Sunday, July 15, 2012

Parenting a Child with Food Allergies: Part 4

This is Part 4 of my series on Parenting a Child with Food Allergies. Here's the link's to Part 1, There's Something Wrong, Part 2: Mom of the Allergic Child, and Part 3 if you want to catch up. 

After the disappointment of those two allergic reactions during the week, and the sudden change of plan to blood testing from skin testing, I again relied on support from the other allergy moms on the forums at the Kids with Food Allergies Foundation.  They were gentle in pointing out how unrealistic my goals for my allergic child had been, and sent me excellent links so I could educate myself on the upcoming RAST blood testing.  Appointment day came and we headed to the hospital. We no longer qualified for skin testing, but I was sold on the blood testing because we would finally find out all DS's allergens, even the environmental ones.  I'd know for sure if he had a serious dog allergy.  It wasn't that great of an appointment because I was giving DS pre-packaged toddler food, and the allergist is not a fan. He asked if maybe we'd had a lot of reactions because I was feeding him a lot of, "that type of stuff."  ERGH...I know which type of stuff he is allergic too.  I hadn't realized how long we'd have to wait for the appt and I kept fun snacks in my purse for emergencies.  I mentioned the two reactions we'd had that week, and there really wasn't much to talk about until after we got the results.

Blood Test Lab Order - I was happy they tested for so much!

We went down to the lab for a blood draw. By then, DS was late for a nap, and we still had a 45 minute wait ahead of us. By the time we got in to have the blood drawn DS was overtired and really cranky.  What followed is topped only by the first hours after his birth in the list of traumatic experiences DS and I have endured together.  He was still considered a baby, so they needed to use their tiny baby needle...to draw six vials of blood.  Oh, it was so awful. He screamed and screamed and screamed in pain.  The needle was so small his blood kept clotting in it, so she had to draw the needle in and out over and over to keep the blood flowing. It took almost four minutes, and he was being held down and in pain the whole time as she constantly moved the needle around.  It was really horrible. I started crying about two minutes into the procedure and tear up just thinking about it. Then because of the amount of blood taken, they wouldn't let us leave until after DS had eaten something or drank juice.  When they finally let him collapse into my arms sobbing it didn't seem like he was in the mood for juice. Ugh, but he drank it eventually and we were able to get out of there. I was carrying too much stuff to hold him properly, so it was more screaming while walking forever back to the car. I apologized to him the whole way home, and finally nursed him to sleep minutes after we got home.

Over the next month I got increasingly angry with the lab and the allergist's office waiting for the results. We'd really suffered to give the blood for those tests and I wanted to the results! Finally, we got them, and at first they were overwhelming.  He tested positive for allergy to milk, eggs, almond, pine nuts, sesame seeds, corn, peanuts, weeds, tree pollens, molds, dust, dogs, and cats.  WHAT?! Wow. Just, wow.  How do you deal with all of that? I'm comforted by research, and that's how I dealt with the news.  I investigated the RAST blood testing method used, and found that it's not very accurate, and has a lot of vulnerabilities.  It doesn't tell how severe an allergy is, only how likely the allergy. For example, DS was found to be very likely to be allergic to milk, but the test doesn't tell whether he'd have mild reactions like headache or a life threatening reaction. When we finally met with the allergist again to review the results, he said that we should only avoid the foods on the list DS hadn't yet been exposed to for fear of the unknown.  Foods on the list to which he'd already been found not to react we should continue to give him to build up a tolerance. He still believes DS will outgrow many of these allergies, and exposure to allergens that he can tolerate will speed up the process.  Without milk, we'd often given DS almond milk as a substitute and he'd never had a reaction. So, almonds were in. While never actually having a sesame seed, he'd been exposed many times. Upon further research I found that sesame flavoring is used often in prepared foods and seasonings. Most often when the ingredients list "natural flavorings" there is sesame involved.  I recently let DS have sesame crackers and he didn't react.  I'd known DS was allergic to peas because whenever he eats them or a food containing them he immediately vomits heavily and completely until his stomach is totally empty.  We hadn't tested for that, but peas were out.  I decided to try corn because I found it hard to believe anyone could be allergic to corn, but I assure you it's possible.  more extreme vomiting. We continue to avoid corn.

It was a process of trial and error, but this is where we really started to get a handle on food allergies.  I did attempt to get him off Zyrtec one more time, and that resulted in DS's first allergy induced asthma attack (It didn't cause him to develop asthma, it just caused first attack). We now deal with allergies and asthma. We avoid milk (chocolate, cheese, butter), corn, peas, peanuts, and eggs.  We do not avoid dogs since he has no reaction to them while on Zyrtec, although we wash hands after dog contact and change clothes when we come home from a doggie house.  Seasonal allergies? This has been one of the worst springs in our area in terms of pollen count, and it's aggravated his asthma much more than his allergies.  I make a point to take him outside for at least an hour everyday unless it's raining, and some days we're out much more.  I really think that's helped build up his tolerance.  It was rough in the beginning of the spring, but he got better.  He doesn't keep a runny nose like a lot of kids with seasonal allergies.  I'm also trying an experimental treatment of 1t local raw honey almost everyday.  I verified with the beekeeper that the bees are kept in an undeveloped wooded area so they are making honey from the very pollen he is allergic too. The idea is for it to be a safe way to expose him to his allergens so he can build up a tolerance. But Zyrtec has been our rock.  As much as I dislike DS being on a daily medication, our lives would be very different if we didn't have Zyrtec.  I still hope to get him off of it. When he's 3 we'll be able to try allergy shots/drops, but for now it's working, so we're sticking with it.

Part 5 is the last one!

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