Thursday, September 16, 2010

We have had the first allergic reaction of the school year ... and it didn't happen at school

I can't believe we had a serious allergic reaction within the first two weeks of school, after having avoided one for the past year. What is even more unbelievable is that it did not happen at school - it happened when I was with Ainsley ... at a birthday party.

As I've explained before, I hate taking Ainsley to birthday parties. It is a hassle for me, as (on top of getting the birthday kid a present) I have to pack a cupcake and something else for Ainsley to eat, depending on what food will be at the party. But when Ainsley started kindergarten I decided to take her to more parties so she could socialize with her classmates, with whom she'll be going to school for the next several years. The first birthday party of the school year happened two weeks after the start of school. It was for a sweet little girl whom Ainsley hardly knew, at a barnyard close to our house. The barnyard was really a petting zoo. Attached to the petting zoo was a party room where the cake and other food was to be served.

As soon as we arrived, Ainsley started jumping in a bounce house that was by the petting zoo. After she tired of that, she wandered over to the petting zoo and began petting the bunnies, goats, and miniature horses. She did that for about 10 minutes and then went back to the jump house (after I put sanitizer on her hands).

A few minutes later, Ainsley started crying in the bounce house because she'd landed wrong on her ankle. When she climbed out so I could look at the ankle, I immediately noticed lots of raised hives on her forehead. They were all near the same location so the result was that most of the center of her face looked horribly red and swelled. I instantly forgot about the ankle and got into allergy-parent mode. I knew right away what had happened - the animal food must have had nuts in it, and she must have gotten residue on her hands from petting the animals and then spread it to her face.

I took her as fast as I could to the bathroom, where I gave her two teaspoons of Benadryl and began washing off every part of her exposed skin. I then washed off my arms, legs, and face and did the same for my 2-yr-old, who was with us. I was so relieved that Ainsley was exhibiting no internal symptoms. The hives on her face looked nasty, but at least she didn't need the Epi-Pen.

As soon as I washed all of us off, I explained to Ainsley that we had to leave the party because she couldn't be around the residue anymore. She was so upset - she started crying hysterically, because she wanted to stay. This is one of those times when I kept saying over and over to myself, "Food allergies really suck." What a cruel condition to have, that keeps your kid from enjoying or even staying at a birthday party.

I walked back to the party quickly to thank the host for inviting us and to explain why we had to leave. Then we hurried out of there and went home, where I had all of us immediately strip down and shower. I then threw all of our clothes into the wash and hosed off our shoes. It's funny how contaminated I felt at that moment - like I had rolled around in toxic waste. What a strange life we lead.

Clearly, I re-learned my lesson about birthday parties. We'll certainly never go to another one at that barnyard, and I will be even more careful around petting zoos (we'd never had a problem at one before, but I knew it was possible). And next time we get invited to a birthday party, we'll go if it's for a good friend of Ainsley's; otherwise, we'll just stay home.

Ainsley about 20 minutes after she got the Benadryl and was washed off. It actually looked worse before that.


Kirk said...

So sorry to read of her reaction! Food allergies stink especially in social settings! Your poor sweet girl. My egg allergic toddler came home from bible school yesterday with an egg carton catepillar and a puffy eye all afternoon.

Kate said...
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Kate said...

Are you sure it was the animal feed and not something in the bouncy house? Just curious b/c as I was reading your post, my first thought was that there must've been a residue in the bouncy house -- like if a prior user had gotten peanut butter hands on it or something like that. But you were there, so you probably have a better idea. I was just curious how you knew.
Glad she's okay.

Leigha said...

Hi Kate,

Of course, I can't be 100% certain it wasn't something in the bounce house, but Ainsley's been in many, many bounce houses before and never had the slightest reaction. And I have read that animal feed oftentimes contains common allergens such as eggs, dairy, and especially peanuts/tree nuts. Ainsley has had a slight reaction before when we've been in a combination barn/stable (after a carriage tour on our Charleston trip) - after we left she started getting random itchiness and hives on her skin - so since that time I have been especially cognizant of the potential for animal feed to trigger an allergic reaction (she didn't pet any animals when we were in the Charleston barn but I think there was a lot of feed residue in the air).

Jennifer said...

Aw I wouldn't let fear stop you from going to more parties. They are an important place to make friends. You handled the reaction perfectly. It could have happened anywhere. I think it could make her fearful when you do say yes to a party of a close friend if you start telling her it's not safe to go to other not-so-close classmates' parties. Plus it makes a bigger deal out of the reaction than need be. Believe me I know it's extra work to bring your own lunch and treats, but it goes a long way in teaching your child not to let fear get in the way of friends and life and fun!