English. But it’s not a really nut or allergen.)

      • I wholeheartedly agree with you Jules (you should hear my allergist rant about stuff like this too). If my memory serves me correct, I think one of the nuts that they used as a “spice” is walnuts but I’m not positive.

      • My sister-in-law is a pediatrician in France and a really good allergologist. She’s always told us that unfortunately all ingredients are not listed by some companies, when they are in tiny quantities, even though they should. She’s done a lot of research and has contacted many companies when she was suspicious of certain allergens. Many companies had to admit she was right. I am lucky not to have any allergies (so far) but I appreciate companies that are honest and also warn about traces of other products that might be found in a food or drink, due to possible contamination where it was made.

        • I wonder why they don’t disclose? Surely they can’t be afraid of losing customers. They’d lose more once one person with a nut allergy is harmed from eating their product. It seems to me that it would be a public relations nightmare!

  31. I’m just now seeing this. As a mom of a girl with severe nut allergies, I could hardly get to the end of it. I knew that feeling. Yikes! I didn’t read the comments, but I wonder if sesame was on the list…. a friend’s nut allergies expanded to sesame.

    Praying that you get really good test results — and lots of plain, bland food. We did two blood tests, a skin test, and an office challenge before we were satisfied. Hang in there, mama!

  32. Holy cow! I’m so happy that he’s ok and you were there and that every small decision led to him being treated and safe. I know how it feels and this gave me that anxiety/panic feeling just reading it, but this, too, shall pass and you will find out the cause and be able to move forward. Prayers & hugs!

  33. Earlier this year a spice company had a peanut cross contamination with cumin. I think it was a spice company that supplies food companies and restaurants. I had an issue after eating Mexican food on a vacation.

  34. I know this is a very later response – I’m so sorry to hear that you had such a terrifying experience. It’s a wonderful blessing that you allowed your intuition to lead you rather than talking yourself out of reacting for fear of over-reacting. I read through as many comments as I could and maybe this was mentioned before, but is it possible that his french fries were cooked in peanut oil or a blend that contains nut oil? My partner can’t eat french fries from Chik-Fil-A or five guys because they use nut oils to cook their fries. She, unfortunately, had to find out the hard way with Chik-Fil-A. Luckily we had an epi-pen with us and now we inquire about all fried foods on the rare occasions that we do eat out.

  35. Oh Jules! I’ve been reading your blogs for years, to the point that I almost feel like you’re a friend (no, I’m not a weirdo). My heart sank reading this post. Just wanted to add my voice to the well-wishers, and send along prayers and best wishes for you and your family.

    If it helps, another blogger I read (Roo Ciambriello) runs a food allergy blog called “Scratch or Sniff”, which might have some good info for you. She’s also working on a phone app (called Gumshoe) related to crowdsourcing food allergy information, but I don’t know if it’s launched yet.

  36. First of all, I wish we lived closer so that I could drive straight over and give you a hug. (And then introduce myself — awkward!) This story makes me want to rock myself in a corner just reading it!

    Although I’ve never experienced this firsthand, a friend of mine did and it turned out to be due to pine nuts — of all things! — that was in pesto they’d eaten at a friend’s house. I mean, how random?!

    Hoping you’ll get clear answers SOON. Just…terrifying.

  37. I am a mom of 6. Five of my kids have asthma, one is dairy allergic, one has OAS (oral allergy syndrome0 to pineapple, mango and broccoli, and one is anaphylactic to tree nuts and peanuts, as well as reactive to latex and allergic to neosporin. That kid also has eczema, so he has the Great Trifecta, which means that any asthma or allergic reaction is much worse and much more severe.

    My older kids had been tossing a cold back and forth, and my son (who is 15) came downstairs and said that he felt terrible and thought he was coming down with the same cold – he’d just woken for the day. I told him to take some dayquil. And then I went to get into the shower.

    I got out of the shower thoroughly pissed off, because the kids were banging on my door and yelling and I just really, really wanted to take a shower. Turns out, when you see your brother’s face swell to the size of a balloon, and he starts clawing at himself – well, yeah, break the door down to get to your mom. I dosed him with benadryl, grabbed three Avi-Q’s, and drove like a bat out of hell to the Children’s Hospital, where his allergist is a resident.

    I made the choice to drive for two reasons – one, the closest hospital to us would be the one an ambulance would transport to, and his grandfather had just died at that hospital – and two, he’d eaten zero foods. Nothing. If he’d eaten anything, I would have assumed cross contamination, jabbed him with the epi and called for an ambulance. But I didn’t know what it could be – I mean, DayQuil? That was all he’d had! I was able to get a hold of his pediatrician, who talked to him on the phone as we drove and if he’d been unable to talk or the swelling had gotten worse, I knew I’d epi, pull over and call for an ambulance.

    Turns out, the kid is allergic to tylenol. TYLENOL. We spent the entire day in the ER, after he came in with really low b/p, tachycardia, trouble breathing, and a swollen face and neck. We did steroids and observed and ultimately added another line to his medical alert tag.

    It sounds like you are doing all the right things. Allergies suck, people suck more – like a family member who just told my son that he’s not allergic, he’s just picky and if he ate fresh, living foods like kale and wheatgrass as well as thought positively – he’d have no more food allergies. Yeah, she’s not got a medical degree, so she’s just an ass. Allergies scare me to death.

    One note for if you do decide to fly – bring a fitted bedsheet with you to cover his plane seat, and a bag of clorox wipes and use those to wipe down the entire seat, the tray – everything.


  1. […] just the slightest bit pink. Already less pink than earlier. Whatever was going on, it was nothing like what happened in July. We would be okay. (I just reread that post. Yuck. My fear oozed out ofevery […]

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