From time to time we will feature blog posts written by our customers. This one was contributed by Alison Brettschneider AKA “Allergy Mom.”
There are plenty of moments as a parent that stop you in your tracks. First smile, first crawl, first words, first steps. The exciting milestones that show your child is growing. There are others that stop you in your tracks for different reasons; they stop you in fear and worry, as you realize something may be wrong or harmful to your child. That moment for me was something as simple as my daughter having formula for the first time. I will never forget it. In an effort to help her gain weight, she was a tiny 13lbs at 8months old, her pediatrician suggested we supplement with formula in her rice cereal and an occasional bottle, as up until then she had been exclusively breastfed. As she took her first few bites, I noticed red patches forming around her mouth. She quickly became very fussy, I nursed her to try and calm her down, not realizing what was happening in her little body. After nursing shortly, she projectile vomited, her entire body, head to toe, was covered in raised hives. We gave her Benadryl, which we thankfully had on hand.
We called our pediatricians’ emergency hotline to see if we should bring her in. While waiting on a call back, she threw up again and her breathing became shallow. At that point we decided to get her to the emergency room. Once there they administered more antihistamines and a steroid to reduce the hives. The doctor affirmed our suspicions, most likely a food allergy. Her body was progressing in the stages of anaphylaxis. We left with a prescription for an Epi-pen and a million questions.
Over a year later, we’re still discovering the intricacies of food allergies. We avoided all dairy until we had her tested. Through skin testing at age one, we discovered our precious girl is allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and oats. As a foodie, I was devastated. As a mother I was scared. So began endless research, label reading, and creative cooking. If you’ve discovered your child has food allergies, you know well that there are too many questions and not enough answers. One tiny blog post can barely scratch the surface. Looking back over our experience I have a few starting point tips I wish someone had shared with me.
1) Eczema/Baby Acne
These two things don’t always mean your child has food allergies, but they are common connections. My daughter had horrible baby acne for the first two months of life all over her face, once that subsided her entire body was covered in horrible patches of eczema (extremely dry skin). Nothing helped get rid of it, until we used a strong prescription strength steroid. Up until about 18months old she wore a button up cardigan one size too big with the sleeves closed at the end with a rubber band, a lifesaver, as she would scratch until she bled. If your child has horrible cases of either, keep Benadryl on hand when trying new foods, just to be safe.
2) When to Go to the Hospital
Thankfully, my daughters body fought hard enough that her breathing never stopped. When it comes to food allergies and anaphylaxis, there’s no messing around. If in doubt, take them! Things can progress so quickly, and unfortunately when it comes to anaphylaxis, literal seconds matter. Typically a reaction from ingestion of an allergen will begin with hives around the mouth, upon seeing this immediately administer Benadryl. If there’s any progression (vomiting, full body hives, or breathing issues) do not hesitate to call 911! When you call, it’s good to mention there may be a need for epinephrine, just so the paramedics are ready.
3) What Now?
After the first time your child has a reaction, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the next steps. First, make an appointment with your pediatrician to get a referral for a local allergy specialist. Once you make an appointment with the specialist, they will setup another time to do skin testing (typically any age after 1year). They can test for many of the common allergens, once you have your list, you’ll begin to have go to foods for your child. It can be overwhelming; don’t be afraid to get a referral for a nutritionist from your pediatrician as well! They can be extremely helpful in figuring out ways to fill in the gaps when traditional foods are missing from a child’s diet! Depending on your child’s age, there are also many resources (some listed below) that will help you navigate how to help your child adapt to allergies in school. There are many ways to help teachers and school officials create plans of safety for your child while not excluding them.
These are obviously three small answers for a topic with so many questions, but they are a starting point. If you suspect your child has food allergies, cry for a minute, take a deep breath, and know you’ll get through this! Some kids outgrow allergies, some add new ones, and some keep them for life. Reach out to other parents in your community or via social media who are fighting the same battles for support. Know that you’re not alone.
Listed below are just some of the great resources to help you navigate this new adventure: