Keeping up with my blog was hard when I had three kids. Now it’s nearly impossible. Sigh. But I love to write. I especially enjoy going back and rereading about our lives at certain stages. It amazes me just how faulty my memory is and how much I forget with the passage of time. There are so many things I’ve been wanting to write about lately. Harper turned six. Mae turned one. Emrist will soon be four. I want to update about where they all are right now so that I don’t forget little details later on. I also need to post an update about my thyroid (I’m having surgery in a few days). I just haven’t had time for any of that though.
This morning I have a little window of time to write. Both babies are sleeping (Hello, sweet miracle from Heaven), so I have a few minutes to myself. I had to decide what to blog about, and that was a tough decision. I ultimately decided on Em’s allergies. That might seem weird, but out of every post I’ve written, the allergy posts are the ones I visit the most. When I feel crazy or depressed about her allergies, I revisit those posts to remind myself of how far we’ve come. Hopefully this will become another post that I’ll revisit in the future for encouragement.
For anyone who needs to catch up, here are some of my previous allergy updates:
I don’t think I’ve updated since her second skin test last January. That was kind of overshadowed by me getting knocked up again. Oops. In a nutshell, I didn’t really love her allergist, so I switched to a new one and had a new skin test performed.
Her old allergist just wasn’t a good fit for us. He never wanted to get to the root of the issue. He preferred to just treat the symptoms as they appeared (which was chronically for Emrist). I, on the other hand, wanted to get rid of the symptoms altogether. He was her doctor, yet I was the one seeking and finding all of the answers as to why her skin was flaring up. It was frustrating to say the least.
He declined testing her for food allergies at her first appointment, saying she was too young to have developed any. I didn’t know a thing about allergies at the time, so I followed his advice without question. At the time, I only suspected an allergy to dogs and possibly cats, so I pressed for that testing. He reluctantly agreed, telling me it was unlikely she had an allergy to them (again because she was “too young” to have developed them). He was very surprised when the results came out as high as they did. Hmm…maybe the mother might know something about her own child after all? I wish I could go back in time and connect the dots to see that if he was wrong about the dog/cat allergy, perhaps he was wrong about food allergies as well. It didn’t even occur to me back then. You live, you learn I guess.
Over the next year, we saw him every couple of months. Though we had gotten rid of our cat, and limited her exposure to animals, her skin continued to break out. He continued to prescribe steroids and antihistamine for her. It was frustrating, and I didn’t feel good about it. I suspected food allergies, so I eventually just went around him and requested testing through her pediatrician. The results were insane. She had reactions to everything that was tested. At that point, I ditched her allergist completely and just removed the allergens from her diet myself. Within six weeks, her skin was clear. It was incredible.
That was last summer. For about six months, we had her on a diet with no corn, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts, tomatoes, etc. We joke that she’s allergic to everything. It really feels like it sometimes. Wheat is easy enough to avoid, but corn and soy? Ha. Those are literally in everything! Even something as simple as powdered sugar has corn starch in it. It’s everywhere! As you can imagine, her diet was extremely limited for those six months. She was basically eating nothing but fruits and veggies – she doesn’t really like meat.
When Halloween, Christmas, and her birthday rolled around, I wanted her to be able to feel like a normal kid and enjoy cake and candy. I spent a fortune on special candies from Whole Foods and Amazon that she could have. I was also able to find a recipe for a birthday cake that she could eat (cake without eggs is hard to pull off, y’all!). I was heartbroken when she requested a pink princess cake. I couldn’t pull that one off because she couldn’t have the icing. It was at this point that I decided to switch to a new allergist to have her retested.
Em was such a good sport about her diet, but it made me sad that she couldn’t partake in normal kid things because it was so restrictive. I was hopeful that some of the results from the blood test were false positives. Since her skin had cleared up, I felt comfortable having another skin test and planned on reintroducing some things based on the results.
We met with her new allergist in January and LOVED him. He didn’t push steroids on us, which I thought was great. He second skin test revealed that she wasn’t allergic to corn, wheat, or dairy. Everything else stayed the same, and in addition to that we learned that she was highly allergic to cashews. Her allergist was stunned at her response to cashews and kept asking if we had a family history of nut allergy because it was so high. He prescribed her an EpiPen for the cashew allergy specifically.
