Comer Children’s Hospital helps families with allergies

Like many 4-year-old girls, Nylah Washington loves ballet, soccer, swimming and the movie Frozen.

And like a growing number of children, Nylah suffers from a peanut allergy.

But thanks to the quick action of her mother and the team at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, Nylah’s first adverse reaction to peanuts was handled quickly and effectively.

It was the fall of 2013 and Tiffani Washington had just made homemade peanut butter in her blender and put a little bit on apple slices for her daughter, Nylah, to try.

Within minutes, Nylah had a reaction.

“She had puffiness around her eyes, said she had an itchy throat and started to cry,” Tiffani says.

She immediately gave Nylah a dose of Children’s Benadryl and rushed her to the Comer Children’s Hospital emergency room.

“I knew immediately what was happening, because I was aware of how common peanut allergies were,” Tiffani says. “Luckily, we were at the emergency room within 10 minutes of the ordeal starting.”

Dr. Raoul Wolf, a pediatrician and allergy specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, says there has been a large increase in food allergies over the last few years.

“At Comer Children’s Hospital, we bridge high-powered bench research with compassionate clinical care,” he says. “That combination is very powerful and unique.”

In addition to monitoring Nylah as the reaction subsided, physicians and nurses educated the Washington family on peanut allergies and how to treat them.

“They talked to us about how Nylah may not have previously had this allergy, but that anyone can develop it at any point in life,” Tiffani says. “The nurses at Comer talked to us about what to look for, some of the symptoms, how to use the Epi Pen and how to train other caregivers (including her grandparents and babysitters).”

Nylah now sees her pediatrician and her allergist regularly, and everyone works together to give her the best possible care.

Tiffani says she now always carries Children’s Benadryl and an Epi Pen. She also makes sure to read all labels carefully for allergen information, and ask lots of questions about ingredients and food preparation when dining at area restaurants.

While Nylah has had other reactions and seems to have some other allergies, Tiffani is thankful she has never had to use the Epi Pen.

Tiffani says she is happy that others in the community are becoming more and more aware of the impact of peanut allergies, and others are becoming more accommodating towards those with special food needs.

She is looking forward to participating in research through the University of Chicago to help advance the study of food allergies in children in hopes of finding better treatments or possible cures.

“To be in what could be a life-threatening situation is scary. But we feel lucky to be close to one of the leading providers of care and research around pediatric allergies. The medical staff at Comer Children’s Hospital took so much time to make sure we felt comfortable, and had the knowledge to pass along to anyone caring for Nylah.”

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