Allergies, Eczema, and Asthma! Oh my!
The Allergy Triad: Food Allergies, Eczema and Asthma
When you first learn your child has food allergies, the world becomes a very scary place. Your life that seemed so normal before is fraught with all sorts of new challenges, eating out, ordering deli meat, grocery shopping!
What you don’t realize, is that this might only be the beginning, if your child has food allergies and also suffers from eczema, most likely your child will develop asthma as well. They don’t know why this is, but they call it the Allergy Triad. Sounds like it should be a race, but it’s not nearly as fun.
We discovered our son had a life threatening allergy to eggs at 9 months old when we gave him a baby food containing eggs (it does not exist anymore). At that time, they tested him for soy, dairy and egg. Egg was the only positive of the three, but since he was so young we were told to avoid the top allergens he had yet to come into contact with. So we avoided tree nuts, peanuts and fish/shellfish.
The scariest moment for me was when the nurse handed me the epi-pens and showed me how to use them. It took every ounce of strength I had not to start crying when the reality of what she was saying hit me. My son’s life would be in danger if he ever came into contact with eggs, and I needed to be prepared for that eventuality at all times!
Grocery shopping with Isaiah. Until recently he always had to stay in the cart. A grocery store is a minefield for kids with food allergies. Samples, and make your own peanut butter can be deadly! The rash is a reaction to the sun, thanks to his eczema cream, elidel. Beware of side effects
Getting a Grip
I don’t want to belittle the struggle we went through dealing with our son’s food allergies, but at some point you need to just accept that this is your life. Be strong for your child, be clear about the restrictions and make the changes in your life that are necessary to keep your child safe. You must remove all of the offending food items from your house, all of them! Your house needs to be the one place you know your child is entirely safe. Sure at 2 your son can’t get into the top cabinet behind the bottles of cooking oil, but eventually your more adventurous 5-year-old will start to explore and seek out those taboo food items. There are sacrifices that you need to make for your child so that your child will survive day-to-day life. You may have loved the occasional snicker’s bar before, but those days are over.
That also includes making difficult situations easier for your child. At birthday parties, bring cake, or food that is similar to what the parent will be serving. If that is impossible for you, explain to the parent that you will be leaving before cake. But don’t avoid parties all together, your child will know eventually, and feel “different” and left out.
Also, don’t “cheat”. You may not get products that are processed in a facility that also processes your particular allergen. It is not that there is a low-level of that allergen in all of those products, it is that there is the potential to be a big chunk of your allergen in-one-bite. And no one knows the odds, but I do know a young girl who went into anaphylactic shock from eating plain M&M’s. The scary thing is she was a middle school student, she had always known she was allergic to peanuts, but all her friends were eating them and she wanted them too. She also did not have her epi-pens on her, and was embarrassed that she was having a reaction, luckily her teacher noticed something was wrong and questioned her. This particular teacher had personal knowledge of food allergies and knew what to do, but you cannot count on that happening when it comes to your child.
You must be diligent, your child may not be happy that he or she cannot have some of the things that his or her friends are having. You just need to provide alternatives. Yes, my pasta is more expensive than some store brand pastas. But it is not OK to buy “processed in a facility” because that is a blanket statement that says we are not being careful about cross contaminants!
Make sure you have the right Doctor!
I am always worried when people tell me that their pediatrician is treating their child’s food allergies. The reason doctor’s specialize is because there is way more information in a specialization to learn then you can learn in general med school. I know you probably love your pediatrician, but if you had a cavity you wouldn’t go to your doctor, you would see a dentist. This is no different.
If you are seeing a pediatric allergy specialist, make sure your needs are being met. I changed allergists, early in the game. I was actually going to Children’s Memorial Hospital, you would think there could be nothing better. But truth be told, my son was being treated by a nurse practitioner, the doctor would come in for the last 5 minutes, say OK I see the nurse did this, this and this… We’ll see you in 6 months! Then when I had questions it was impossible to get anyone on the phone. That wasn’t enough for me, I need to not feel like a number when my child’s life is at stake.
So I found a specialist, he’s the only doctor in the office, he returns my calls personally, if I need an immediate answer I can talk to a nurse, and we see him in the office, and he gives me all the time I need. If you aren’t getting that attention you should be. You and your child both deserve it.
Use the resources available to you
There are a lot of great resources out there for you if your child has food allergies. The very best one is www.foodallergy.org that organization, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, alone could be all you need to successfully navigate life with food allergies. My allergist said I want you to become a member for one year, if you don’t think it’s valuable after that don’t renew. Well, 3 years later, I find something valuable in every FAAN newsletter I get, you can also get email alerts that tell you when food is being recalled due to an undeclared allergen.
If you feel like you need support look for a MOCHA (mothers of children having allergies) group near you check www.mochallergies.org
And here are some great blogs to check out