I want to start this post off by rewinding to the day my daughter had her first anaphylactic reaction to peanuts. She was just two years old and immediately had a violent reaction upon eating her first bite of peanut butter. We were already at the hospital by the time my mother-in-law called my husband's cousin's wife, Lisa Rutter, to ask for prayers for our daughter. My MIL knew that Lisa's son was also allergic to peanuts and that Lisa was very involved in the food allergy community. The first thing I saw once we got home and had all calmed down was that I had been invited to join the No Nuts Moms Group community on Facebook. I joined that afternoon and saw a post by Lisa from earlier that day: "I just received a VM that my husband's cousin's little girl just had her first bite of peanut butter and now she is on her way to the hospital. I do not have details. Please send them prayers. Thank you!" In just a couple of hours, over 30 moms of allergic children had commented that they were praying for us. I cried while reading through all of the kind, thoughtful and genuine comments and expressions of concern. Our world had just been turned upside-down and there was a whole army of women who reached out to me that day with love, prayers and support. Lisa has been there for me since day one. The No Nuts Moms Group has been an incredible source of support and has absolutely lit my life during some dark and challenging times. I am now a Co-Leader for the No Nuts Moms Group of Cleveland and am so excited to introduce Lisa to all of my readers and followers. She is one amazing woman, mother and advocate. And without further ado...
First things first, what is the No Nuts Moms Group and is it open only to those managing peanut and/or tree nut allergies?
We are a group dedicated to learning, educating, supporting and connecting others. We have over 50 peanut and tree nut free groups for families dealing with life threatening food allergies. All of our play dates and outings are peanut and nut free and our group is open to all families dealing with life threatening food allergies. We are a great resource and support system for many types of allergies, not just peanut and tree nut allergies.
Why did you create the No Nuts Moms Group and what did you envision for the group when you created it?
I created the group after my oldest son was diagnosed with a peanut and tree nut allergy. I wanted to meet with other families dealing with the same thing. I wanted playmates for my son and also support for myself. When I first started the group, I honestly didn't really have much of a vision. I really just wanted to form a local play group for moms and children with peanut and tree nut allergies. The more I learned and the more involved I got within the food allergy community, the more I wanted to help educate, support and bring families together in other areas.
When and how did you find out about your son’s allergy?
My son was diagnosed at the age of three years old on March 7, 2011. I always refer to this day as a complete shock and I looked like a deer caught in headlights as the allergist told me, but really I shouldn't have been so surprised. I should refer to it as denial and a complete lack of knowledge regarding food allergies. On that day my son was also diagnosed with seasonal and environmental allergies, but this was expected since my entire family seems to suffer from allergies. But the food allergy diagnosis was so new to us and I didn't know much about it. I shouldn't have been so surprised because all of the signs were there. When my son was one year's old, he took a tiny lick of peanut butter ice cream and broke out in a rash around his mouth. Unfortunately, when things like this happened, my son's pediatrician was quick to dismiss it. I complained prior to this about him being colicky and having irritated skin while I was breast feeding. He also had the swollen eyes and vomiting after eating certain foods. The pediatrician's response to the ice cream was, "I am sure he is fine, just hold off on reintroducing peanut butter until he is three or four." The response to the other reactions was that it could be gas or a bug bite on his eye. I was a new mom and this doctor was a very trusted and respected doctor. I truly believe he is a great doctor, but not for dealing with food allergies. When we relocated to Michigan, I told the new pediatrician about his history and how I was keeping him away from peanut butter just to be safe and she said, "You need to get him tested by an allergist ASAP." Thank goodness for her and thank goodness my son was ok during his other reactions. That brings me back to March 7, 2011 when our entire world changed forever. The allergist told me that he was allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and that he could die from an allergic reaction. I was told to never leave the house without his EpiPen and to remove anything in my house containing peanuts and tree nuts. I am truly thankful for this advice because it made me take the diagnosis seriously and prompted me to research and learn as much as I could.
Why do you think the group grew so quickly? What does the NNMG offer?
The group has grown so much and I think the rise in food allergies has a lot to do with it. I also think when people get the diagnosis of food allergies, they feel scared, overwhelmed and alone and it helps so much to connect with others feeling the same. The group offers the latest food allergy news, support, advice and an opportunity to make lifelong connections.
What do you see for the No Nuts Moms Group in the future?
I think it would be great for the group to continue to grow and connect families from all over. If we stick together we can bring great change within our communities.
For someone who’s child was recently diagnosed, what resources and sources of support would you tell them about?
There are so many great resources out there, but here are some of my favorites: Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Connection Team FAACT, Kids With Food Allergies (KFA), Asthma & Allergy Network Mother's of Asthmatics (AANMA), Allergic Living, Epipen, AllergyHome, Team Anaphylaxis.
What has helped you learn to manage food allergies and how have you been supported throughout your journey?
The group has been a huge support system for myself. I have made lifelong connections with so many families. Just knowing that there is always someone out there to help is so great. If I ever need any support or advice, I just jump online and someone is always there. I know I will never be alone on this journey.
Is there one piece of advice you would give to a family with a recent diagnosis?
Learn as much as you can and try to educate the people around you and your family. Try not to live in fear. Be prepared, not scared.
What are some of your favorite products?
We really like SunButter, WOW Butter, HomeFree Cookies, Amanda's Own Chocolates and Confections, Skeeter Cookies and Snacks and Vermont Nut Free Chocolates. I could go on and on, but these are some of my top favorites. You can also find a list of our favorite medical IDs and EpiPen carriers on the No Nuts Moms Group Allergy Friendly Sites page.
What is the silver lining of having to manage food allergies on a daily basis?
The silver lining for me is being a part of one of the best communities out there. The food allergy community is wonderful and I am so thankful for all of the connections that I have made on this journey. You will never find another community out there that is as compassionate and willing to help so many people.
Thank you Lisa for giving me this opportunity! Love~