Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Peanuts and beyond: Coping with childhood food allergies
By Danielle Larin, M.A,  Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

“You’re daughter is breathing at 80% capacity. To assist her in breathing, we need to administer a breathing treatment, epinephrine and steroids. She will then be under a 4 to 6 hour observation in emergency.”

This phrase or any variation of it sends panic and fear coursing through a parent’s body. As parents, we aim to nurture, protect, and educate our children to the best of our abilities. We work towards reading on developmentally appropriate foods to give. We model healthy food habits by offering fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. We read online and discuss food options with pediatricians, fellow parents, and daycare providers. As a mother of two, I believed I was well prepared for my daughter’s journey towards independent eating. However, I was not ready for the six hours of worry that followed on a December evening.

In my case, the culprit was a dime-sized amount of peanut butter given to my one-year-old daughter. On a beautiful evening following Christmas, we sat together enjoying the glow of our holiday lights. As I sat on the floor with my daughter, enjoying my peanut butter sandwich, she glanced at me and said, “Mmm” and cutely shook her head “yes” affirming she wanted a bite. I hesitantly gave her a lick, knowing that peanuts are one of the most common allergies in the United States. While I was afraid, I rationalized she would be okay because I ate peanut butter while pregnant as well as while I breastfed her. She had not shown any signs of sensitivity, so we were good to go.

Within minutes, she began to sneeze. I chalked it up to a cold she recently contracted from her older brother. Then her sneezing became worse, increasing in frequency and severity. I noticed clear mucous flowing from her nose. I saw she was rubbing her eyes and it was then that I noticed she had broken out in hives all over her body, her eyes were swollen, and I was panicking. I administered Benadryl as her pediatrician directed, hoping that it would reduce her symptoms. Sadly, she was not able to keep the medication in her body. I contacted my emergency advice line, a call that kept me waiting for 18 more minutes. While waiting, I bathed my daughter in an effort to get the vomit off her skin, which was causing a red rash everywhere.

The advice nurse told us to “monitor” her symptoms because she could not hear breathing problems while listening over the phone.  After 3 more incidents of vomiting, my husband and I realized that she was heading into anaphylactic shock and needed to act immediately. We raced to our local urgent care and it was here that we learned that our daughter was struggling to breathe. Her lips and skin had gone from bright pink to a pale grey color, indicating her airways were closing.

We also learned that she was one of many children who had a severe peanut allergy, and that it will be a life-long allergy that will not likely get better. I felt responsible for my child’s allergy and felt like the worst mother on the planet for not acting sooner. In my complacency with an advice nurse’s suggestions, my daughter nearly lost her life.

As scary as this experience was for my family, there were some very valuable lessons that I learned:
·      Emotional Reactivity: The guilt I felt for giving my daughter peanut butter was valid. It is also unfairly ascribed. There was no possible way, short of being clairvoyant, that I could have known my daughter would have this reaction. Thankfully I was with her when it happened and was able to react quickly.
·      Get to an urgent care or emergency room as soon as possible. According to Food and Allergy Research and Education (FARE), every three minutes food allergies send someone to the emergency room. 40% of children with food allergies have severe reactions such as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a multi system reaction in our body to a substance that we cannot tolerate. It can manifest with hives, itching, swelling, and difficulty breathing.
·      Increased Food Awareness: This experience has forced me to be aware of what I am consuming as an extended breastfeeding mother as well as what my daughter consumes. I carefully read labels for all tree nut and peanut traces, ask questions at all restaurants about what types of oil they use to cook, and avoid cross contamination with our utensils.
·      Proactive Advocate for my child’s health: I am the voice of my child. If I do not speak up for her and ask every question I have on her behalf, it could mean the difference between life and death. It’s okay to be afraid, but do not let that fear hurt your child.
·      Increased comfort with the word “No.” I have become comfortable with the word “NO.” I have learned that it is okay to leave a restaurant that uses peanuts in their kitchen. I have learned its okay to leave a place that cannot tell me definitively that they do not use peanut oil. I have become comfortable with telling relatives who have eaten nuts or peanut butter that they cannot hold our child or kiss her due to her allergy. I have to decide what is more important: their needs or my child’s right to life.
·      Lifestyle changes. I have begun educating myself on common allergens, where they can be found, strategies to integrate into life, and using the epinephrine auto-injector. I believe the more information we have, the better equipped we will be to handle an emergency. We can administer my child’s Epi-pen. I can perform child CPR. We are all aware of signs to look for when she has a reaction. My older child knows how to call 9-1-1. We practice stringent cleaning practices. We believe in prevention and early intervention. It will save her life.

If you or your child/children have an allergy, there are things you can do.
1)    Be aware of the signs of reaction
a.     Rash, Swelling, Wheezing or Difficulty breathing, Sneezing, Itchiness
b.     Follow your healthcare providers directives regarding the administration of medications, including Benadryl or Epinephrine auto-injectors. 
2)    Get to the hospital
a.     When in doubt, just go!
3)    Ask, ask, then ask again. There is no such things as a stupid question.
4)    Get support! You are NOT ALONE!
a.     Inquire about parent groups, nutritionists, and accommodations at your schools and daycares.
b.     Seek out counseling if you continue to feel guilt or attachment concerns following your experience.
5)    Seek guidance
a.     Talk to you pediatrician. Discuss your child’s allergies with your WIC office. Read about allergies online through WIC education and blogs. Connect with other WIC parents or those in your neighborhood coping with the same issue.
b.     Visit Food Allergy Research and Education page to read about food allergies.

c.     Visit The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology to learn more about additional allergens and how to live with them

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Just Paint Over Yourself Already!



