It’s been a year since our last trip to the allergist. My son is almost 3, and today was his third annual trip to the allergist.
He doesn’t understand his food allergies and what they mean. He doesn’t understand why he can’t have what’s on Daddy’s plate or why he can’t have that cookie in the glass case at the bakery. We try to explain, but it’s hard for him to grasp. Also challenging to explain is the allergist. This year, I elected not to call her a doctor, solely because he’s going to his pediatrician soon for a well visit, and I don’t want him to dread that appointment. We talk about doctors helping us feel better, but it’s hard to express to a toddler how skin testing really does that for him.
After a little playtime this morning, off to the allergist we went. I have to admit, I wasn’t especially optimistic, but I hoped … I hoped to be able to introduce a new food soon. My brave little man got six skin pricks — the positive and negative controls, cow’s milk, casein, egg white and egg yolk. He cried ever so briefly saying they hurt, and then announced to me, “Let’s get outta here.”
We had to wait 15 minutes for the test to run its course. Our nurse returned to record the results; then, our allergist came in. In the meantime, my son and I flipped through an allergy-friendly Mickey Mouse and Friends cookbook. (As an aside, the recipes seemed focused on kids with peanut, nut and gluten allergies; there were a lot of recipes using dairy and egg. Must get to work on our allergy-friendly cookbook soon!)
When it was time for the test results, I could tell by looking that most had at least a small hive. Ultimately, here's where we are ... Egg: still allergic, but improved from last year. Dairy: still allergic, maybe moderately improved from last year.
So, there was progress, but we’ll still need to avoid these foods for at least another year. And we’ll still need to invest in another couple sets of EpiPens (or a more affordable generic, hopefully).
There was another little glimmer of hope, though. The casein turned up negative. “What does that really mean for us?” I asked. I was hoping maybe there’s some sort of food he can have that I wasn’t thinking about.
“Nothing,” she said. “He still needs to avoid all dairy products.”
“But it means something to me,” she added. “It means things are moving in the right direction. It means it’s worth checking back in one year rather than waiting two to test again.”
So, it’s progress.
Not the kind of progress we had hoped for … the kind that would’ve let him have French toast or scrambled eggs or cheese on his pizza. But progress … the slow kind. And I know that not everyone gets this kind of progress. So, we’ll take it.
The allergist also informed me that we could consider a blood test that would let us test specifically for proteins that tell us whether he might be able to tolerate these foods in baked goods. There’s a part of me that says: I don’t want to put him through that if it’s just for the hope of some cake. Another part of me says: Wouldn’t it be nice to know?
So, I’ve put a pin in that. Skin testing, while not totally traumatic, was enough for now.
As we went to the car, my son and I talked about our lunch plans. Chicken and rice and beans. It’s our default when we go out, and I guess it will remain that way for another year. Another year of no macaroni and cheese. Another year of cheese-less pizza. Another year of avoiding a lot of restaurants with him. Another year of trying to explain there are a lot of foods he can’t have. Another year of watching him closely at events to ensure he doesn’t eat something he’s not supposed to. Another year of being asked by friends and family how his allergies are doing and having to explain there’s been no real change. Another year of bringing his chicken and rice to parties. Another year of EpiPens. Another year of worrying we’ll need to use one.
But again, there’s been progress. And I need to remember that because it means maybe — just maybe — this is the last year for all of these things.