A Trip To The Allergist

As a I mentioned in Jaleeen’s guest blog a few weeks ago, Jack has been having some suspected allergy issues. If you follow me on Instagram, you know this has been going on for awhile. I have not mentioned it on here yet because I didn’t know what was going on for sure.

Today I finally took Jack to all allergist and he got an allergy test done. He is allergic to cashews, milk, wheat, soy, avocados, strawberries, and shrimp. A few of them so bad that I need to carry an EpiPen. I was not prepared for that news at all, and I am very overwhelmed. So let me share the story so far to help sort this all out.

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It started last November when Jack was 7-months-old. He was still mostly breastfed, but had started baby-led weaning 2 months earlier. He had almost anything—including eggs, avocados, and soy—with no issues at all. Nothing. One evening when my husband was giving him a bath, he noticed a rash on his butt. He had just had a big poopy diaper (just big, not diarrhea), so I thought maybe he just needed some diaper rash cream. Every baby gets diaper rash, no big deal. Once we got him to the changing table, I noticed he had HUGE scratches all over his butt. He suddenly had hives and he scratched them open when we weren’t looking. I put hydrocortisone all over his butt and kept an eye on him during story time. He seemed happy and playful, so I didn’t worry too much.

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A few weeks later, that happened again. A very runny diaper followed by random hives on his butt and legs that went away with some cream. Then again a few weeks later, but this time hives and a rash. And it was on his arms too. This patterned continued for a few months. I was keeping track, but was not too worried. I have sensitive skin and mild skin allergies, so I thought maybe he inherited it from me,

Then he started to have bouts of constipation. Like 2-3 days between poops and really straining to get them out. I added a probiotic, more fiber, and lubed up his anus good every diaper change. It helped and he seemed happy, so once again I did not worry too much.

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Then in March, he had an off day. Not wanting to eat, very clingy and tired. Around 3 PM, he was sitting on the floor in a TV trance when suddenly he stood up and crawled over to me. His left eye was almost swollen shut and his right was very puffy. He burst into tears. I called my husband and told him to get home NOW, we had to take him to Urgent Care. I knew he wasn’t ambulance bad and I didn’t want to risk putting him in the carseat without me in the back just in case he had a trouble breathing. Even though the swelling had gone down by the time he saw a doctor, he was still very puffy. The doctor right away knew it was an allergic reaction. She prescribed Benadryl for 3 days to prevent another reaction. Three days later no hives or swelling. The next month I mentioned it to his pediatrician. She said to keep note of his reactions and carry Benadryl with me. But we were moving to Oregon next month so I knew it was pointless to push the matter with her right then.

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Even in Oregon the rashes, hives, and tummy issues continued. Every week he had some sort of reaction. We are staying with my parents so my mom noticed it too. But I hadn’t brought it up with her much before so she didn’t think it was serious at first. One week he ate at nothing but fresh strawberries and had HORRIBLE runny diapers and rashes all over. She thought he just had too much acid in his tummy from the berries. We cut them out and it still continued. IMG_6627

Then he had his worst reaction yet. It started with a blow-out diaper and mild rash on his legs. The next day he seemed happy so we went on a playdate at a pool. He ran himself ragged and fell asleep in the car on the way home. He took a 3 hour nap—and if you read this blog regularly, you know Jack does not take long naps.  When he woke-up, he had a huge blow-out diaper again and a HORRIBLE rash on the inside of his thigh. It was so bad he didn’t want to walk and just pointed it at it and cried.

The next day we went to the his new pediatrician for his 15-month check-up and I brought all of this up. I went into great detail, providing dates and pictures. She pretty much blew me off. He even had a blow-out diaper in the waiting room, which I offered to show her. She said there was a tummy bug going around and the rash just looked like bad diaper rash. I kept talking and finally she said we could do a blood test, if I want it. I said yes I did and she kind of rolled her eyes—like I was a crazy overreacting parent. The nurses drew blood and gave him his shots, and we left. The closer we got to home, the more mad I got. She totally ignored me. I get this was the first time seeing him and his records hadn’t transferred over yet, but she completely ignored me. I knew this was not normal for a toddler and decided I was not going to accept her answer flat out. I was going to keep tracking and calling her office every time it happened.

