Easter made me think of my friend's 4 year old who could not have the traditional Easter candy. No chocolate bunnies or eggs for him. Here is why:

You have heard about peanut allergies and maybe read a little about them.

But you never fully understand any allergy until you are personally involved with such a problem. My dear friend Lisa has a 4 year old with such an allergy. Ryan started off his life with a milk allergy. It was so bad he couldn't have any dairy and could only drink soy milk. This meant his mother had to read every label on every food. She completely stayed away from foods that contained milk, cheese and/or butter. So Ryan never got to eat the things all kids love, like pudding or ice cream. That meant microwave popcorn too! The doctors told her he would most likely outgrow this allergy and he did. But then she discovered he was allergic to peanuts. Let me add that peanuts come from a bush that grows in the ground and there is a difference between them and tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.). You can be allergic to one or the other, or both.

Lisa decided to have Ryan tested. He had a blood test that only tells if you do or do not have a peanut allergy. It does not tell the severity, unlike other allergy "scratch" or pin prick" tests for grasses, weeds, molds, etc.. The blood test checks the level of the allergy and puts it on a numerical chart. The higher the number the more severe the allergy.

Poor Ryan tested so high that the doctor gave Lisa a prescription for an Epi-Pen, Jr. An Epi-Pen gives a person an immediate dose of epinephrine.

If he gets even a trace amount of peanut he could go into anaphylactic shock and could possibly die. With allergies, sometimes the more your body gets a taste of an allergen, the more severe the reaction can be.

His first encounter with peanut butter was in a "monster cookie". He took one bite and was immediately congested with coughing, a runny nose and watery eyes. All these symptoms could worsen with each exposure.

Candy is the worst. There is only one kind of licorice he can eat. Even Hershey's plain chocolate bar has a warning. She started reading labels and was surprised to see just how many products either contain trace amounts of nuts or are manufactured on equipment that has processed nuts or products that contained them. Up until 2006, she found Nabisco never put warnings on it's labels. She always had to call the 800 number to get her facts. Now with new legislation, all manufactures are required to put a better nutrition label on their food items and almost everyone has included allergy info.

It is amazing how many products contain nuts, in one form or another or are processed on machinery that has processed nuts! She also has to ask at restaurants what kind of oil they use for deep fat frying. Asian food is out because they use a lot of peanut oil. One sit down hamburger restaurant had, in fine print, at the bottom of the menu "We use peanut oil". When she asked they told her it was "pretty much in everything".

They left the restaurant. Other establishments declare that they don't know and some aren't willing to find out. She said McDonald's and Burger King's chicken nuggets are, thankfully, a safe food.

To add to her worries, last Christmas Ryan picked up a walnut from a bowl of Christmas "in shell' nuts, asking what it was. By the time he put it down, his hand was beet red. The possibility of his being allergic to tree nuts is now a huge possibility also! Lisa has had to read labels for tree nuts as well.

For the last two years Ryan has been able to tell you if he can eat a food or not. That's a pretty big burden for a now four year old. But even at this young age, he has accepted his food limitations and never balks. He just eats something different from what his brother or friends are having and never complains.