The beginning of our food allergy journey started back in 2007 and is a little different than most. My son didn’t have a severe reaction that brought us to the ER (that would come later), he had a rash. Sounds simple, right? He was about two months old at the time, a chubby, happy baby, and a great eater. My son’s pediatrician knew exactly what caused the rash as soon as she saw him…eczema from food allergies/sensitivities. She suggested that I take peanuts and wheat out of my diet because the food proteins were being passed through my milk and into my son’s body. Okay, I thought, I can do that. No problem.
My first trip to the grocery store to buy food for my new diet was overwhelming to say the least. It was my first real experience with reading labels, and I was lost. I ended up with mostly fruits and vegetables because finding packaged food with no wheat and nuts proved to be pretty challenging. I had no idea, at the time, that it was about to get much harder.
After two weeks on the new diet, my son’s skin had not improved. In fact, it got worse. I booked another doctor’s appointment, where she prescribed an over-the-counter lotion to use on his rash (which has since been taken off the market for causing cancer in children), and asked that I remove an additional food from my diet, milk.
Wait a minute…milk? Like cheese, ice cream, and chocolate??? Seriously? I was a little more hesitant this time (come on….CHOCOLATE?!!?), but I was still willing to change my diet instead of putting him on formula. I could handle this. Back to the store I went, in search of food free of wheat, peanut, and milk.
Two weeks later the rash started spreading to my son’s chest, back, legs, and arms. He was up half the night crying (more like screeching) and scratching. He was so uncomfortable. I just didn’t know what else to do for him. I was HUNGRY and tired, but we continued with the diet. I just wasn’t ready to give up yet. This went on for eight months…eight long, hungry, tired months.
By the time my son was ten months old, we both had been avoiding milk, wheat, nuts, fish, and gluten and I still wasn’t seeing improvements. I was told that they wouldn’t do allergy testing prior to him turning one, but at this point we were both underweight and miserable so they finally agreed it was needed. The results were a wake-up call and showed that he had an elevated allergy to: peanut, egg, milk, coconut, oat, soy, dog, cedar, cat, green pea, and wheat.
I can remember the tears falling from my cheeks as I read the results. My poor baby, I thought, how could he possibly live a normal life having to avoid food? How would we break the news to our boys that we had to find a new home for our dog? And I had to carry an auto-injectable needle full of medicine to save his life, if ever needed? Could this be true? Could there be a mistake? You mean he could die from this?? It hadn’t even occurred to me that up until this point I had been lying to myself. I just assumed that he’d avoid one food, his skin would get better, and he’d grow out of it, but it was so much more than that and it didn’t hit me until that paperwork came. The answers I had been working so hard to find were the very same things that crushed my hopes that everything would be okay.
Two months on the new diet, no dog at home, and my son was still experiencing reactions. He was still very uncomfortable, screaming at times, getting hives, and always scratching at his face, which brought us back to the allergist for additional testing. One more allergy was found this time, garlic. It was the last piece of the allergy puzzle (we didn’t know then that we’d encounter another puzzle in the future, EoE). Once garlic was removed he was no longer itchy, there was no more screaming, no more scratching at his body, and the best part? He was happy, and smiling…and sleeping!!! YAY! I had my happy baby boy back. We did it. We finally had the answers that we had been searching for. Now all we needed to do was learn how to live this new normal life. Oh, and cook…I needed to learn how to do that too!
Elizabeth DiBurro, EBL Food Allergies