Saturday, October 1, 2011

Calculated Risk

When someone in your family has a long-term health problem, such as food allergies, there are constant debates about how to handle things. How careful should you be? How much impact to other family members is ok? How do you maintain balance between one child's protection and other children's sacrifices? Obviously, the life of one child is worth a few sacrifices on the part of the other children. But what if the sacrifices you make to protect your allergic child are not actually necessary?

When Sophie was about 6 months old, she had her first reaction to peanuts. At the time, I didn't know she had a peanut allergy. Her older sister kissed her after eating a peanut butter sandwich. 3 year olds tend to be on the messy side, and there was enough peanut butter on her sister's lips to leave a little smudge on Sophie's face. That smudge produced 100 or so hives, covering Sophie from the waist up. Over the next few months, she had several minor reactions to peanuts. She reacted when we visited a friend who had baked peanut butter cookies earlier in the day, and whenever anyone opened a jar of peanut butter in the house. We talked things over and decided to eliminate peanuts from our home.

Part two of the story came several years later. Our oldest missed eating peanut butter. She begged us to buy some just for her to make sandwiches to take to school. My husband and I agreed. This was a calculated risk. We knew that Sophie had reacted in the past to minute exposures to peanuts. However, I felt that this risk could be tightly enough controlled that it didn't have to be a worry.

As time passed with no problems, I began to allow the girls to eat peanut butter around Sophie, and now we have had peanuts in the house for years and never had a problem. And, the calculated risk we took years ago, so our oldest could have peanut butter sandwiches at school, has given us peace of mind with Sophie being in school, at playdates, etc.

We could have maintained a peanut-free home, ignoring our oldest daughter's requests. The sacrifice would have been for nothing, since clearly Sophie has been safe in our home despite the peanuts. I am glad we were able to take the calculated risk.


  1. I find your stories interesting. It must have been incredibly scary to watch those hives appear on your baby! From a distance, and with little insight into these matters, it seems that you and Jeff and your family have done an amazing balancing act with Sophie's allergies...