Can peanuts expire?
Susan doesn’t believe in babies having allergies, but no-one told Finn

I have never been big on all this baby and allergy business. In fact I’ve found the whole thing rather annoying. It’s not that I don’t believe in allergies. I, myself, have been known to get the sniffles around cats and high pollen counts. But this kind of alarmist ‘You can’t feed them dairy, wheat, seafood, nuts, egg white, citrus, potatoes and tomatoes until they’re old enough to say onomatopoeia,’ has always felt a little too much like hard work.


Luckily when Finn was exposed to most of these potentially toxic ingredients before his first birthday his little system coped marvellously well and he has been happily eating breakfasts of hard boiled eggs and whole-wheat toast with full-cream milk for many months now.


And so, a few weeks ago, when I first gave Finn the smallest smidgen of peanut butter and he developed a rash around his mouth, I was ever so slightly put out. ‘Hmmm,’ I said to Thandi, as Finn spat out the offending substance. ‘He doesn’t seem to like peanut butter. I wonder where that rash has come from?’ I blamed it on him having just returned from the pollen-infested park. ‘He must’ve been rubbing his face in the park,’ I speculated.


And so a couple of weeks later I gave him peanut butter again. This time I spread the sticky substance on a cracker and gave Finn a bite. He spat it out immediately and simultaneously shoved his entire fist into his mouth in what looked like an attempt to yank out his tongue. ‘He really doesn’t seem to like it,’ I sighed loudly at Thandi, irritated. She had another theory. ‘Maybe it’s because it’s expired,’ she said. While I checked the expiry date on the bottom of the bottle (February 2008) small red bumps again appeared around his mouth. I knew Thandi’s hypothesis was unlikely but I hoped like hell that she was right.


Two weeks later Finn and I popped round to our best friends down the road. On arrival we found them (mommy and two daughters) happily tucking into a large bowl of peanuts and raisins. ‘Hm,’ I mused, trying to sound flippant. ‘I’m a bit worried that Finn might be allergic to peanuts.’

‘Well, there’s only one way to find out,’ my friend pronounced and popped one small peanut into Finn’s expectant beak. He gobbled it up and quickly demanded, ‘Maw!’ We resisted his request and nudged him off to play, watching him closely as he tore around her large coffee table, stopping every now and again to push over a glass vase or empty a cup of tea onto the dog. Finn was clearly his normal cheerful self.


 It was only two-and-half hours later once we’d returned home and were getting ready for his bath that he started to look very uncomfortable. He whined and seemed intent on removing his skin from his abdomen. On whipping off his T-shirt, Roxi and I discovered that our little boy was covered from neck to bum with large red itchy welts. I knew not to mess around with things like peanut allergies so once we’d removed him from the bath and doused him in calamine lotion we rushed off to the pharmacist down the road.


The unmoved and docile young man prescribed an antihistamine and sent us on our way. Twenty minutes later Finn vomited in that way that only babies can vomit – covering his entire bedroom contents in thick white goo. But once the incriminating peanut was out, he transformed. The rash subsided and Finn fell into a peaceful sleep.


The next morning Finn was just fabulous, but I was distraught. How could this have happened? I’ve never even heard of someone having a peanut allergy never mind knowing anyone. I thought it was something that only happened to Americans. But the absolute most devastating part of the whole saga is that I have to abandon my plans to bring Finn up on peanut butter sandwiches for the next 18 years. For now, we’re off to an allergist for proper testing, in the hope that those peanuts he ate had also just expired.


Do you think allergies are over-emphasised? Has anyone in your family had an allergic episode?


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