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Riding the Food Allergy Roller Coaster

I’m writing this blog to share my family’s experiences with food allergies because a friend’s son was just diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy. I know she’s feeling scared and overwhelmed because a few years ago I was in her shoes.

It was Bananas

When she was a baby, I tried to do all the ‘right’ things by my daughter. Her first foods were all vegetables. I was told if you give your baby fruit, she won’t eat vegetables later on. I’m convinced now that this is a total crock, but at the time I followed that rule. I gave her carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes. When she was 8 months old, I put microscopic pieces of bananas on her high chair tray. She gobbled them up! I thought everything was fine, “Yay, we have a new food she likes!” Then she broke out into a rash all over her pudgy little legs.

I was in denial. I’d never heard of an allergy to bananas! I spoke with our pediatrician at my daughter’s 9 month well-check. She said stay away from bananas. That was it. No further information about food allergies except that she said, “No, she won’t out grow it.” So with that ‘helpful’ advice I started to do my own research. It turns out that banana allergies can go hand in hand with latex allergies. My husband and I do not have a latex allergy, but my dad did. I was so scared the first time they offered her a balloon at Publix, but I figured I had to know. It was such a relief that her allergy didn’t include latex! This was the beginning of having to label my child as having a ‘food allergy.’

Speaking of Labels

I became an expert at reading labels. In case you were wondering, mixed berry anything contains banana more often than not. I also had to become the banana police. You go to a birthday party, you have to read the juice label before you can let your kid have any. That’s an awkward experience, “Excuse me, friend, can I please see the bottle you’re pouring from?” I definitely got over my I-don’t-want-to-offend-you-ness very fast.

We successfully avoided bananas until my daughter hit 3 years old. We were at her school Halloween party and the moms in charge had wrapped squeezy applesauces as mummies. They were adorable! But one of the pouches was apple-banana. My daughter ate her ‘mummy’ before I made it into the classroom. I couldn’t tell which thrown away pouch she’d eaten.

I know it sounds ridiculous, so what, she’ll get a rash. But the thing about food allergies is that they can present themselves in increasing severity depending on the exposure. So a child who reacted with a rash one time can potentially experience anaphylaxis after subsequent exposures.  She didn’t have a reaction, but I couldn’t be sure if that was because she didn’t eat the banana or if she maybe had outgrown her allergy.

Now What?

After a conversation with a fellow food allergy mom, I realized my next step. She mentioned that some kids will say that they don’t like a food without eating it because their bodies tell them they have an allergy. I wanted answers about the bananas, but I had another pressing concern. I was afraid to give her peanut butter because I knew it was a common food allergy and she said, “I can’t like it,” when I offered it. It turned out that was prophetic.

The blood test confirmed that my daughter not only had a peanut allergy, but an egg allergy as well, but said nothing about bananas. At this point I had more questions than answers and I was not okay with that. I decided I needed to talk to a specialist. It is the best doctor decision I have ever made.

We Have a Plan and Hope

The first thing our allergist said was, “Food allergies are not black and white, we are still learning every day.” She said that children do outgrow food allergies, and not to give up hope.

The skin test confirmed that my daughter had outgrown her banana allergy, but did have a peanut and egg allergy. And when I said, “But she eats quiche and loves it!” I’ll never forget the doctor’s reaction. “Your 3-year-old eats quiche?! That’s amazing!” We developed a plan. No more quiche until she was 4, then we would re-test. As for the peanuts, she prescribed an Epi-Pen and we would re-test at 5.

It turns out that we have an unexpectedly happy ending to our journey. At 4, my daughter had scrambled eggs with no problem. At 5, the big test….NO PEANUT ALLERGY!! We had to endure a 5 hour in-office challenge to get those results, but trust me, it was 100% worth it! I cannot begin to tell you the relief those results gave me.

But having spent 5 years dealing with food allergies, there are some things I’d like other parents to know.

First, we aren’t making it up. No parent wants their kid to have something wrong with them. Next, we aren’t asking you about labels and ingredients to be a pain. Our children’s lives may well depend on what is or isn’t in that snack. And finally, if you think your child has an allergy, don’t be afraid of getting answers from an allergist. Answers and action plans keep your child safe.

 

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2 Responses to Riding the Food Allergy Roller Coaster

  1. Aubrey S. August 25, 2017 at 7:51 am #

    This is a great article as I know a friend who had a terrifying experience with her son at the age of 2. He’d eaten peanuts before so peanut butter would be okay right? Nope they ended up in the emergency room. Something about the peanut butter caused him to have a severe reaction to it. So now she had to watch everything he ate with hopes they’d never go through that experience again.
    So tired of people saying they will be fine or it won’t hurt them. They don’t know your kid like you do. Like mine saying she’s sick. I believe her because she loves school and would rather be there than here with me . Don’t be afraid to get your kids checked out even for the littlest thing you never know it may just save their life at some point.

  2. Mandy August 25, 2017 at 10:22 am #

    My husband has oral allergy syndrome (talk about scary)! This is an allergy that is very difficult. It makes it difficult for him to eat some (not all) fruits, vegetables, and nuts in their raw state. The problem is determining which ones is by trial and error. It is really a grass and tree pollen that has gotten increasingly worse as he got older. The pollens react with a certain protein in fruits and vegetables. When the fruits/veggies are heated, that protein is cooked out, and he is able to eat it without a problem. So, for example, he cannot eat raw tomatoes (like on a salad), but he can eat canned tomatoes because through the canning process the protein was cooked out. No strawberries, apples, bananas, carrots, the list goes on. But we have found a few things (that for some reason) he can eat raw…like citrus (oranges, grapefruit, etc), grapes, pineapple.

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