Allergies

Our Allergy Journey: Serious Progress

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.

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Conner,

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!

 Waiting for the egg challenge — optimistic!

Waiting for the egg challenge — optimistic!

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. 

Love,

Mom

Trick-or-Treating with Food Allergies

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.

Oh Good. Another Junk Food Holiday (aka Ideas to Make Halloween About More Than Candy)

I love the holidays. Yes, I love Christmas and Thanksgiving. But I even love the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Holidays are an opportunity for fun and traditions. But I have a beef with holidays where junk food is a key component. (I’m looking at you, Valentine’s Day!) And Halloween falls into that category.

Food Allergies, the End of Breastfeeding, and Mom Guilt 

To say we enjoyed an “extended” period of breastfeeding would be an understatement — at least by American standards anyway. I never thought I’d nurse so long. Breastfeeding was important to me, but I thought, “OK, six months, and we’re done.” ... It was a special thing we had. I tried to let him lead the weaning, but he clearly wasn’t going to. So after two years and nine months, I decided it was time.

It’s Not Someone Else’s Job to Feed My Kid — But It Sure Is Nice

It’s Not Someone Else’s Job to Feed My Kid — But It Sure Is Nice

Weddings, birthday parties, family gatherings and neighborhood picnics. These are events that should be fun, right? But for parents of children with food energies, they can be stressful — from both a safety perspective and a social graces standpoint. 

Here’s what goes through my mind pre-event: Should I call and ask what they’ll be serving? Should I bring food for my son? Will they think we’re rude if we bring our own food? Would it be rude to call and ask? Will they feel like I’m pressuring them to change their menu? It doesn't matter; I just want to plan. Will they understand?

Then, at the event: Is that cheese on the floor? Is my son reaching for a doughnut? Does that bread have egg? I wonder if the host made these meatballs? Should I ask her what’s in them? Did I remember the EpiPen?

Our Food Allergy Journey, Year 3

Our Food Allergy Journey, Year 3

In just over a month, my husband and I will take our son to the allergist. It will be his third time having a skin test. I’ve been dreading the appointment since I scheduled it. I know it’s uncomfortable for him to have his skin pricked and scratched with a needle (for starters) — never mind the itching on his back that results from the allergic reactions he experiences. (Though he's always been so brave during these appointments.)

But I’m also dreading the appointment because I’m not very optimistic.

Today Is Mac & Cheese Day

Today Is Mac & Cheese Day

One of the hardest things about being the parent of a child with food allergies is worrying about how he feels when he sees other people eating things he can’t have. When his friends at school have cheese-and-cracker snacks, for example, is he jealous? Is he confused? Does he think his mom is cruel for sending apple slices and organic graham crackers … AGAIN?

Navigating Junk Food Holidays When You Have Food Allergies

Navigating Junk Food Holidays When You Have Food Allergies

One upside to food allergies is that we're not tempted by a lot of sweets — because he can't have a lot of sweets. But on the other hand, food holidays (and in particular, junk food holidays like Valentine's Day, Easter and Halloween) contribute to allergy parents' anxiety.