Well, that's not completely true. In retrospect, we're pretty sure that this was "merely" a contact reaction.
Wait, let me back up and start over from the beginning. We went to Florida on vacation. We stayed in a condo and ate most of our meals in. We didn't want to be total party poopers, so we tried venturing to a restaurant with the kids. And as luck would have it, Georgia somehow broke out into a pretty bad case of hives at the table....BEFORE OUR FOOD WAS EVEN SERVED.
Grrrr. What the hell? I mean, seriously, is this a joke? Can we now not even safely set foot in a restaurant?
I guess we will never know for sure what happened, but our best guess is that she brushed up against something on the table and then touched her face, or that some kind of food residue was left on one of the communal crayons in the crayon bucket that Georgia had started using while we were waiting to be served. For a while there, Joe and I had some fears that this incident might indicate that Georgia is now so allergic to fish that the mere presence of fish "fumes" in the restaurant was enough to set off this reaction. However, we've thankfully since proven that theory invalid, by getting back on the horse so to speak and venturing to a restaurant as a family again four days later -- a heavily seafood oriented one at that. (They're a bit hard to avoid when you're staying on an island.) So, it's probably more likely that it was peanut butter or nut residue of some sort on the table, chair or crayons, I'm guessing.
Anyway, a few more details on what happened:
-Georgia went from totally fine, to "Gee, honey, does her face look a bit splotchy to you?", to "Um, she's clawing at her face now..." in a matter of about 2 minutes.
-We gave her some Benadryl but then realized it was boiling hot from having accidentally been left in the car all day. Not being certain whether the active ingredient would still be effective, we didn't want to take any chances. We bolted from the restaurant, (my parents stayed behind to pay and take the food to go), and then our little family sped around the island stopping at four different convenience/grocery/pharmacy stores before finding a fresh bottle of liquid Benadryl for sale. (Just picture 6 months pregnant me, sprinting in and out of each establishment in pursuit of relief for Georgia.)
-I don't know if these were "bad" hives comparatively speaking, but they were certainly the worst case Georgia has ever had. Her face was the worst and continued to blow up a bit as we drove around, and the hives spread to her neck, shoulders and arms - but not nearly as bad as on her face. Her eyes were extremely puffy, especially underneath. I'm not sure the photos I took show any of it very well.
-Joe maintains a "fake calm" front for Georgia when this stuff happens, but man oh man, does he get tense!
-I was anxious and worried watching the hives spread, but not too panicked because I could see that she was breathing fine, and had no swelling of her lips or tongue. Also, we had the Epipens at the ready if things had taken a turn for the worse. (Thank God that did not happen!)
In the end, the Benadryl kicked in, the hives subsided, and all was well. Georgia took a shower back at the condo just to be safe, ate a makeshift dinner, and went to bed. (We later woke her for 1 more dose of Benadryl, just in case. Oddly, we found her out of bed, sleeping face down on the plush carpeted floor! I wonder if that was total coincidence, or if the Benadryl made her a bit loopy?)
So, that's it, but I think this little incident illustrates two things very well:
1) When dealing with a three year old, food allergies are often harder on the parents than the kid. Sorry if that sounds rude or self-centered, but in our experience, Georgia (at this age) doesn't get too upset about foods she can't have. Also, almost all responsibility for what she eats or doesn't eat falls on our shoulders and not hers. She's not even as mentally affected by her reactions as we are while she is having them. She's complaining of the itch, while we're worried that something life threatening is going on. (In the midst of this reaction, she looked down at her arms and said, "Well, the good news is that at least I don't have hives on my face!" I just laughed and said, "Oh, sweetie. If only you could see a mirror.")
2) Sometimes the eventual outcome doesn't paint a full picture (to friends/relatives/third parties) of what it feels like to witness your child having a reaction, or how it can continue to affect you afterwards as a parent. I'm sure that could be said for any type of accident, disease or medical situation involving one's own children, but what I'm getting at is the idea that this reaction can be boiled down to: she touched something, she had some Benadryl, she was fine! And I realize that the "she was fine" part is the most important. But while it's happening? Your blood pressure skyrockets. Your brain wonders "what if?" You blame yourself for having not wiped the table, or for having left the Benadryl in the car, or for whatever else you might come up with. And then afterwards, you're relieved that she's fine but find yourself wondering, "Is it even worth it to go to restaurants?" followed by, "But geez, she can't live her life in a bubble." Then you find yourself on the plane trip home 5 days later thinking, "Oh holy crap, what would I do, and how would I feel, if she had that same kind of "minor" contact reaction right here, in this confined space flying through the air?" (I really tried to put that thought out of my mind, but it did creep in there from time to time as I reprimanded Georgia for senseless (but totally normal for a three year old) behaviors, like putting part of the seatbelt in her mouth.
So, I guess that's it. None of Georgia's reactions (or our responses to the reactions) ever seem to go down "by the book", and we always learn something new. This time it was don't leave the Benadryl in the 90+ degree heat all day, and maybe wipe down your surroundings and don't use communal crayons. On that note, I think we've officially become "one of those" wiping families. Great. Which makes me feel a bit ridiculous, because it's not like you're going to wipe down every bathroom doorknob, or salt shaker, etc., wherever you go -- it's impossible to clean the whole world around you, so wiping any of it seems slightly pointless. On the other hand, once you've witnessed stuff like this happening to your child, suddenly it seems like a really good idea to not use those crayons, to wipe off her chair, and to clean her tray table and arm rests on the plane. (Side note about airplanes: you might recall our interesting encounter with Peanuts on a Plane from last year. This time I made sure to dress Georgia in long sleeves, pants, socks and tennis shoes just to minimize the chances of contact.)
Here are some pictures that I don't feel too bad about posting, though they break my heart a little. (One day I'll ask her permission, but she's still young enough right now that I think she'll look back on these and laugh, and not get mad at her mom for posting unflattering pictures. Besides, she's still cute as a button to me, even with hives.)
(Clear picture of her face from earlier in the day.)
Gratuitous "before" shots from the restaurant, while we waited outside for a table:
(That's her Pop Pop's pink lemonade, the only thing she consumed. An unlikely culprit. And we did confirm that Pop Pop hadn't been eating anything that day that would have caused a cross-contamination problem on the shared straw.)
(Doesn't everyone look so relaxed?)
Okay, and now for the "during" shots. These were not taken at the height of the episode, but after things started to subside a bit. The lighting conditions were bad, (or my photography skills were), so I'm not sure these photos do justice to the puffiness under her eyes.
And finally, a couple of photographs taken about 24 hours later. You can see lingering after effects of the hives. (Is that typical? Her forehead had tiny bumps that looked almost like itty bitty acne for the next several days.)
(It's hard to tell, but can you see the swath of redness running underneath her eye?)
One more gratuitous photo for good measure, my sweet girl sucking fingers as she always does to relax or go to sleep. As you can see, she's no worse for wear: