I read somewhere online this weekend that for people with allergies, reading labels is as natural as buckling a seat belt when you get into a car.
On Thursday, I grabbed the cake mix and with my 2 youngest boys, began making a cake for my husband's birthday. They had a blast. I let them lick the mixer paddle. After I spooned the cake mix into the cake pan, I gave both of them spatula's and let them scrape out the bowl. My youngest has an intense appetite for sweets, so he wasn't going to stop until every last bit was gone from the bowl. My other son, David, decided he had had enough. I didn't give that a second thought. It isn't unusual for my 3rd son to continue on beyond a reasonable amount of sugar.
I took pictures of my kids making Daddy's cake. These pictures make me cringe now.
A few minutes later, David told me his throat was scratchy. I didn't give it much of a thought. I was busy cleaning the kitchen mess and David has seasonal allergies (we give him daily doses of Zyrtec this time of year). I suggested he get some water. I provided him with a glass of water. He drank it down pretty quickly. He said his throat felt scratchy when he swallowed. Still, I did not think about his peanut allergy.
Within minutes, as I continued to clean the kitchen, I noticed that David was laying down on the couch. That was noticeably unusual behavior. I went over to him to check on him. I asked if he was okay. Then, I noticed the hives on his mouth.
I got him up off the couch "So I could look at the itchy bumps on his face." I brought him outside in the sun so I could see his hives clearer.
My 1st reaction was to call my husband and grab the Benedryl. I gave David Benedryl. My husband said he was leaving work immediately.
I noticed David's bottom lip was red.
He said his bottom lip really itched. It was red and beginning to swell.
David wanted more water. He asked if I was going to take him to the doctor.
I called my husband. I asked him if he thought I should give David the Epipen or take him to the hospital. He said that he was more than half way home. I should keep watching David and he would be home pretty quick.
David told me that his throat was hurting constantly except when he swallowed water.
I called my husband back. I walked away from David. I told him about David's throat. I told him I was freaking out. I told him that the hives were going away but that David was really complaining about his throat. He said he thought I should wait and that he would be there in a matter of minutes.
By the time my husband got home, the hives were gone. David's lip was still red and it was still itchy but my husband couldn't tell noticeable swelling. David's throat was still hurting but he said it was getting better.
My husband called our allergist. First, he talked to the nurse. By the time the allergist called us back, David's symptoms were almost gone. The allergist said, if it has been an hour and half and his symptoms are gone, we did not need to do anything different. He said that what we did was "okay" but we should not ever hesitate to give the Epipen. He asked if we had ever let him eat cookie or cake batter before. We eat dough fairly often (we all love cookie dough here). He said it was definitely not an egg allergy (David was allergic to eggs as an infant but outgrew that by age 2).
Within two hours of eating the cake batter, David was totally fine.
I was not.
The cake mix that we used was Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Classic White Cake mix. It does not have peanuts or peanut flour listed in the ingredients. It only lists "Soy, Milk, Wheat" as allergens.
My husband did an Internet search on the mix and peanut allergies. He found other reports of allergic reactions to the cake from children with peanut allergies.
I was a wreck that night. There was irony in my day. That very morning I had emailed a friend about how we read cake mix labels (because we were talking about parties). That night, I found my Beyond a Peanut Flashcards in the mail that I won during the Food Allergy Twitter party. (By the way, these cards are wonderfully educational. They describe, quite accurately, the symptoms my son experienced.)
I spent the weekend bouncing between feeling extremely defeated (because the labeling failed me) and feeling extremely angry. I couldn't place my anger or decide who or what I was angry at. But, I was, indeed, very angry. I tried spending time on allergy websites. Everything says READ LABELS.
I called Duncan Hines. The cake mix is made by a third party manufacturer (which they cannot give me the location or name of). They are assured by this company that the product is made on a dedicated line (though there may be peanut products at the same plant). The DH representative called me back after my initial contact to make sure I knew they are in compliance with the law. Peanut is not listed on the box because it is not an ingredient and they have documentation from the company that the mix is not on a shared line. They are in compliance with the law.
Just an FYI: As I understand it, the law does not require allergen statements such as, "Made in a factory that produces peanuts" or "May contain peanuts".
I was told I would hear from Duncan Hines again.
In the meantime, we made a cake from scratch on Friday and celebrated my husband's birthday.
I continue to struggle.
I will continue to press on (and make more of my baked goods from scratch). I will continue to read labels. I will continue pray for the safety of my son. And, if anything like this happens again, both my husband and I will not take a chance on time. We will not wait- we will give my son his Epipen right away.
Reading labels is as second nature to me as putting on a seat belt.
The sad fact is, even with a seat belt, accidents happen. Cars still crash.
Labels are not full-proof. This is a harsh reality for me but I will still do everything I can to protect my son.