Monday, November 23, 2009


We have struggled with eczema for years. My mother has it. I have it. One of my sisters. Some cousins. Over the years, we have come up with our own natural remedies and dietary adjustments that help with flare-ups. Unfortunately, most of our doctors seem to think it is "no big deal".

When my son was born, I was not surprised to see dry, flaky, crusty patches on his skin. But soon they spread from his cheeks to the rest of his face, down his neck, and up to his scalp. They were painful. I took him to the pediatrician, who told me it was eczema, and told me to use a steroid cream. I balked at the idea of a steriod cream on a child not even 3 months old. As many people of color know, steroid creams wreck your complexion, creating light and dark spots that we spend years trying to correct. And they are addictive. So, he gave me another ointment. Soon after that my sons hair began to fall out in clumps, with the crusty stuff at the scalp attached to the clumps of hair. The doctor said it was "just cradle cap". I asked around, and although other mothers had experience with cradle cap, none of them had experienced balding as a result. I didn't know what to do. My infant son was going bald, his skin looked so bad that people stared when we were in public and the doctor thought it was all normal. Knowing that my diet was contributing, I eliminated the most likely offender, milk. At the next visit, his skin was a little better, but still pretty bad. I told the Dr. that I had eliminated milk, which seemed to help and that the ointment was a waste of time. He told me to apply it 10 times a day. I switched doctors.
The story gets worse before it gets better, mostly because although the new doctor was better, he was still generally unconcerned. Long story short, we later discovered his food allergies and the change in diet made a lot of difference. And yes, milk was one of them.

Now we have a new battle with his skin, what the doctor tells me is dyshidrotic eczema. Apparently uncommon in children, he gave me a cream which I am using with limited success. I'll let you all know how it goes. In my quest to find way to alleviate and lesson his flare-ups, I came across this series on Clearing Up Eczema. She has a lot of useful information, and I think it might help some of you that are struggling with eczema, in yourselves and your little ones. Hope it helps!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Food allergies again...and a medical alert bracelet

Obviously, food allergies are a major part of my life. As my son gets older and begins to spend more time away from me, my angst has increased. In many ways, I am a laid back parent. I believe in letting my child explore his world, and once it isn't dangerous he pretty much has free reign. A friend of mine came to visit once, and my son was playing outside. He picked up the dirt to put it in his mouth, and she went into hysterics. Amazed by my calm, offhand reaction she asked me why I didn't seem to care if he ate the dirt. In his case, the amount of dirt he actually gets into his mouth won't kill him. And I thought that he would most likely eat it, decide it's nasty and not eat it again. And I was correct. After a few attempts, he stopped putting dirt in his mouth. But here is the other, perhaps more important reason that I'm laid back. I have bigger fish to fry. I am vigilant about what he eats and cross contamination, the type of soap and lotion he uses, and making sure he stays safe. A little dirt won't kill him, a little milk might. I think I would have been a laid back type of parent anyway, but dealing with food allergies has heightened that personality trait. There is enough stress in his life, and mine, already, why add to that stress unnecessarily?

So, with allergies being important and life threatening and my angst ever increasing, I've decided to get my son a medical alert bracelet. It is a potentially life saving measure, and one that will help me to be a little calmer when he is away from me. I spent many hours scouring the web, trying to find a bracelet that is suitable for a toddler and within my price range. What I thought would be an easy task was actually quite frustrating. The ones I like seemed to be in other countries, and the cost of international shipping equal to or more than the cost of the actual bracelet. Or the ones in my price range were too ugly, too girly or simply inappropriate for a toddler. I think I've finally decided on a sportsband, and I will post pictures and a review once we receive it. I do like those rubber/silicone wristbands that state "Food Allergies" in bold letters. They might help keep all of the well meaning strangers that are continually trying to feed my son at bay. And I also think they would be good when he is in a new environment, to remind people of his allergies. But, they would not be helpful in an emergency, so for now I'll stick to my neon orange sign and get a more traditional bracelet. I might still get one of those wristbands though, as an additional protection. That or a T-shirt that says "Don't Feed Me! You could kill me!" Okay, maybe that's a bit much. I guess "Don't Feed Me! I have food allergies" would suffice. If you see one in a 2T feel free to send it my way!

Friday, November 20, 2009

How are food allergies diagnosed in children?

As I have blogged and spoken and status updated about my son's food allergies, I often hear the same questions over and over again. Aside from "what is he allergic to" and "how did you find out", a few parents wonder if maybe their child has food allergies, and want to know what they should do.

In adults and older children, food allergy is usually diagnosed by a combination of skin testing and food challenge. In younger children and babies, often the symptoms are different and the testing unreliable. Instead of the typical facial swelling, for example, a child is more likely to develop eczema, vomiting, diarrhea, fussiness, difficulty sleeping, or failure to grow properly. All of these symptoms, however, can also be indicators of other illness, so it can be difficult to make a diagnosis. In addition, it is possible to test positive for something which you can eat without a problem, hence the food challenge. A food challenge is difficult to perform on a small child as they can not express themsleves. So where does that leave you?

Well, you have a few options. First you can do elimination testing at home. If you suspect that your child has a food allergy, try eliminating the offending food from his diet. Have no idea what the offending food is? Start with the top allergens and be systematic. If you are breastfeeding, this means that you will also have to eliminate the offending food from your diet. Please ensure that you are replacing the eliminated foods with other foods to ensure adequate nutrition. There is more information about how to do an elimination diet on WebMD. You can also request allergy testing from your pediatrician. The results of the testing and patient history will determine their recommendations about avoidance, elimination, and reintroduction of the suspect foods. Unfortunately, allergy tests can also be wrong the other way, and this can be life threatening. Sometimes, the test results are negative, but the the person has a reaction. If your child breaks out in hives or has an itchy mouth or throat (babies will grab at their faces) after eating, call your Dr. immediately, this could be a serious reaction and may require immediate medical attention. If in doubt call 911. If at any point your child has difficulty breathing, is gasping for air, coughing uncontrollably or you notice swelling of the face or neck, CALL 911.

Please note: The information in this post is not meant to be a substitute for the advice and recommendation of your physician. It is intended for informational purposes only.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

More on food allergies

After watching this video, my mother contacted the Media Specialist at FAI USA and requested some information to share with her coworkers and others. She received an immediate reply, and the DVD's are on their way. We are so excited! Education is essential, because in this case ignorance is not bliss, it is life threatening. And these videos present the information in a manner that is easy to comprehend as well as personal. Although I believe that it is important for our children to learn how to live and take care of themselves in a world that is full of danger, which for some children includes certain foods, I also believe that it is important for us to do everything we can to keep all children safe. I'm just beginning this journey in the world of food allergies, and although it is likely that my son will outgrown some, if not all, of his allergies, there are still precautions that I must take, and might have to take for years to come. The thought of day care or school truly strikes terror in my heart, but I've realized that educating others is my best weapon. Once I dispel the myths and emphasize the seriousness, my baby is safe and everyone is operating from a place of knowledge instead of a place of fear. I'll take knowledge over fear any day.

Here's a little food allergies story for you. Don't worry, no anaphylactic shock or death in this one, just a little comic relief. My son goes to a nursery class twice a week for about 2 hours. He's only been going for two weeks, and I send a bright orange paper with him that I take out and show all of the adults at the beginning of every class. I'm in the building, and the adults rotate, so I keep the epi-pen with me and take one of their pagers just in case. The paper that I show everyone looks like this:

Of course, his name is substituted for FIRST NAME, and a picture of his smiling face is beneath. The teachers and volunteers really appreciate the paper, and the other parents have also started to take note and inform the staff when their children have any of the major allergens for snack (in this age group, that includes peanuts, eggs, and milk, all of which my son is allergic to). This, in addition to his demeanor and other notable characteristics, have caused him to become quite well known. When we went this Wednesday, which was his fourth time, there was a lot of buzz as we walked into the room. "Here he is!" exclaimed one lady. "This is him," remarked a few people. "That's the boy with all the allergies, poor baby," said another. And then woman who was meeting us for the first time looked up to see the poor baby with all the food allergies. "But he's BIG!" she exclaimed. I looked in her eyes and saw the surprise there; she was expecting a frail child, which my child definitely is not. Then she looked at me, took a breath to regain her composer, and said "good job" while nodding her head and smiling. I said thank you and had a little chuckle as I thought about what a surprise it must have been for her to expect a frail child and get a robust one year old. "Poor baby" is far from an accurate description!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Food Allergies Video