As an allergy parent, one of the things you worry about is how to teach your child about their allergies. How do you teach them what foods they can have and which they can’t? How do you teach them to ask questions and speak up for themselves? How do you teach them to be educated about food in general? And how do you do this when they’re not even 5 years old?
Our allergy experience has changed immensely since our testing a few months ago. As an update, I'm sharing an email I wrote to my son (he has a Gmail account that we periodically send messages to). Here's the latest in our story.
More than three years ago, I scrambled up some eggs and tried to feed them to you. I didn't add cheese because a few weeks prior, Greek yogurt had made you break out in hives, so I wanted to be safe and not reintroduce dairy for a while.
I was excited for you to try eggs. I wanted you to get more protein and nutrients, and you were still so new to table food that meat was a struggle. (Honestly, a lot of foods were a struggle, but I recall meat being especially challenging for you.) Eggs, I thought, would be good for you.
Within seconds, hives appeared. I couldn't believe it. Were you allergic to eggs? Really? I had no idea that eggs were such a common allergen. (I've learned a lot in the years since.)
The next morning, we happened to have a doctor's appointment for a follow-up to an ear infection, and I described your symptoms after eating eggs and yogurt and asked about food allergies. The doctor said we absolutely should test for food allergies.
So, I took you — just 10 months old — to the lab for a blood draw. When the results came back a few days later, we were told you were likely highly allergic to eggs and dairy, yes, but also soy, nuts and peanuts. They had us come in the meet with Dr. C, who prescribed an EpiPen and taught us how to use it. He also told me that if I was going to continue breastfeeding, I'd need to avoid all the foods that you were allergic to as well. Then, they referred us to an allergist for further testing.
The allergist did follow-up skin testing, which confirmed these allergies. So, every year just before your birthday, we go back for skin testing, and a couple of times now, we've done follow-up blood work. When we saw the allergist in May, we were testing for dairy and egg. Both were positive, but improving — and improving enough that they recommended blood work. The results of that test encouraged the allergist to recommend a baked milk challenge, and earlier this summer, we went in for an oral food challenge, where you ate muffins with baked milk ... and were given the all clear! (They don't have that same confidence for cheese or other dairy, so we'll do blood work again in six months.)
After the progress with baked milk and based on your blood test results, the allergist felt we should do an oral food challenge for eggs. Yesterday, we returned to the allergist's office with fresh scrambled eggs in my purse. I was nervous, but hopeful.
The nurse came in and gave you .1 grams of egg. No problem. Then, .2 grams, then .4 grams and .8 grams. You were good. No rashes, no hives, no tingling lips, no troubles at all. Soon, she was bringing in huge bites — double doses. You passed with flying colors!
You had some reservations about the texture of scrambled eggs. And frankly, I don't blame you. But I was surprised you seemed to be OK with the taste. Of course, I offered you scrambled eggs this morning for breakfast, and you said, "Maybe Sunday." So, I guess you didn't exactly love them.
After your test, we had lunch and called Grandma and Grandpa to tell them the good news. Then, I took you to school. As we turned the corner to enter your classroom, Miss Shannon saw you and said, "Oh, this is good news." She knew that if you hadn't had a successful test, we probably wouldn't have come to school.
She asked you what you ate that morning, and you so proudly said, "I ate eggs!" She gave you a big hug and said, "This opens up so many more possibilities for you!"
Indeed it does, buddy. It means infinitely more options for breakfast, of course. But it also means the possibility of foods like meatballs and fresh pasta and fried rice. It also means more cakes and breads.
A couple years ago, I tried to make a pumpkin "loaf" (it's a cake, really) for you, substituting for the eggs. Oh dear, it was so vile. I swore off most cakes for you until the day you could have eggs. I'm hoping we'll make that cake this weekend. And maybe homemade ravioli. Maybe some French toast or breakfast burritos. Whatever we make, it will be wonderful to be in the kitchen with you — and no matter which foods you like or don't like, I'm pretty confident you're going to love having more options as a result of no longer having this allergy.
When you were first diagnosed with food allergies, the allergist told us that 80 percent of kids outgrow their egg and dairy allergies by age 5. You're just nine months shy of 5. And I'm super optimistic that you're going to be among the 80 percent.
You have no idea what a relief it is to your dad and me to know that your body no longer thinks it needs to react to this food as an enemy. Yesterday was a momentous day.
I love you so much, buddy.
A lot of our vacations with our son have been to visit family. Sometimes we add on adventures and stay in hotels. We’ve also rented a condo. You’d think that vacation time would be about not cooking, but somehow, when you’re on vacation, it feels different. It’s less rushed. It’s more enjoyable to sit and eat what you’ve prepared. It’s about gathering with family. It’s time together preparing the meal and time together savoring it. It feeds the body and the soul.
For a while, I put the evening’s menu on a dry-erase whiteboard. It was fun and cute. (And occasionally, I still do it.) But it wasn’t a functional way to actually plan a week’s worth of meals. Now, I use a Google Calendar, and it’s been great for our family. Here’s how to use one easily in your home.
At this point, he was excited to help with the rest. He added spices to the cauliflower and helped to put them on a baking sheet. He also helped season the steaks. And he was eager to join me outside at the grill.
It was a wonderful night with him, but it was probably just a fluke, I thought. But then, his interest continued this weekend.
Well, around 7 o’clock on Sunday evening, my son bounced into my bedroom as I was getting my pajamas on.
"Mommy, we haven’t made muffins yet!" he said.
Surprised that he'd remembered, I said, "You’re right. Would you like to?"
He jumped up and down. "Yes, yes, yes!" he exclaimed.
On Halloween night, my son had his first trick-or-treating experience. My husband and I hadn't mentioned it until it was clear he knew it was a thing — honestly, we weren't sure we really wanted him to participate. As a child with food allergies, there are very few candies he can have. Plus, we aren't wild about introducing him to more opportunities for sugar. But he was fully aware that people would give him candy if he just rang the doorbell and asked. I was trapped.