I was also stunned with the cashew result because Em had been eating them pretty regularly with no reaction that we could see. As I stated above, she doesn’t like meat. With an egg allergy and a dislike of meat, her main source of protein came from almonds, cashews, and quinoa. I didn’t really believe the cashew result and thought maybe it was a false positive (false readings are common with allergy testing, especially under the age of five). I still decided to pull them from her diet for a while though, just to be on the safe side. Being prescribed an EpiPen freaked me out! We decided to allow wheat, dairy, and corn back in and she was thrilled! This meant she could eat more normally. We could go out for pizza sometimes, and eat out at restaurants without having to bring a separate meal for her. It was wonderful….for a while.
Over the summer, she began to have periods where her legs would flare up again. It was back and forth quite a bit and we couldn’t determine the source of it. She had also tested high for an allergy to grass, so her allergist thought perhaps she was coming into contact with grass on the back of her legs and that was causing it. We started making her wear long pants and socks anytime she was outside. That didn’t seem to help much and we continued to struggle with a now almost constant flare up.
A few days after Theo was born we had an allergic reaction that sent her to the ER. In my sleep deprived state, I had given her a LÄRABAR for snack one afternoon. I thought she had eaten this particular kind before, and I was also under the impression that they were only made with dates, so I didn’t check the ingredients before giving it to her. Big mistake.
I gave her the bar around 4pm. We had dinner later on, and then it was bedtime. Benji and I both noticed that she was scratching more than usual. We had been playing outside though, so we assumed maybe it was the grass. At around 10pm, Em came out into the livingroom and told me her ears were hurting. As she got closer, I realized that she was covered in hives and had actually scratched so much that she was bleeding. Her face was beet red and her eyes and ears were swollen. I panicked.
I had no idea what she was reacting to and my initial thought was that maybe a bug had bitten her. Benji and I racked our brains trying to determine the cause. We retraced our steps and went over what all she had eaten that day. It was then that I realized that the LÄRABAR was the only thing she had eaten that wasn’t a part of her regular diet. I raced to the pantry, grabbed the box, and saw that cashews were the first ingredient.
At this point, the only thing I felt safe doing was taking her to the ER. We had a million EpiPens around the house, but she was breathing okay and I wasn’t sure if I needed to use it or not. I had never prepared to use it on her and was scared of it.
We headed to the ER and I made her talk to me the whole way there because I’m dramatic like that. Once we got there and checked ourselves in, I took some pictures to show her allergist at her next appointment. Here are the ones I can post:
I wish I could show you all the pictures I have, without exposing her. It was this…all over her entire body. Red and swollen, everywhere. It was horrifying. She continued to scratch while we were there. Her legs were bleeding all over the place, and I remember fearing that she might get an infection just from sitting on the hospital bed. I picked her up and sat her in my lap. It was very late, and I wanted her to go to sleep. I also wanted to be out of her view because I was on the verge of falling apart.
I eventually started to cry uncontrollably because I knew I was the source of her pain and suffering. Naturally, the nurse came in as soon as I started crying. I had been holding it back for so long that I didn’t even care about the audience. I continued to cry. She looked at Em and mentioned that I was more upset then she was, and then she informed me that she recognized me from a local mom’s group that I’m in. She was SO nice, but I was absolutely mortified by this. Why does someone have to recognize you the moment you let go and ugly cry all over the place? WHY?! Haha.
They gave her an antihistamine and some steroids, and monitored her vital signs for a while. After that, we were sent home with a prescription steroid to take for the next five days, in addition to the antihistamine (if you’ve kept up with my past allergy updates, you’ll know that these meds turn her into a freaking monster!). Her skin has been a constant mess ever since that night. Sigh.
We’ve waited for it to clear up, and it just hasn’t…so we’ve decided to put her back on the strict diet again. We started on November 1st, but I didn’t think to take pictures until the 6th. We’re halfway through the month and it’s just now starting to clear. I’m having to remind myself that it took six weeks last time. She has been such a sweetheart about it and is always wanting us to look at the back of her legs to see how they’re doing. We’re excited that they’re improving and she’s itching less and less each day.
At this point, we’re not sure what we’ll do once they clear completely. Since she was struggling so much over the summer, I feel certain that she’s allergic to something she previously tested negative to…either corn, wheat, or dairy. I’m most suspicious of dairy as we seemed to struggle with it in the early days. For now, she’s not having any of these things. If we do reintroduce them into her diet, I think we will do one at a time, and wait for a full month in between reintroductions. I will say though that I’m tempted to just leave her on this diet for forever since we know it works to keep her skin clear. It’s just hard on my mama heart to have her so restricted from certain foods, if she doesn’t truly need to be.
Perhaps the next time I look back on this post, I’ll have even more answers. That seems to be the pattern at least. Here’s to hoping! 🙂 Thanks for hanging in there and reading my allergy novel!