I called two days later to say he still had diarrhea. He couldn’t sleep at night because he was having stomach cramps, too. The nurse said to go on the BRAT diet, which did help a little. I called three days later to say his rash was spreading, they said to give him oatmeal baths, which also helped.  The doctor called back with the blood results and said it was all negative, but it did indicate he had elevated histamine levels overall so maybe he had a minor allergy. But she insisted it was a tummy bug still. I called 5 days later to say he STILL had diarrhea and it had now been 10 days. This time the nurse had a totally different tone and said if he was not better in two days to bring him. During this time he was still playful and didn’t look sick though, so even I knew it was not ER worthy. I was just glad they started to listen.

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The next day no poop at all, but he broke-out in the weirdest rash I have ever seen. It started on his left thigh and spread down his leg. Then it went to his other leg and tummy the next day He also threw up that afternoon for no real reason. And had blood in his diaper that night. I called the nurse again and we talked for 45 minutes. I asked her if it was a reaction to the shots, she insisted it could not be since it was 12 days later.  She also insisted it was not an allergic reaction at all. Just something we had not figured out yet.

She said to start giving him a higher dose of Benadryl and bring him in tomorrow first thing in the morning if he still had it.  At 7 AM, I woke up and instantly saw the rash was up to his neck and face now. I called as soon as they opened and got the first appointment that morning. We saw a different doctor since it was a Saturday and he took us seriously from the start. He said flat out, “I am not an allergist, but this is not normal for a toddler at all. Let’s get him comfortable, first and foremost. Then we can explore the cause.” I was so happy he listened to me! He also saw that Jack had a big annal fissure, most likely caused from the all straining to poop. He prescribed 2 weeks of Benadryl and hydrocortisone. And to give him a tiny bit of Miralax every day to help soften his poop. Three days later, his tummy troubles were pretty much done. And 12 days the rash was totally cleared.

Over the next month, he had rashes, hives and tummy issues every week. It was interfering with our daily lives. Canceling play dates and appointments. I had to call out sick from work because he was not feeling well. I had enough. Two weeks ago, my mom gave me the number for her allergist and I made him an appointment. And that brings us to the appointment today.

Jack was rash and hive free for 2 days this morning. He had some very hard poops, but overall doing pretty good. The allergist actually listened to me and said he was a great candidate for an allergy panel test. She said it was best to start with the foods we eat the most: eggs whites, egg yolks, cow’s milk, fish, soy, wheat, peanuts, avocado, pinto beans, salmon, cashews, rice, shrimp and strawberries. As soon as the allergens went on, he started to get reactions at the pin pricks. Within 5 minutes, he had a few hives on his arm and a rash on his tummy.

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He screamed and cried, I fought back tears. I had to hold him up right and pin his arms down while the nurse pricked him. Then we had to wait 15 minutes for the full results, so I still couldn’t hold him. I sat on the floor and offered him my boob to calm him, He was furious and clearly not feeling well.  I kept telling him I know it hurts, but this will help us make you better.

The final results were a severe allergy to  cashews along with eggs, cow’s milk, soybeans, wheat, avocados, pinto beans, shrimp, and strawberries. I was stunned. I had no idea what to say or think. I had thought maybe dairy or a gluten intolerance, but not life-threatening allergies. The doctor told me to cut out the allergens as much as possible and track our food for two weeks. And she prescribed an EpiPen to be carried with us at all time. I had to fight back tears even harder when she said that.

He feel asleep in the car and I transferred him to bed when we got home. I laid there watching him sleep and processed all this. Everything made sense now. He started to have reactions when I first introduced cashew milk in November. That very bad rash was an allergic reaction to the vaccines, they have eggs in them. The strawberry incident was an allergic reaction, not just too much acid. He had shrimp for the first time the day before his eye swelling incident. Every time he eats pinto beans, they pretty much come out undigested in his diaper. He flat-out refused to eat avocados and tofu since around 6-months-old. He will take only a few bites of scrambled eggs when he used to inhale them. He cut those three things out on his own because they bothered him. Also, most of his snacks consist of cheese and wheat in some form—no wonder he gets backed up!

So the plan for now is to cut all out all the known allergens and keep the food diary going. For both of us. This hard because as vegan I get a lot of protein from cashews, tofu, pinto beans, and avocados. It is possible and I will figure it out. Yes, weaning would be the easier option for me dietary wise. But it’s not an option for me personally. I know the best thing I can do for my son’s overall health is to provide him with my milk. I can change my diet for a little while, I am an adult and understand. He is a toddler and would not understand why his precious milkies were taken away suddenly. I had a talk with Jack this afternoon. I explained that test he had done this morning told us that certain foods hurt him. That as much as he loves cheese and bread, he can’t eat them anymore. But we will find PLENTY of other foods that are just as yummy for him to eat. He said okay. I hope he really did understand. IMG_6093

It might be tough at times, but he will thrive despite this. I just need to love him and keep trusting my instincts. They told me something was wrong when others said it was okay. We go back in two weeks, he will probably have more testing and get further instructions. Until then, all I know is this is not my fault. This was not caused by extended breastfeeding. This was not caused by my vegan diet. This was not caused by baby-led weaning. I have no idea why this happened to him, but it’s nothing to panic over.

