Recently, Blythe decided that she was a Big Girl and was ready to start Preschool.
The thought of sending my (last) baby off to school was both exciting and heartbreaking. We found her a small preschool that was set up to meet her special needs (in addition to severe corn allergy, she also has Sensory Processing Disorder) and got all of her paperwork in order.
And then. I had to write the instructions on what to do if she has a reaction at school. It’s absolutely necessary, but putting the words down on paper made the situation incredibly real. I was about to send my little girl off into the corn-centric world, without me.
Give me a stiff drink. I need one.
This is what I wrote for her file:
Blythe is allergic to corn and all corn derivatives. Corn is present in many household items and foods that you wouldn’t normally associate with corn.
I’ve supplied a list of ingredients known to contain corn. Please refer to this list prior to giving any food item to Blythe. Almost all non-organic “prepared” foods contain corn, and most non-organic, store-bought produce is sprayed with a corn-based preservative. Blythe can have such produce if it is properly washed and/or the skin is removed, as applicable. Disposable plastic cups are also often made with corn, and should not be given to Blythe – Sysco and Solo brands, specifically, have caused severe reactions in the past.
To help you learn which items Blythe can/can’t have, you might put a marking system into place. In our pantry, I use a black sharpie to mark items with “Y” for yes and “N” for no, so that our whole family can feed her with confidence.
One of the greatest risks to Blythe is transference, where corn proteins are unknowingly deposited on surfaces by other people after they eat and/or handle food. If other children have consumed foods that contain corn, please have them wash their hands and wipe their mouths before handling toys and/or items Blythe may also handle. Always use fresh utensils with Blythe’s food, also, to avoid transference.
How will you know if Blythe has been exposed to corn?
This depends on the point of exposure as well as the type of corn protein. On her skin, it will first appear red and then begin to swell and hives may begin to appear. If she has put an item in her mouth or it has touched her lips, her lips and tongue will begin to swell, and she may complain that her mouth “feels funny” or “itches”, and her speech may begin to slur. You may also begin to see a drastic change in Blythe’s disposition, personality, and behavior.
It is vitally important that Blythe be given a ½ teaspoon of Zyrtec at the first signs of exposure.
Blythe has what is termed, “Corn induced Autism”. If the corn exposure goes unnoticed, or the Zyrtec is given “too late”, she may begin to display many of the behaviors you would expect from an Autistic child: inability to communicate or maintain eye contact, strong negative reactions to physical touch, screaming, throwing things, and banging parts of her body into walls/floors/furniture. She will probably smack herself in the face, neck, chest and abdomen as her body reacts to the corn in her system. She may complain of it “hurting” or “burning”.
If this behavior doesn’t lessen within 2o minutes of administration of Zyrtec, OR if Blythe is having difficulty breathing, she will need to be given a dose of Epinephrine, via her Epi-Pen Junior. This will stop her reaction and calm her immediately. She will need to be put in a safe, restful place until I can get there to take her to her doctor. The Epi-Pen Junior lasts for up to 4 hours, so rushing to the hospital is not necessary, but epinephrine needs to be followed by doctor-administered Solumedrol in order to prevent another reaction when it wears off.
This type of strong reaction is rare with Blythe – it occurs only when she directly ingests something with corn, or if she is exposed to corn syrup/high fructose corn syrup, to which she is most allergic.
So far, Blythe has spent a total of one hour at Preschool. And, you know what? That is absolutely fine with me. Baby steps, y’all.