Peanut butter challenge: Can our high risk daughter pass the test?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) — I’ve never thought more about peanuts in my whole life than I have over the last three years. This emotional roller coaster ride of having your child diagnosed with a life-threatening allergy is a lot to handle.

After my son overcame his peanut allergy earlier this year we’ve been enjoying incorporating peanut butter back into our lives and our cupboards.  We no longer have to check every label, avoid eating out, or say no to birthday treats, Christmas cookies and snacks from anyone but mom or dad. We were enjoying our new-found foodie freedom, including our son!

Related: Allergy testing beating the odds 

Our second child, our daughter Kinsley, is celebrating her first birthday soon and is trying lots of new foods. Up until now she’s been allowed to cautiously try most things except peanuts. This is because her sibling had a peanut allergy making her risk greater. The doctors wanted her to have her first serving of peanut butter under medical supervision (me too)!

The first scratch test

When Kinsley turned 10 months she was starting to eat lots of whole foods and we knew it was time to take the test. Kinsley was tested for peanuts, tree nuts, seeds and eggs. I watched in anticipation as my husband held her. I held my breath for the entire 10 minutes hoping and praying no hives would pop up. Then at the end of the 10-minutes we thought she had passed, until the nurse wiped the spots clear and revealed a hive on the peanut sample. My heart sank.

How could this be?  We were just celebrating overcoming a peanut allergy with our son and now feared we may be starting over with our baby girl.


The doctor discussed the next steps which included a blood test. We all agreed that Kinsley’s skin was so sensitive that we needed to determine if the allergy was really present and if so at what level. We took her to the amazing Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital the same day to get her blood drawn. She did great! I was so impressed. Even at 10 months I can tell Kinsley is going to be a strong, brave girl in life.

About a week later I got an alert that her results were available online. I logged on and sucked in a breath of air, bracing myself for the worst. Yet the results looked very similar to our son’s result which was a great sign! I jumped for joy and called everyone to let them know the good news.

When the Allergist called to discuss the results they let us know her blood test was considered negative. My hopes soared and my motherly intuition felt a sense of victory. “I knew it!”

The next step was to have Kinsley ingest peanut under medical supervision. We were hoping that another scratch test would qualify her to be part of a new study for kids at high-risk of developing a peanut allergy.

Related: Allergy testing: A mom’s fear of the unknown

Food challenge day arrives

We got the call that they were ready to test Kinsley and scheduled the appointment about two weeks before her first birthday. I had to purchase and bring Bambaa peanut butter flavored snack produced and sold in Israel, and Peanut Powder.  I was so nervous, my stomach hurt.  I was worried about putting her through the long test process and what the results may be.

The oral challenge & scratch test include Bamba & peanut powder.
The oral challenge & scratch test include Bamba & peanut powder.

The scratch test

To start, they determined that with Kinsley’s sensitive skin the redness needed to be brought to the surface before we started. So they rubbed her back with a crunched up paper towel. Kinsley thought this was like getting a baby massage and smiled the whole time. After the paper towel rub, it was time for the scratches. During a scratch test you have to hold a kid’s arms while someone holds their hips so they don’t accidentally interfere with the results.

Baby girl did awesome on this test. She didn’t even flinch when they did six different scratches, only fussing for having to lie still for 10 minutes. I kept asking, “how’s it look?” to the nurse. After the timer went off they determined that Kinsley passed phase one. What a relief.

Related: List: Allergy-friendly restaurant chains

Peanut ingestion challenge

It was time for Kinsley to actually ingest peanut product. At this point I was feeling pretty confident with a negative blood test and now a negative scratch test that we’d come out on top. Because of Kinsley’s age and the parameters of the “Leap Study” (Learning Early About Peanut) we chose for her to eat a serving of Bamba (seven sticks).

Bamba is a peanut butter-flavored snack and is one of the leading snack foods produced and sold in Israel.
Bamba is a peanut butter-flavored snack and is one of the leading snack foods produced and sold in Israel.

Kinsley took one look at the bowl of snacks and dug right in. As the first patient to try the Bamba for the food challenge everyone was excited to see if she would like it. She loved it! I was trying to break it into bite-size pieces and she was ready to gobble up any piece she could get her hands on.

She ate the entire serving in a few minutes. Then we spent the next hour waiting and monitoring her for a reaction. As each minute passed my confidence grew.  Finally the timer went off and she officially passed!  I was so excited.  She did awesome and I was so happy to get these great results. I know how many parents wish for this moment and don’t get to experience it and for that I’m so grateful.

Carly and Kinsley

Next step: try to prevent an allergy from developing

So now that Kinsley is fully qualified she can continue on the action plan laid out according to the “Leap Study”. She will eat a serving of peanut butter (or peanut product) three days per week, ideally until she is five years old. At that point she should hopefully be past the point of developing the allergy. By sticking with this protocol her chances of developing an allergy drop dramatically. Let me clarify why Kinsley is doing this … this process is because Kinsley is considered high risk. This would not be the norm for every child. However, research is showing that early peanut introduction is becoming key in helping kids not develop an allergy, while a just a few years back it was considered a food to avoid the first year or longer.

Leap Study hows promising results
Leap Study shows promising results.

I’m so thrilled for both of my kids and our family. Living with a life-threatening allergy is scary for everyone and is a big responsibility. If you know someone with an allergy or your child has a classmate or a friend with an allergy, please be considerate and kind. Allergy parents are doing their best to keep their child safe and having supportive people around them is very comforting.

Ask them about an appropriate treat for school, sleepovers and parties. Don’t offer food to a child without asking their parents if it’s okay, and lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on when needed.

Living with allergies and small children can be overwhelming and I challenge everyone to educate themselves on the risks so they can be more understanding to families dealing with this condition. I know I will continue to advocate on this issue, even now that my children have been cleared.

Thanks for following our story.

*Disclaimer: nothing herein constitutes medical advice. Before giving your child peanut product you should speak with your doctor.

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