A Journey Down the Food Allergy Road

Baby Faith is 6 months old, we just had our check up and the doctor asks, “have you started introducing solids.” My answer…”yes,” after all at her 4 month check up I had been informed that it is now recommended that the introduction of solids start as early as 4 months. Most surprisingly to me, it had been recommended that peanut butter be introduced early so as to avoid possible allergies in the future. “Wow” I thought to myself, I knew it had been a couple of years since I had a baby (2 years to be exact) but I couldn’t believe the recommendations were to introduce foods quite so early. But as a mother who only wants the best for her children, I took the recommendation. So as early as 4.5 months I started introducing solids slowly. Faith had her first taste of peanut butter at 5 months old and she absolutely loved it. Introductions of solids, overall, went pretty well. She enjoyed the fruits more than the greens as my other girls had, but she ate well. At about about 6 months old, and again she was given a little taste of peanut butter.

Honestly she seemed to enjoy every bit of that baby spoonful, so much so that he face was covered. It wasn’t until I had wiped her face of the sticky peanut butter that I saw the area around her mouth and chin were red and covered in hives. I immediately began searching for the Benadryl and frantically looking for my cell phone (yeah, it always seems like I can’t find the stupid thing when I need it). I yelled at my oldest to help me look for my phone (not my finest parenting moment). The nurse on the phone instructed me to give her a dose of Benadryl and monitor her. I gave her the medicine and took her up for a bath to wash off any residue from the peanut butter. Luckily the medicine seemed to do the trick, but even as I write this I remember the adrenaline that ran through me and the feeling of doom in my stomach.

The pediatrician called back as follow up and I was instructed to avoid peanuts and an epi-pen was prescribed. An appointment was made to have Faith’s blood drawn to test her for other allergies. All I could remember was thinking “Epi pen? Are her allergies that severe? Will I know when I will have to use this?” I googled and googled. And boy did that take me down a rabbit hole. I remember seeing the word “anaphylaxis” for the first time and reading what it meant. Needless to say I was scared senseless. Every bite she took of food, that in the past had been considered safe, I watched her like a hawk (and still do). “Does she look red? Is that a spot on her face?” I know I was driving my husband and so many other family members nuts (no pun intended). But I no longer felt comfortable feeding her anything. Days later, I took Faith into the doctors for what I suspected to be an ear infection, which was confirmed. She was prescribed amoxicillin. Days into the antibiotic, her body was covered in a rash and she scratched at her skin forcefully, to top it off, her ear appeared to still bother her. My husband took her to the doctors for a recheck and to have them look at the rash, only to be turned away and told to finish the antibiotic as the ear looked “a little better” and that her skin just looked dry. When I got home from work to a fussy baby and I decided to give her a bath to soothe her, I noticed that rash on her body was spreading. I decided to take her to the doctors again, after some input from family and sure enough it was diagnosed as a reaction to the amoxicillin. Bing! We added an additional allergy. It took a while for her skin to clear and for her to get back to her smiley self. And shortly after, her blood work came back. We added egg whites to the list.

Overwhelmed wasn’t the word. I realized shortly after that I would have to start excluding her allergens from my diet. Peanuts didn’t seem to be a big problem for me, egg whites a tad bit harder. But when we had her appointment with the allergist a month or so later, we found out that soy and sesame were also a problem. My husband and I were stunned. How in the world would we navigate this? My mind went crazy, what did I do to cause these allergies? I had eaten each of these things on a daily basis since her birth and throughout my pregnancy. Could this be the reason that she seemed so fussy as an infant? Does my gall bladder removal (when she was 2 weeks old) have anything to do with it? I had so many questions and no answers. The allergist did a good job of explaining to me what her action plan would be in the case of a reaction, as well as when and how to use the epi pen. I definitely feel more confident today that I did when we first learned of her allergies. But everyday continues to be a struggle, a struggle to find foods that are safe for her (and that she will eat). A struggle to differentiate between a reaction and perhaps a blemish from the heat. A struggle to navigate my day to dat trying to avoid her allergens. And a struggle trying to ease my mind when she is at daycare, not knowing if they would recognize a reaction (especially, as it is something that I myself am still learning). It’s a shift in mentality and a learning curve for all of us as a family unit. My oldest two can name each of their baby sister’s allergens, they make sure to inform anyone who may not know. "She's allergic to eggs, soy, peanuts and sesame." They understand that they have to keep foods away from Faith and that they must wash their hands before playing with or hugging their baby sister. Close family are doing their best to inform themselves about alternatives for certain ingredients and go as far as to call food companies to ask about the use of allergens and cross contamination, and I cannot thank them enough.

In just the short amount of time that I have been an “allergy mom,” I have gained a major amount of respect for all people with food allergies and parents of children with food allergies. My biggest salvation has been joining a No Nuts Moms Support Group, which are available for many cities across the country. The amount of support these moms show each other and me on a daily basis is amazing and keeps me going.

Below are just a few resources and items that I have become aware of and that have been useful to me.

- FARE (Food Allergy& Research Education) website (www.foodallergy.org).

- Shopwell, is a phone app that helps with identifying allergy friendly foods

- www.Kidswithfoodallergies.com, helps to find recipes free of the top 8 allergens.

Below are items that work for my peanut, egg, soy and sesame free babes.

Fairy Tales Shampoo, Conditioner & Detangler Spray, these items are not only allergy friendly for my little one, but it does a great job of keeping my girls’ hair nice and healthy. The detangler spray, does a great job helping me brush their hair in the am before school.

Gold Bond Eczema Relief

My little one’ s eczema flares every once in a while, particularly if I eat something containing one of her allergens or if she is exposed to her allergens. This lotion helps soothe her itchy dry skin. I reapply multiple times a day, particularly areas that seem to bother her the most.

PraMedic Carrying Case, when I first picked up the prescription of epi pens I didn’t realize that they had to stay room temperature. I came to learn that drastic changes in temperature may tamper with the efficacy of the mechanism itself. So I quickly conducted a search to find a case as summers in MA can get pretty hot. There are many colors to choose from, but I chose this bright orange so that it stands out in case of an emergency. With three kids, we are surrounded by “stuff” everywhere we go and I want to make sure that we do not forget the epi pens. The bright color of the carrying case makes it easy to spot.

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