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To Beijing and Back with a Nut Allergy

My oldest is home from China after five long months. I’m seriously considering confiscating his passport.

My son returned from Beijing last weekend. He’d been there, studying Chinese, for the semester. The last few weeks he’d traveled by train through eastern China by himself. I wouldn’t say I was a nervous wreck the entire time but I was anxious to know that he was safe and sound. Part was because he was alone. Part was because he has anaphylaxis to peanuts and sesame.

So yes. “Nut Boy” did China and survived. He had two emergencies that stopped my heart and shook him up, but he survived. He found places to eat that were small enough that he could speak to the person preparing the food and feel confident that he would be OK. Basically this meant a series of street vendors, which fit his tastes and his budget perfectly.

He wore his MedicAlert bracelet without my asking him to as he traveled alone. I’m not sure either of us really believed it would do any good in the rural areas he chose to visit but I think part of the “magic” of the MedicAlert is the sense of confidence it brings to the wearer. At least that’s been my experience as a person who wears a MedicAlert for anaphylaxis to peanuts and tree nuts.

I’m proud of my son, both for taking advantage of the opportunity to visit the sites he’s heard so much about as he’s studied Chinese since eighth grade, and for feeling confident that he could manage his nut allergy in a country where he communicated nearly exclusively in a language other than English. It’s one thing to imagine yourself doing it and an entirely different thing to step off the plane and make it happen.

My goal for my children is to raise them to be independent and confident. That’s great on paper but when it’s time to actually drop them off at the airport it’s a bit daunting. For me, with this particular son, there has always been the specter of a life-threatening allergic event each time it’s been time to leave him on his own. When he was young I could train every adult he’d come in contact with on the mechanics of the EpiPen and plaster the place with photo cards that told about him and his allergies. He’s obviously way too old for that now. He’s also way too old for me to sit outside in my car until I’m sure he’s OK.

But he is OK. From nursery school through high school, he took on more and more responsibility for his allergies. It’s a part of his life that must be dealt with without allowing it to become his life. That’s a daunting balancing act and I’m thrilled to say he did just fine.

So, my oldest is home from Beijing. The house is full and it feels fantastic.

MandMx July 13, 2011 at 12:49 PM
WOW! This is a great article. I've sent it to my sister who's daughter (my niece) has a nut allergy. We've always wanted her as she grows older to visit us in China... BUT... NOW this article gives us some good experience to do a bit more convincing! Thanks!
Gina Hagler July 14, 2011 at 12:45 AM
I'm so glad!

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