GUEST POST: Living with Food Allergies by Rachel Brown

Our Story:
Our journey with food allergies started with our son Brody having severe eczema at 4 months old. The eczema on his face would get so bad, that it would be open and weepy. People would make comments about his cute red cheeks and I would just smile, knowing that it was not normal. There were times when his face looked so bad it made my stomach turn.
I remember calling doctor offices crying and asking them to see our son as soon as possible. We took him to our pediatrician, a dermatologist, and a pediatric dermatologist. We tried expensive topical treatments (that I did not like to use because of the steroids) and nothing completely took it away. I asked all three doctors if something that I was eating could be getting into him from nursing, and all of them said it was not possible and wrote me a prescription (I now know otherwise). It was frustrating to watch him be so uncomfortable; I felt helpless.
At 7 months old, I introduced whole organic yogurt, and he immediately broke out with hives all over his body. It took me a minute to process what was going on, because I had never seen anyone have an allergic reaction, nor did I anticipate our child would have one. I called the triage nurse at our pediatrician’s office and was told to give him Benedryl and watch to make sure his throat did not close. We were asked to come in to see our pediatrician the next day, and he recommended a blood test.
A few days later, the pediatrician called and said, “Brody is allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts and wheat.” I said “Ok.” He then asked if I was going to continue to nurse him; I immediately said, “Yes, of course” and he replied, “You know that what he is allergic to is in everything?” I realized that what I had been eating was hurting him. I cut those allergens completely out of my diet and went on what we affectionately called “ The Brody diet.” His eczema went way, he was a happier baby and I was overwhelmed, yet relieved to find out the root of the problem. I was on the “Brody diet” for 6 months, since I had decided to continue to nurse. I am glad I chose to do this; it forced me to find safe foods and recipes that tasted good.
After I learned a little more and had time to digest what was going on, we decided to see an allergist and do a skin test to compare to the results of the blood test and begin a relationship with a doctor who takes care of children with food allergies everyday.
We have since had some accidental exposure to allergens, which have been both eye opening and scary. We have also done a baked egg challenge with our allergist and Brody’s lips turned blue, his eyes rolled back in his head and he was given the Epi-pen. This incident built our belief in the Epi-pen and we do not leave home without it.
Being allergen free was a dramatic change for our entire family, since none of us have any food allergies. We were completely immersed into this new lifestyle. I began to look at food differently. I always knew that what a person eats could eventually hurt them, possibly causing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. but for our family, certain food could cause our son to stop breathing.
Reading labels has made our family so much more aware of what is actually in the food that we are eating, and we have cut out a lot of processed foods and are eating whole foods, fruits, vegetables, food made from scratch and with fewer ingredients (which is much healthier). This has definitely been the silver lining since Brody has been diagnosed with food allergies.
Along the way, I have met and have been encouraged by other moms who are on similar journeys. I have met local bakers who make delicious allergen free treats for special occasions, which makes my heart happy. We embrace this path for our family and are learning that being allergen free can be healthy and delicious.
There are days where I feel anxious, but other days I am so thankful that God has put our family on this journey. It is stretching and growing us.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) Philippians 4:6-7

What are food allergies?
It is estimated that approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies.. Food allergies occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein. Ingestion of the offending food may trigger the sudden release of chemicals, including histamine, resulting in symptoms of an allergic reaction.
What are the top eight allergens?
Milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.
What are some symptoms of an allergic reaction?
Symptoms may be mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) or severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal.
How a might a child might describe a reaction?
Children have unique ways of describing their experiences and perceptions, and allergic reactions are no exception. Precious time can be lost when caregivers do not immediately recognize that a reaction is occurring or don’t understand what a child is trying to tell them.

Some children, especially very young ones, put their hands in their mouths or pull or scratch at their tongues when having a reaction. Also, children’s voices may change (example: become hoarse or squeaky), and they may slur their words.

Here are some examples of the words a child might use to describe a reaction (from FAAN)

• “This food’s too spicy.”
• “My tongue is hot [or burning].”
• “It feels like something’s poking my tongue.”
• “My tongue [or mouth] is tingling [or burning].”
• “My tongue [or mouth] itches.”
• “It [my tongue] feels like there is hair on it.”
• “My mouth feels funny.”
• “There’s a frog in my throat.”
• “There’s something stuck in my throat.”
• “My tongue feels full [or heavy].”
• “My lips feel tight.”
• “It feels like there are bugs in there.” (to describe itchy ears)
• “It [my throat] feels thick.”
• “It feels like a bump is on the back of my tongue [throat].”

If you suspect that your child is having an allergic reaction, follow your doctor’s instructions.
What is the best treatment for a food allergy reaction?
We carry Benedryl and an Epi- with us everywhere we go. For a very mild reaction, Benedryl is great. For a severe reaction, Epinephrine, is the medication of choice. It is available by prescription as a self-injectable device. If you have been prescribed this medication, carry it with you at all times. It could save your child’s life.
How to Grocery Shop?
Grocery shopping takes more time, because the ingredients and each ingredient statement must be carefully read. Manufacturers change the ingredients of their products all of the time, and these changes may not be seen by looking at the front of a package. Make sure to read the ingredient label every time you purchase a food, even for “safe” food you have previously purchased.
Resources
FAAN (Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Network)
http://www.foodallergy.org

Food Allergy Initiative
http://www.faiusa.org

Kids With Food Allergies
http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org

Local Resources (Nashville Area)
Allergen Free Please
www.allergenfreeplease.blogspot.com

F.A.C.T. (Food Allergy Community of TN) is a support group that meets at the Whole Foods in Green Hills the first Tuesday of every other month.
http://allergysupport.blogspot.com

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1 Comment

  1. July 3, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    This video got to me (we’ve had episodes like that one kid who said, “We were on our way to a party and had to go to the hospital instead…” I so could relate to your experiences, Rachel. Our son has been allergic to many, many foods. It has gotten better over the years but I remember feeling so scared and helpless. Allergies are getting to be more and more common… I pray this next generation will be fortified with healthful foods from good, clean fertile soil so they are able to serve as salt and light to the world. Hope your son is doing better.


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