Guest Post, Jaleen Vickerson: We are going Vegan (+ fish!)…

Jaleen Vickerson is a fellow Brand Ambassador for Wrapsody. I have offered her a guest post on my blog to discuss her parenting struggles to a baby with allergies and eczema.  I haven’t posted about it yet, but over the past 6 months I have been struggling with suspected allergies with Jack. It is nice to hear from another mom going through it as well. 

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My youngest son, Carlos, has been an alert and active baby since day one. But over time, his sunny disposition started changing for the worse. At 2 weeks old, I noticed his cheeks were becoming mottled and red. At week 6, I realized that, instead of clearing up, his skin irritation was only becoming more serious, and—worst of all—it was affecting his mood.

He was screaming more than cooing. He was frowning more than smiling. My friends would joke with me that he looked like the famous painting “The Scream.”  This was not the easy, contented little dude I had met in the delivery room!

We knew that dairy was part of the issue, but even after cutting all lactose out of my diet, his skin problems persisted. At 6 months of age, he was finally old enough to be tested for more than one allergen at a time.  

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I was surprised to learn that, not only did he react to milk, he is also allergic to:

  • peanuts,
  • Eggs,
  • Chicken,
  • Beef,
  • cats, and
  • dog fur.

The strangest discovery was that chicken and beef were irritants to his system; I had never heard of anyone having an allergy to either of these foods!

As we all know, parenting is not one-size-fits-all. For myself and my child, I believe strongly in the developmental benefits to be gained from breastfeeding. As a personal choice, I had already decided that I want to continue to breastfeed until my son detaches on his own.

With this in mind, Carlos’ dietary limitations have become mine.

The diet Carlos and I are now restricted to be largely a vegan one. Being Puerto Rican, veganism and vegetarianism are not practices I am used to in my life (until now, there have been no “Meatless Mondays” in my home, for example). The one big exception is that I still can eat fish and shellfish, as he is not allergic to them (little wins!).

During our visit, his allergist went on and on about how important is to moisturize his skin to help fight his eczema—but that, until I change my diet, we won’t see any significant progress with his skin. His allergies are so serious, I was told, that he will need to have an EpiPen on him at all times by the time he turns 1.

While trying to take in the flood of information from his doctor, reality sets in.

For the first time since his birth, I consider ending my breastfeeding journey. And yet, as the doctor is giving me all of these instructions, Carlos is latched on to me, just feeding and feeding and feeding. I take a step back, and realize that going the route of formula feeding is not right for us.

Though it was a lot to take in, my feeling is—this needs to change for my son’s sake, and it needs to change now. I don’t have time to be emotional about it. So I do what I do best: make a list!

  1. Call the husband & inform him
  2. Call my mom to get some much needed support
  3. Go shopping for veggies, fish, and other Carlos-friendly foods
  4. Make arrangements to give the family cat up for adoption
  5. Buy Lysol to disinfect and clean the ENTIRE house once the cat is gone…

A list is something I can work with. It’s factual, I can follow it step by step, and if I forget (because I will!) I can always check my iPhone, where I keep my amazing lists (phew!). Without an organized plan of attack, I know I will get overwhelmed and emotional.  I think to myself, I can focus on this list and it will help me deal.

So. The first step I take on is to review my entire food intake. Since we were already dairy-free at this point, I try to pick out the other irritants to Carlos that I have unknowingly been exposing him to. Looking through my food diary, I realize that nearly every time I sat down to a meal, I was taking in something that was basically poisoning my child. I feel responsible. I become hard on myself. This is not an easy thing to wrap my head around.

If I think about the next few years it seems like too much to handle. I feel like my normal lifestyle is about to be turned upside down, but I also know that being a good parent is about doing what is best for your kids, not what is convenient for you.  

On the way home from the doctor, I stop and get some fish and some salad ingredients, and we start with just that: simple.  One meal at a time.  One step at a time.  

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Until…the next list!

-Jaleen Vickerson