I am often asked about how I learned my son had food allergies. This was our experience.
When we discovered the allergies, we were truly surprised. I exclusively breastfed for six months, and while some babies react to breast milk, my son never did. He had the occasional bout of eczema, but we were assured that was normal for young babies. Looking back, those little rashes may or may not have been allergy-related.
At 6 months, we started introducing solids. I had read all about baby-led weaning, and it made so much sense to me! Skip the purées, we would! But unfortunately, it didn't resonate with my son.
So we tried purées, starting with the simplest vegetables. (I skipped rice cereal as I saw no reason for it; ironically, my son can't get enough rice today.) I had no reason to suspect a food allergy, but I followed the basic rules of food introduction: One new food at a time, every few days.
My son didn't love a lot of foods. There were taste issues and texture issues and ... I don't know ... color issues maybe? To this day, lots of foods seem to have lots of issues — depending on the day.
When he was 9 months old, I offered Greek yogurt. I don't know how much he even ingested. But he broke out in hives.
Several weeks later, he had scrambled eggs (no cheese because I suspected a dairy sensitivity or allergy). Hives.
So, I asked our pediatrician if we should consider allergy testing. My little 11-month-old had to have blood work done. He was braver than some adults I know! The results were quite clear: They showed an immune response to a number of foods.
The next step was a skin test to confirm these allergies — and assess their severity. During this test, the potential allergen is placed on the head of a needle, which is used to break the surface of the skin. Testing for milk requires three separate pricks to test for the three proteins, and eggs demands two pricks: yolk and white. You also have to do a negative and positive control to ensure the validity of the test. My son had 12 skin pricks — most of which resulted in a giant hive.
Perhaps the scariest thing I was told: Just because his first allergic reaction wasn't anaphylactic doesn't mean the next one won't be. (Hence, our EpiPen. And our vigilance in keeping him from these foods. As a breastfeeding mom, I don't consume anything he's allergic to either.)
But we also learned that most kids will outgrow their dairy, soy and egg allergies. In time. (Nut allergies are more stubborn.)
We're often asked "what's new" in the world of our son's allergies. The answer is always: Nothing. He remains allergic — and we continue to avoid the allergens — until we learn otherwise, and allergy testing is recommended annually.
We are now just a few weeks away from our one-year follow-up. I've been advised not to get my hopes up. But I really am hopeful. I'm hopeful not because I personally want to eat these foods again (though, to be fair, I do) or because I want my son to experience the wonder that is cheese or butter (but again, I really do) ... But because maybe we'll learn there's one less thing I'll have to worry about hurting him.