Photo courtesy of Kerin Mayne
For children with severe allergies, an activity as simple as attending a baseball game can quickly turn into an emergency room visit. From peanuts to milk to soy, living with a food allergy is not merely about avoiding certain foods; it can also mean avoiding places and activities. Luckily for Olivia Mayne, Texas Children’s Food Allergy Program recently worked with the staff at Aramark at Minute Maid Park to create an allergy-free baseball experience this past season so kids with an allergy could watch an Astros game.
During this particular game, a handful of children with severe allergies were invited to watch an Astros game in a peanut-free suite created just for them. We spoke with Kerin, Olivia and Doug Mayne to hear about their family’s journey with food allergies. Here is their story:
“Olivia's peanut allergy started when she was 17 months old. We were eating strawberries and, at some point, I decided to have peanut butter. Olivia begged for some of the peanut butter, so I gave her just the tiniest amount. All of the sudden, hives appeared all over her mouth. Since I only gave her such a small amount I did not know if it was the strawberry or peanut butter,” Kerin, Olivia's mother, recalled.
Kerin immediately called their Texas Children’s Pediatrics office and spoke to a nurse who advised her to take Olivia to the Emergency Center at Texas Children's Hospital immediately to avoid a blocked airway.
“We went to Texas Children's emergency room at West Campus and they gave her some Benadryl. After waiting for a couple of hours, things subsided and she was fine,” Kerin said.
Olivia’s second exposure happened not long after that ER visit. Her classmate accidentally touched her with peanut butter which made her skin break out in hives simply by contact. The family worked with their pediatrician, Dr. Richard Thaller, and decided it was time to see an allergist.
“He recommended an allergy and immunology specialist who then discovered that Olivia’s peanut allergy is not anaphylactic, but she is pretty allergic to peanuts. Thankfully, she has never had to use her EpiPen,” Kerin explained.
Luckily for Olivia, she is only allergic to peanuts. Some children are allergic to other foods too.
“We consider ourselves pretty lucky that she only has a peanut allergy because, as we soon discovered, so many kids are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and other types of foods. For us, we can easily identify peanuts, and that is a blessing,” Doug, Olivia's dad, said.
Even with just one allergy, there are still other challenges for the Mayne family, such as remaining vigilant for hidden peanut products in unexpected foods, like chips.
“I would say, all in all, we live a fairly unrestricted life compared to a lot of the other kids we know, but we are also learning a whole lot” Kerin explained.
Olivia is learning to advocate for herself and understands what it means to live with a food allergy.
“Whenever I go somewhere, I have to carry my EpiPen. I still consider myself very lucky because I am only allergic to peanuts and it is easier and simpler for me to live close to a normal life. I think everyone deserves to live without having constant fear of exposure,” Olivia said.
She also expressed her excitement for getting to attend a baseball game without the fear of allergenic exposure.
“It was an opportunity I know may only happen once in my life. Watching it at home on the sofa is not as exciting as seeing it up close. I even got to see my very first home run before the second inning, which was more than I could have ever asked for,” Olivia said, smiling ear to ear.
Olivia continues to receive care at Texas Children’s Allergy and Immunology department.
“We visit our allergist twice a year and reexamine her allergy levels every three years. She also receives her environmental allergy shots every four weeks. I’ve started taking the shots too,” Kerin said.
When it comes to living with food allergies, Olivia has one piece of advice for every patient:
“Always learn to stay calm, because if you panic you suffer two times more.”
For parenting a child with allergies, Kerin stressed the importance of staying vigilant and educating children about their allergies.
Do you have a child with food allergies? Texas Children’s Food Allergy Program is proud to present a 3-day, 2-night overnight camp free of the top 8 allergens. Campers will learn about food allergies, connect with other kids, and participate in camp activities.