I do say so myself, my son is an excellent eater. This is a bragging point among parents, who talk about their toddlers’ palates like other people talk about their LSAT scores or home-resale values. We’re charmers all, in our ways.
On eggs, though, he never would budge. It took me a long time to realize the obvious reason why, and in the meantime I decided that he must not have a sweet tooth, that his rejection of all baked goods meant I had fed him enough boiled spinach and pureed baby carrots to permanently turn him off sweets, to forever safeguard him from childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes, to declare myself a lifelong champion of parenthood.
As it turns out, my son is allergic to eggs, which—if you did not know, as I did not—are a common ingredient in most sugary baked goods. Extremely common. WebMD also lists them as the second most common allergy in young children.
I felt smart.
We’ve been lucky in that the few times we did—unknowingly—manage to coax my son to eat eggs, his reactions were mild. Apparently that can change, which is why his doctor prescribed him an Epipen, which is why I have to carry a needle around in my purse all of the time. And I am so grateful for that needle! Should my son one day accidentally eat eggs and go into anaphylactic shock, that little needle carries with it life-saving powers that we’re fortunate to be able to access and afford.
However, also, dear God ew and please never ever ever let it touch me.
Like the needle lurking in the satchel I must now carry forever and always in a ready position at my side, I didn’t really worry about my son’s allergy until we started researching it. It turns out egg allergies are so, so normal in kids. And some extremely high number of children outgrow them. That doesn’t mean it can’t kill ’em, though! You should know that eggs can actually kill children. I love you, little needle. I hate you so much.
It’s looking at me right now, isn’t it.
After everyone I know and love told me not to worry, that I wouldn’t forget, or start sleep-baking quiche, or inadvertently buy an egg-based baby shampoo, we eventually did start to get used to the idea. To checking ingredients. To always packing his lunch. To bringing Rice Krispie treats bedazzled with sprinkles and Skittles to other kids’ birthday parties so he wouldn’t feel left out not getting a cupcake.
Other people don’t seem as used to it. “Oh, God,” we get a lot of the time. “That’s so hard. Eggs are a tough one. Eggs are everywhere.”
“Thank you,” I always say. “This has been a hard time, but I’m lucky that I have a support team. My spouse and my parents have really been there for me.”
“We were talking about your son,” they say.
“Oh,” I say. “Hey, I have to carry a double-safety-locked needle around in my bag. It’s totally, totally gross. Want to see?”
Our pediatrician prescribed us the Epipen. She also referred us to an allergist. She said we had to go have the allergy confirmed, which is very prudent but also was a thing I really didn’t want to go do.
I have my own allergies, and I remember trips to the allergist when I was a kid. Maybe I haven’t been absolutely clear on this point, but I’m not big on needles, and guess what I remember a whole lot of from the allergist? I try to stay calm for my son when we go in for his shots, but at the allergist circa 1989 they gave you a very wide bevy of shots.
We made the appointment. On the drive there, I started to lose my cool, so I did what I always do when I, as a parent, feel the reins of control starting to slip from my hands: Bribe him with candy.
After a trip to the allergist’s office, I told him, you go to the grocery store and pick out any candy you want! That’s the rule. It’s the allergist’s rule. Isn’t he a nice man? We agreed he must be.
It so happens that, 27 years later, the allergist’s office isn’t what it used to be. Now they offer “needle-free” testing and really, really good stickers. My son loved the allergist and cheerfully let me know that by no means let me off the hook with the candy.
You’ll recall I had promised him any candy, which was a mistake. Did you know a whole lot of foods have egg in them? Did you know that candy is a subset of the category “food”?
My husband is allergic to black mold, which isn’t good for anyone but in him produces a specific and pretty unpleasant reaction. I feel sorry for my husband. I hate seeing him suffer. But if he does have to suffer, it is noble of him to be the canary in our mine. If there’s black mold in our house, we always know with just one look at him—miserable, hunched over, a little reminiscent of a large, ill yellow bird if you squint right and really try to see it. Then we just have to locate the source. I stop short of asking him to wander room to room, journaling symptoms, but I keep a close eye.
Where my son is concerned, I’ve learned a little bit since his diagnosis, like the Rice Krispie trick, and not to frequent establishments that use woks. By and large, my son’s allergy means nobody in our family eats eggs, unless we have to persuade my daughter—an extremely picky eater—to eat something, anything, that day. She has fast learned the one thing she can have that he can’t and relishes smearing boiled yolk all over her lips and face as a sign of having the upper hand.
To date, my daughter exhibits no allergies. My son maintains a yearly standing appointment at the allergist. They say that, when the time’s right, they’ll send us home with a recipe for muffins that we bake in our kitchen and bring back to the office, where we all gather around and watch as my son takes a bite. Then we wait for what happens and hope we don’t have to use the Epipen—some of us hoping harder than others.
Thirty-five years ago, before my parents moved to Northern Virginia, my dad used to tell my mom that she didn’t have allergies, that her seasonal itchy eyes and fatigue were all in her head. Then they did move here, and my dad was suddenly struck with much itchiness of the eyes. My mom seems to really like telling this story.
My doctors say I’ve probably outgrown my own allergies. I was diagnosed with allergies to penicillin and Keflex in the late 1980s, and they made a big enough deal out of it that my mom carried the names of the medications written on a Post-It in her wallet for the better part of for 20 years. Now I’m told that the diagnosis could have been wrong in the first place, that kids in the ’80s were often misdiagnosed with hives when they really had a exit rash from a virus or another mysterious but harmless root cause of red, blotchy spots.
I suppose I’m mostly happy to know this—but a part of me wonders when anyone was going to get around to telling my mom.
And should it turn out that a high number of kids in 2016 were misdiagnosed with egg allergies, please tweet me. Write my editor. Somehow, get me word. A needle lives in my bag, and I’m having a strong reaction.