Humor column: Egg On My Face
We Klempners have several family customs, and getting annual flu shots is one of them. At least, it’s a custom for five of us.
My 10-year-old has what I like to refer to as a “losing combination,” an egg allergy and asthma. Basically, if she gets the flu, her lungs go on strike. And, here’s the tricky part: if you are allergic to eggs, you are likely allergic to most flu shots, which contain egg proteins due to the way they’re manufactured.
In fact, we know my 10-year-old is allergic to flu shots. When she was two years old, her allergist administered 1% of a dose to her. She broke out in angry, red hives all over and started shrieking like a howler monkey.
Thus, the rest of the Klempner mishpachah has to stay flu-free in order to keep my 10-year-old out of the hospital. (Hopefully, no infected classmate will sneeze on her.)
There is an entirely egg-free vaccine, but the FDA has only approved it for teens and adults. This year’s version of the flu vaccine, however, has one advantage over previous years’. It has been heated to a high temperature, which breaks down the majority of egg proteins. Our family pediatrician recommended doing an allergen challenge to see if our 10-year-old could handle that tiny, remaining quantity of egg protein.*
“Bake her cookies or cake with eggs,” he said. “Feed her some and see what happens. If she can handle a cookie, she’ll be able to get the flu shot this year.” He paused. “Make sure you have Benadryl on hand just in case.”
(When I heard this, I mentally added “and waste basket,” as my 10-year-old’s most common allergic reaction to eggs is vomiting.)
Our first attempt to feed my daughter egg involved baking cupcakes one motzei Shabbos. She watched from a safe distance as her siblings helped me prepare the recipe. (Touching raw eggs makes her break out in a rash. Alas, we found that out the hard way.) When the cupcakes emerged from the oven, golden and fragrant, she declined to taste one. I handed it to her brother, whispering, “Make lots of ‘mmm-mmm-mmm’ sounds.”
He complied. Our youngest contributed lip-smacking. But my 10-year-old balked.
Each of the next three days, I offered her a cupcake, but she refused to eat a single one. By Wednesday, I gave up and ate the last cupcake myself.
“Maybe the problem is you made vanilla cupcakes,” my husband pointed out. “She prefers, chocolate, you know?”
So, for Shabbos, I baked a tray of brownies. At lunch, her siblings devoured brownies. The guests asked for seconds. And my 10-year-old ate none.
I asked her why she doesn’t want to participate in our little experiment.
“What if I have an allergy attack?”
“The doctor said it’s perfectly safe! We have Benadryl right here!”
“But it’s really uncomfortable.”
Having watched her vomit after eating egg-contaminated items ranging from button candies to fish sticks, I felt “uncomfortable” was an understatement. On the other hand, I vomited often while pregnant with her. Maybe she owes me one.
But I took my jab in the arm without complaint, as did her siblings. And afterwards, when we went for our post-vaccine ice cream—another family tradition—I even let her have some.
*Please note: This is a personal story, and no one should follow the medical advice it contains without consulting their own physicians. Food allergies can be life-threatening.