Allergies…

We are an allergy ridden family.  Our allergies range from mild and annoying to severe and life-threatening.  I have had a little of a reprieve because our most severe allergies are had by the three oldest boys.  Having them as little people was quite stressful because it was easy for them to get into things they were allergic to without knowing how severe their allergies were.

photo credit: library.thinkquest.org

My oldest has an anaphylactic allergy to nuts.  An anaphylactic allergy means that each time the individual is exposed to the allergen, the allergic reaction increases until it eventually shuts down the respiratory system and the individual cannot breath.  Luckily, when we were figuring all of this out, I had a BYU professor who had friends whose children had a similar condition.  She alerted me to the dangers of this allergy as well as insisting I speak with my doctors about having an epi-pen, which is a single dose injection of epinephrine.  It is designed to keep you alive after exposure to the allergen, until you can arrive at the hospital and get further treatment.  (Yes, the allergy is that severe.)  When Slim was an infant, the last time he had been exposed, it took 3 shots of different medications before the allergy was under control.  Since he has been an adult and in charge of his own food and exposures, we have visited the emergency room more times than I can count because he ate something before realizing it had nuts or nut oils in the food.  It is not pretty and it takes several hours, not to mention the money.  Yuck!

My third doesn’t have an anaphylactic allergy, but he is severely allergic to corn and all corn products, corn meal, corn oil, corn starch, corn flour, corn sugar, etc….and in the United States, corn is in everything–even crazy things like baking powder and ketchup!  Nuts, no corn!  His allergy doesn’t affect his breathing, it affects his behavior.  When he is exposed, you would think he has ADHD.  He is super obnoxious, will not listen, is mean, hits, screams, bites, yells, it is very, very ugly.  Luckily for us, we figured out his allergy when he was about six weeks old.  (I am reminded that this was not luck.)  I prayed and prayed for answers because as an infant, he would never sleep.  I knew something was wrong and kept taking him to the doctor.  They would tell me he was fine, but I knew something wasn’t right, and I knew the Lord knew what it was.  I plead and plead for the answer.  One night I craved a turkey dinner and we had corn bread stuffing, corn on the cob, and corn in the gravy and rolls–before I was a bread maker.  Scuff was up all night long that night.  I started suspecting corn as the culprit and I began my scientific research.  I eliminated as much corn as possible from my diet.  Remember I was a nursing mother and Scuff was only 6 weeks old.  When the baby wouldn’t sleep, I would read all the ingredients of everything I had eaten and I always found corn!  Benadryl is my dear friend in this process.  It won’t take away the reaction, but it surely tempers it.

Here are some interesting allergy thoughts (no scientific proof, only my own experience):

  • It takes about four days for the allergy reaction to leave the little person’s system completely.
  • It only takes about 20 minutes before the allergy manifests itself after exposure, less time for the anaphylactic allergies.
  • Benadryl does work, even for headaches, if the headache is due to an allergy and it will start to temper the reaction immediately, even though the full effect isn’t for about 20 minutes.
  • Everything you eat as a nursing mother, is transferred to your infant through your breast milk and they will react to it if they are allergic to it.
  • Allergic reactions can be manifest as behavior, skin reactions, through your breathing, headaches, and others I am sure I do not know…these are what happens at our house.  (Even though the breathing ones are most life-threatening, I think the behavior ones are the worst and the most difficult to diagnose and figure out.)

Most of the rest of us are allergic to milk and milk products.  This is just an annoying allergy.  (I’m not addressing the hay-fever, animal allergies, and asthma—we have all of that here too.)  Most of the children get eczema, some have congestion issues as a manifestation of this allergy.  For me, it messes up how my body processes carbohydrates—that is a post for another day.  For my husband, he gets severe headaches, but only after significant and continued exposure.

photo credit: saltroommellinia.net

 So all of this background is necessary because last night we validated (accidentally) that my little one also has an anaphylactic allergy to nuts.  I have been suspecting that he is allergic to peanut butter because of the way he acted the only time I gave it to him. He wouldn’t eat it and he kind of cried an whimpered about it on his plate.  I have not been feeding it to him because of my suspicion.  Yesterday, my sweetheart brought home some cookies from work.  I shared them with the children.  About half an hour after we ate the cookies, my baby started getting really agitated and grumpy.  He kept sticking his tongue out, which he does when there is something on it.  I asked him if there was something on his tongue, and he said no.  Then about 45-50 minutes after we ate them, he just started crying and crying and crying and would not stop.  I noticed his little eczema patches on his feet were getting really red and I thought they were just bothering him, so I put some itchy cream on them. That made the situation worse and he was more upset.  I gave him ibuprofen, thinking his  teeth were bothering him—still crying, and crying and crying, and more agitated and upset.  My husband suggested that maybe he needed some Benadryl.  I agreed that I was getting to that point and sent someone to get it.  It was then that I saw the nuts (in my mind) in the oatmeal cookies.  Oh my goodness!!!  Yes, get the Benadryl!  As soon as it hit his tongue, he started to settle down, not completely, but I could tell just the contact of the liquid Benadryl on his tongue tempered his reaction.  I think maybe his tongue was tingling and probably swelling.  It was then that I noticed his ears and face were turning red.  I started scratching his entire body, not hard, just to comfort him.  Because it was past bedtime, and we were worried about the reaction, we kept him up for about half an hour to make sure we had given him enough Benadryl to stop the reaction.  We did, and within 20 minutes, he was almost back to normal.  Poor little guy.

We have medication allergies as well.

Here is the last thought:  With all of our allergies, one of our doctors told me that the nut allergy is actually a triangle allergy.  Nuts, legumes, and shellfish are the three angles of the triangle.  Usually, if an individual is severely allergic to one end of the triangle, they are also allergic to the other ends of it, just maybe not as severely.  Our oldest has started manifesting allergy to peas, and green beans but not dried beans, like pintos or other beans.  We just avoid shellfish altogether because I am a chicken, epi-pen or not.  The baby hasn’t been willing to eat peas either.  I think he knows his body doesn’t like them.

In our house, we don’t force our children to eat anything….even as little people.  I recognize that even though they may not be able to communicate it with me, they know their body and they recognize that they do not feel right when they eat certain things.  I err on the side of caution.  I also have a friend whose little one is allergic to eggs.  She throws up whenever she eats them, and it isn’t just because she doesn’t like them.  She does like them, which makes the allergy more difficult 🙂

Anyway, if you want to have any allergy conversations, let me know.  Leave a comment with your email and we can do it personally instead of on the blog.  Allergies and little people are not fun.  They aren’t so great for us big people either!

PS  Enjoy Conference!!!  It is almost time 🙂

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