This morning when my 3-year-old son asked me to join him in painting, I did not expect it to be such a profound experience. As I turned on the "appropriate music" for such a task, my son had already begun filling his white canvas with white paint. I silently judged him. In fact, most of his white paint had be depleted and his sweet eyes begged, "mommy, more please." It began as a bonding experience: matching brush strokes, exchanging ideas, and additional requests for "more white please, mommy." He began with Impressionistic textured short strokes, proceeded to slap the canvas like Jackson Pollock in frivolity before returning to long strokes that seemingly erased the madness. I sat there watching the freedom he gave himself, relishing in the joy he had in trusting his impulses.

The canvas I stared at, on the other hand, had been in my closet for nearly 6 months; untouched, unfinished, and unpolished by my inner critics voice. 

Still not happy after 2nd cover

My son's invitation this morning permitted me the freedom to release my chains, to silence those judges, and be present with him. I began to drift away into the story of my painting. I saw the transformation of colors, the corrections I wanted to make, and the additions. I became acutely aware of how the brushes and I were inseparable. 

In the long strokes I deleted away the worries and cares of the past year. I understood that while I could not go back and scrape the paint off, I could always restart. I looked at my canvas and acknowledged that not once, but twice had I painted over it. Originally it was a "lollipop style tree" done at a Paint Nite with friends. The first "I don't like that" came with the mountains and then the second one came with the background (See it above).  It reminded me that I always have the liberty to be gentle with myself and try again. In the colors that were muddled or ill-matched, I found the courage to search my color wheel and create what I saw in my mind. I am not bound by anyone's opinions. It reminded me that my mind is a powerful tool. I am in control of myself, my words, and reactions. I have the ability to create that which I think and believe. With the texture of my canvas, I found the freedom to express. As an amateur painter, I frequently am caught up with the do's and do not's of painting. In silencing those "rules," it has become easier to accept my paintings and myself. This allowed me to discover that I am the master of my own destiny and that I must accept responsibility for the actions I take and the consequence that are accompanied with them. 

Paintings can teach us a multitude about the artist, their period of life, and frame of mind when we spend time with their work. My final lesson I wish to share is about stepping back. I am in a love/loathe relationship with painting because it reminds me to step away from the details of life and breathe. At times, I must literally stand up and look at my painting, yet I feel like I do not have the luxury of stopping. But that is what painting has taught me. I am on no one's time but my own. It's a great testament to patience. 

It has taught me that I cannot see the beauty of the entire forest if I only look at the dried up creek bed.

My painting and this week's Torah portion ties in beautifully with the Jewish goal of preparation during Elul. This week's portion Ki Tavo extols that each time we are a recipient of something - a gift, a special token from a grandparent, are aware of our health/our life, a blessing from our Rebbe, our intelligence, a chance to restart, an intervention from the Divine- we should react as if it were our first time stepping into eretz Israel. Every moment we have is sacred, is precious and in remembering this we become grateful. Gratefulness cultivates v'hayah, joy, which continuously opens us to repeated blessings. Celebrate with fruit of the new season and bring it to your sukkah at the start of Sukkot. Or perhaps, take it to the forest and leave it there so you can give life to another. 

Ask yourself, what is beyond the painted line? What lies within the forest waiting just for me? How can I graciously verbalize my gratefulness to the Divine in my life. 


© DNKG 2015 Unknown Pathways
20x16 Acrylic on Canvas

© DNKG 2015 Paint Yourself Already

Monday, August 31, 2015

Serpentine Checkmate

Prone against his cobbled earth
scents of wood smoke
gas giants hang loftily,
still against icy wind.

Vibrations rouse my status
as orbs meet sacred Crescent
vaporizing, and the invading light
slithers in for the fiery morn.

Beyond reproach in the demon's burn
the forked venom doth lie
between the pale of undulating scales
and the gravity defying skies

Strike fast in fine heavenly air
sting and bite my honeysuckled dawn
just to be gulled before luna hibernis 
under the glow by which he conceals his pawn




  © DNKG Serpentine Checkmate






Wednesday, August 26, 2015

L'ultima Bruciatura - The Final Burn

La poesia 2 de 3...



L’ultima Bruciatura

Ci sono momenti, in cui può solo rimanere quiescente

Sotto il manto delle tenebre che mette a tacere la boscaglia.

In altri, il bocciolo arriva troppo presto per sbocciare

Spuntando frettolosamente per il pellegrinaggio solitario nel gelo della notte.

La sua voce è in attesa, gorgoglia come un ruscello che scorre tra rocce calcaree.

Una placida energia vitale che pulsa constantemente.

Anelando, scongela il ghiaccio che le ferma le labbra

e rompe le catene della tempesta invernale, ora paladina della riforma.


2015 DNKG L’ultima Bruciatura






Traduzione in Inglese

The Final Burn

There are times, that all she can do is lie dormant

‘neath the carpeted bleakness that silences the thicket.

And other times the bud come too early to bloom

Rising hastily for her lone sojourn across frozen night.

Her voice lies in wait gurgling like the brook under the deep shale;

 A placid life force, which beats steadily.

In her hunger, she thaws the ice engulfing her lips

Burning the shackles of her winter storm,

Now a champion of reform.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Coronas and Chianti



Epochs of biting memories
erased in this solo embrace.
A primal pinch arouses, "Let's
take it beyond or shall we play?"

Unafraid to swim in the depths
to push beyond the former.
The obstructed window offers no view.
Exist HERE, in my Carnality.

The shades of your body
tell the story of our perverted love.
Us: Intertwined, your hands lost
in me, crowning me your jewel.

Scents long forgotten bitten awake
Linger and waft -taste my poison.
Transcend. And lips echo the sweet
lyrics that hug spaces I only know.





 © 2015 DNKG Coronas and Chianti

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