My daughter is almost 4 now, and is allergic to peanuts, as well as other nuts. There are some good tips here, and since I’m just going to list what I do, I’ll probably repeat them.
I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying an EpiPen and Benadryl everywhere. (She has never actually needed the EpiPen, thank goodness.) Wherever DangerGirl is, my purse is with her. I’ve also installed Benadryl in all the places she spends time–Grandma’s house, in the preschool box (we have a little home-based group and take turns), and so on.
I check all ingredients. Thankfully, most packaged foods now have allergy warnings; they will say “contains wheat, milk, and peanut ingredients” or “manufactured on equipment used to process nuts” or something similar. But essentially, unless I already know it’s safe, I won’t let her have it. I don’t want to be running experiments with her.
I try to avoid packaged foods as much as possible anyway. Fruit and yogurt are the best, snacks-wise.
I bore everyone she comes in contact with by telling them about her allergies. Otherwise they’re liable to hand her a peanut-butter cracker. After I tell them, I tell them again.
She’s trained to tell people, and to ask me before eating anything anyone gives her. But of course, since she’s 3, I can’t count on her to do that, so I stick very close by.
We never take her out to Chinese, Thai, or other cuisines that use a lot of nuts. Too much risk for contamination in the kitchen. We tend to stick to the same few places that we’re already familiar with. And always check to see what the restaurant is using to fry foods; peanut oil is often an invisible ingredient.
I find ‘natural’ foods scary–they’re far too liable to have nuts in them. I mean, I love whole-wheat bread and interesting grains and fresh veggies, but multi-grain breads are worrisome, and natural-foods stores are usually big on nuts as a protein source. Which is great, as long as DGirl stays outta there.
We are seriously considering homeschooling–not primarily for this reason, but it is a factor in our as-yet-unmade decision. I’m worried about the early grades, before she’s really old enough to resist the temptation of food-swapping.
It’s a very scary allergy, but now that we’ve learned so much, it’s been a lot easier to handle. The last time she got a peanut-particle was over a year ago! Paranoia is good in this case. Never apologize for being protective and boring over this issue. For her, treat it matter-of-factly, and help her to take responsibility as she gets older and parental paranoia is no longer effective. My e-mail is in my profile if you or your cousin want to trade information.