Monday, July 23, 2012

Parenting a child with food allergies Part 5: I Wouldn't Trade Them

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. 
I wrote Part 4 in April (though only published recently).  It's only 3 months later and things have again changed so much!  DS no longer takes daily Zyrtec.  Only 3 months ago I said it was our rock and we couldn't live without it, and now he only takes it before visiting a doggie house.  It wasn't on purpose.  We went on a beach vacation and though I brought all his medications, I forgot to give him Zyrtec the first four days we were there.  DH normally gets him ready for bed and he wasn't able to go with us, so I didn't even realize I'd forgotten it until four days in.  I couldn't believe he hadn't had a reaction!  He didn't have a hint of asthma symptoms either.  He was doing great off the zyrtec, so I decided to continue not giving it.  When we returned, he went to his Sunday babysitters who has a dog and she said he lasted much longer than the last time he'd had a dog reaction, but eventually became congested and miserable.  No hives or swelling, but sneezing, runny nose, and constantly rubbing his nose and itchy eyes.  She wisely decided to give him benedryl.  Since then we only give Zyrtec the night before we know he's going to a house with dogs. 

The old me might be happy at the prospect of a drug free child with no signs of asthma, of course I am, but experience has taught me the truth about managing allergies.  You're not looking for a cure, just what works for now.  We're very fortunate that our allergic child now only requires the occasional dose of Zyrtec to manage his allergies, but it's the middle of summer.  We first discovered his seasonal allergies in the fall, and that's also a season that often triggers more asthma attacks.  While I hope he only gets better from here, I know this journey has many ups and downs.  We'll just keep doing what we're doing until we need to do something else.  That's kind of how managing this condition goes.  DS starts preschool in Sept.  I hope to return to the allergist for a repeat skin test to see if his food allergies have improved, and also get more options for asthma treatment.  Although his asthma is doing great right now, when at it's worst I didn't feel like I had enough treatment options. 

There are some pieces of this story not medically relevant that I've left out, and I think I need to address them.  Sometimes an allergic child has allergies so severe, a mother has no choice but to isolate the child to save his life.  We're lucky that we did have a choice.  Risk reaction by giving him a normal life, or stay at home?  Some mothers disagree with my decision, but we have always put DS first and food allergies second.  I realize that a child can have a very full life without leaving their home because of fear of allergic reaction, but I want more for my son.  I often take him to playgroups when I know his allergens will be present.  It's either that or stay home. Not every allergy mom has this privilege, and though they say they think I'm risking a life.  I sometimes think they're just jealous.  Our kids have the same condition and I can take chances while they can't.  I do realize that previous reactions do not predict future ones.  Just because DS has almost always reacted with facial swelling and hives doesn't mean he won't go into anaphylaxis the next time he encounters the same allergen.  It's scary, but, at this time, we are willing to accept that risk for him to have a life as normal as possible.  I do worry, and sometimes I second guess myself, but I'm doing the best I can with the information I have.

There was a time he was contact sensitive to milk, especially milk chocolate and he'd often react when the chocolaty hands of other kids touched him.  I'd still bring him to playgroup the next week knowing it could happen again.  He's used to plain goldfish crackers, but once saw a bag of cheddar flavored and demanded them while still on Zyrtec.  I did give him a few.  It was a really bad time for a meltdown, and I was reasonably confident he wouldn't have any kind of reaction (he didn't react at the time, but later his dirty diaper blistered his skin from the contact.  I did regret letting him have them).  When he was ready for preschool, I found a very good school and sent him there.  I never expected he would be expelled because of his food allergies.  I've already covered that story, but the reason it was traumatic for me was because it was the first time he was being denied something because of his allergies.  We ended up loving homeschooling this year, and found a school that will probably be a better fit anyway.  DS starts in the fall and I know his allergies may effect his life there.  Obviously the school won't take the risks I did, and he may have to sit away from the other kids for meals.  In the first part of this post I said I was just doing the best I could at medically managing an ever changing medical condition, that applies to the emotional management as well.  I don't know how this school experience is going to go.  Though his allergies are improving as he gets older, the life-penalties for having them are becoming more severe.  I've heard rumors about how different public schools treat allergies and we'll just have to see how his allergies are by then and consider all our options.  I know many schools have all the allergic children sit at the 'allergen free table' during lunchtime.  I can't imagine the social stigma associated with that.

We're doing well, though summer is the easiest season for us medically, but we have hope for the future.  I could be optimistic and say he hasn't had a reaction requiring benedryl since the spring, or I could be a realist and share this picture from a few nights ago. 
Hello, swollen lips! He recovered on his own though we don't know what caused the reaction.
He will always be an allergic child.  There are some allergies he'll never grow out of, and even if he grows out of asthma, it may still show itself when he has a bad cold or steps outside on a frosty January morning.  Would I change anything?  If I had it to do over (and I might since I'm pregnant again) I might change some of my decisions, but it really wouldn't be worth it to take away his allergies.  They have shaped his life and personality in subtle ways and become a part of him.  There is no part of him I would take away.  I think all mothers claim to love their kids just the way they are, and we mean it!  He's perfect just the way he is, allergies, asthma, and everything else.  I can't wait to see what the future holds for us.  I know there will be medical issues, but the good will outweigh the bad.  I'll leave you with a great example of our happy, fun loving, penny throwing, allergic child.

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