Enormous Changes: Back to School with a Nut Allergy


Fifteen days ago my sons ate cookies on the way home from their grandmother’s apartment.  My 3-year-old son, Adam, arrived at the door spitting, begging for a drink, and repeatedly saying the cookie was salty. 

“Did the cookies taste bad?” I asked my older sons.

 “No,” they both said.  “They were really good.”

A few minutes later Adam was pale and drowsy.  Then he vomited and vomited.   I had never seen a child become so violently ill so quickly.  There were no warning signs.  He didn’t have a fever. “I’m scared he’s been poisoned,” I said to Mike.  “I think he needs to see a doctor right now.” But before doing anything else, I called Poison Control. Poison Control told me nothing, except to go to urgent care. 


I hurried into a cab with Adam.  He could not stay awake during the ride.  I carried him into the clinic, cradled, like a newborn.  In the clinic the doctor told me there is no such thing as a poisoned cookie, and that I should stop having delusional fantasies.  I held my ground.  “Adam was not sick before the cookie,” I said.  “And I know it’s not a virus.  I just know this is connected to the cookie.

“What kind of cookie was it?” the doctor asked.

“I was told it was a butter cookie.”

“Butter cookies can spoil if left out of the refrigerator,” the doctor explained.  He was irritated and patronizing.

“No,” I said.  “This is something else.  I really think Adam ate some kind of poison.”

After examining Adam, the doctor changed his tone and admitted him to the treatment room.  We walked in and Adam vomited again.  He got an IV, cried, and then fell asleep.  But every few minutes he woke up to cough.  He coughed until he gagged. Then, behind his ears, on his neck, and scalp, Adam turned bright red.  Shortly thereafter red spots appeared on his arms and legs. 


Around the same time I received the news that my mother-in-law had tracked down the cookie baker and learned the cookies contained four ingredients: butter, flour, sugar, and pistachios (and not sleeping pills, rat poison, or bleach). But… pistachios.  I had heard of a pistachio allergy.  I called the doctor over to Adam’s bed and asked if Adam could be having an allergic reaction to pistachios. 




After being treated with steroids and antihistamine, Adam improved.  He stopped coughing.  The red went away.  By evening we were home.  


This week we spent two long afternoons at the allergist’s office.  We have confirmed that Adam is highly allergic to pistachios and cashews.  “It’s dangerous,” the allergist said.


No fucking kidding. 


I slept very little this last week. I’ve been reading a lot about having a child with a nut allergy.  I’ve been crying here and there.  I’ve been angry – nothing particularly cathartic about voicing anger at a pistachio, yet I do it anyway.  I wished for a nut-free earth until I thought of the mother squirrels who need to feed their babies.  Then I took back my wish.  I felt the emotions of a D-parent a few times when people told me to just “make sure he’s not exposed to nuts and he’ll be fine.”  Like, “just manage your kid’s blood sugar and he’ll be fine.”  It’s really easy, right?  Am I going to be next to my son every second?  What if another 3-year-old kid at a birthday party hands Adam a cookie just as I’ve looked away to get my phone out of my bag?  And what if I forgot the Epipen?  What if a million other things?  

I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for days, but I haven’t wanted to write it.  I still don’t and I’m having a hard time doing more than just getting down some facts.  I feel flat, dry, trampled.  

The first day of nursery school was this morning.  I sent Adam and along with his diapers and change of clothes, I packed the Epipen.   It made me sad.  But the picture below makes me happy, and I’m working on a plan.  I want to train Adam’s feline guardians to become nut-sniffers, though I’m not sure how they’ll feel about going to nursery school every day.  


Notify of
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scott K. Johnson
10 years ago

Oh man, what a scare.  Poor little guy.

Karen Graffeo
10 years ago

Oh Jess, how scary that must have been.  And how scary that must still be.   :(

Kim Vlasnik
10 years ago

I was frightened for him, just reading this! Glad you received some answers to work with, even if they aren’t the sort you’d hoped for. <3

10 years ago

@Nora: Our doctor said the same thing about pistachios and cashews.  He didn’t even test for cashews.  He said that they go together and the response to them will be the same.

@Lorraine: I’m amazed at all you manage! 

And thanks for the support. 

10 years ago

Oh my goodness! How frightful! I’m so sorry you and he went through all that! My son, Caleb, who is also T1D, was dx’d with a peanut allergy at the age of two. This was before the T1D dxd. I distinctly remember sitting in the parking lot of my older son’s preschool totally overwhelmed by the diagnosis and not understanding how I would be able to protect Caleb. I remember trying to read all the labels in the grocery store – at the time, the new requirements to bottom-line the allergens and put them in simple terms were not in… Read more »

10 years ago

hi Jess, so sorry that you had to go through all this. so scary. thank god Adam is OK. Adam and the cats are just too adorable. miss u

Jessica Apple
10 years ago

Thank you all for your comments and support. 

10 years ago

Jessica, so sorry you had to experience that with your son.  My son’s allergist told me that my son who is allergic to cashews (and peanuts and eggs) may also need to avoid pistachios because they are related somehow.  Really freaked me out because I was not aware of the pistachio issue.  Luckily we have been avoiding all nuts due to his allergies but it is still scary that one little food item can cause such harm.  Try to research food allergy support groups in your area.  I have learned a lot from other parents who are in similar situations. 

10 years ago

I can relate to your worrying. My DS has had anaphylactic allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts, and peanuts since he was a baby. He can not eat out at all. I have to cook for him and plan every aspect of a simple day out and about as well as a family vacation.  Be aware of cross-contamination when you cook and eat out. With the allergy being just nuts, you should be ok, but I’d make sure he is tested for all other allergens too.  Take a breath, and know that this is a learning process. It takes some time,… Read more »

Sysy Morales
10 years ago

Jessica, I am SO sorry.  I cried while reading this post.  I can’t imagine how scary that was for you guys.  This is one of those things that people don’t think is a big deal until it happens to you.  It’s TOTALLY a big deal.  My 3 year old is very allergic to egg and peanuts.  People think I’m some kind of freak…but I’m not, I’m just well aware of how dangerous it is for her to have some of those foods.  And they are freaking everywhere just like nuts.  I really am sorry, I can feel your pain.  And… Read more »

Copyright © 2009-2021 Diabetes Media Foundation, All Rights Reserved.
ASweetLife™ is a trademark of the Diabetes Media Foundation, All Rights Reserved.
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x