This cartoon says it all about my experience as a mom nursing a daughter with multiple food allergies, who I recently took to the allergist for the first time.
My husband and I love our pediatrician and trust his judgment, but I went “rogue” and made an allergist appointment for my daughter without consulting him (although I did inform him the day before the appointment). I had been nerved by some scary knowledge that another mom at my daughter’s daycare shared with me after her 1½-year old’s last allergist visit. If a food triggers more than one allergic symptom (e.g., hives with vomiting) the combination of the double organ allergic suggests an anaphylactic response! This totally freaked me out, considering my daughter has been experiencing vomiting more with her allergic hives, and her first allergic reaction at 3-weeks of age was an eczema, hives, swollen eyes, vomiting combo!
So I found a highly regarded allergist who several parents recommended and made an appoinment. While my daughter’s new allergist is amazing, especially her bedside manner, the first visit was a learning experience.
Top 4 Lessons From My Daughter’s First Allergist Visit:
1. An infant under 1-year is not too young for the allergy skin prick test.
I had heard rumors (mostly from other parents and online sources) that, at 7-months of age, my daughter was too young for the typical allergy skin prick test. That, combined with my pediatrician’s decision to not yet refer us to an allergist, had me believe that the only testing an allergist could do for my daughter at this point was a blood test.
This is a myth! Soon after the allergist took my daughter’s medical history, my baby’s back was covered with rows of markered dots, to be followed by rows of needle pricks. It was painful to watch and hold her while she squirmed and cried – but not at all as bad as learning . . .
2. The allergy blood test is even more painful than the skin prick test (both physically and emotionally)!
When I originally believed that the only testing my daughter would have at her first allergist visit was a blood test, I was relieved. This is why I was so caught off guard and confused when, during the medical history, the allergist expressed disappointment that some of the potential allergy triggers I listed could only be tested with a blood test. It wasn’t until the blood test was underway that I understood why the allergist was hoping to avoid it.
It’s like when an adult gives blood but exponentially worse! Picture a squirming infant, already worked up and in tears from multiple needle pricks in her back, having a thick rubber band tightened around her arm to limit circulation so a nurse can find a large enough vein to stick an adult-sized needle and withdraw an adult-sized vial of blood. Then, try to imagine having to restrain your squirming baby, who is looking at you with complete disbelief that you are not putting an end to the misery, to keep her still enough to prevent the the needle sticking in her arm from being yanked anymore than it already has. (Her skin around the injection site already has expanded into a large bubble because she’s fighting and squirming so much.) And just when the vial is full and you think it can’t get any worse, the nurse comes with a second large test tube to fill! Weeks later, and I still can’t shake that image of my daughter or the sound of her wailing.
3. My 3-year old’s cup of milk with dinner does (not) do the body good.
Almost immediately after my daughter was pricked, one of the sites grew from a large mosquito bite-like bubble to a huge spider-bite size surrounded by a red rash. I learned that my daughter is extremely sensitive to milk, and that her vomitting episodes were likely caused by her milk allergy.
Me: “But I have been avoiding milk since my daughter was 3-weeks old?!” Allergist: “Do you have milk in your house?” Me: (In confusion, because doesn’t everyone, especially those with a toddler, have some form of dairy in the house?!) “Yes.” Allergist: (Matter of fact-like.) “Well, that’s enough.”
My daughter is so sensitive to dairy that my son simply touching the table during dinner, and then my daughter touching the same spot before putting her hands in her mouth (like infants do) could lead to an anaphylactic reaction. All I could think about was the cup of milk that we encourage my son to drink every night with dinner, and how I was going to explain gently to my son why he would have to curb some of the adorable hugs and kisses he showers on his baby sister.
4. Neither an elimination diet nor allergy testing is 100% foolproof or conclusive.
Many believe that an elimination diet is the best way to test for food allergies. Even the allergist explained that the skin prick and blood tests were not entirely conclusive. However, I’ve learned, even an elimination diet has faults.
At our pediatrician’s advice, I used an elimination diet to self-determine that my daughter was allergic to all but two of the 8 most common food allergens. I had concluded that she was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy, fish, and shellfish (in addition to other legumes and coconut); however, she could tolerate eggs and gluten.
The Bad News: BIG oops! My daughter is allergic to eggs!! I started to suspect this after my daughter’s second flu shot. She had high fevers (at times over 103°), vomiting, and diarrhea that she didn’t shake for 4 days. When we called our pediatrician, we were told that these were common side effects to the flu shot. My egg allergy suspicion increased when we were given the okay to expand our daughter’s diet to incorporate a few table foods, including egg yolk. After she had a bit of yolk that I mixed into her baby food one sitting, my daughter broke out into serious hives and suffered bad vomiting and diarrhea all evening. The skin prick confirmed my fears!
The Good News: My daughter is not allergic to soy, which I had found to be one of the hardest food allergies to accommodate, and pending the blood test results may not be allergic to some other allergens. Because soy seems such an overly used additive in foods these days, leaving few options for those with soy allergies, the recipes I share will continue to be soy-free!
I learned that I may have been attributing my daughter’s reactions to her actual allergies to the soy. The allergist also explained that I may have missed the egg allergy because my daughter’s allergy may not be sensitive enough for her to experience a reaction when she receives the protein through my breast milk. I have yet to try out this theory.
Ways To Determine Whether Your Child Has Had an Anaphylactic Reaction:
1. Your child has skin symptoms or swollen lips and either:
- Difficult breathing, or
- Reduced blood pressure (pale, weak pulse, confused, loses consciousness)
2. Your child was exposed to a suspected allergen and has 2 or more of the following:
- Skin symptoms or swollen lips
- Difficulty breathing
- Reduced blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e., vomiting, diarrhea, or cramping)
3. Your child was exposed to a known allergen and has
- Reduced blood pressure
This post was featured in the July 2012 Living With Food Allergies Blog Carnival courtesy of Food Allergy Buzz via Oh Mah Deehness!