…well only sometimes…and usually just when our oldest daughter gets a little to close to it. Or any other dairy product. Or any dairy byproduct.
We are an “allergy” family. There has been times when that title has scared me more than others (like basically anytime she isn’t in my sight…for the past 5 years…) but we seem to be getting by as an “allergy family”. This American Lifestyle blog is supposed to touch on many aspects of us Americans, and this is a biggie. It seems that the U.S. has the most documented cases of food allergies in the world. Hmmmm… I won’t begin to try and tell you why because, quite frankly, I am not sure anyone has an answer to that. TONS of speculations…but speculations don’t save lives, so it is what it is. But I can share our story in hopes that someone facing what I faced realizes they are not alone.
This little girl:
started spitting up something fierce around two months old. She was the happiest baby, and, since she was my first, I had no idea she was spitting up in excess. I did, however, know how often she needed a bath…or I needed a bath, or again needed to wash clothes, chairs, sheets, blankets, ect. Man alive, this kid could go from smiling at you one minute to soaking you darn through your undergarments in a matter of seconds. After asking around, and watching what I ate, I realized the bulk of this spitting up happened after I ate dairy and then nursed her. So I took out the dairy. And all seemed a little bit better.
As she got a little older and tried more foods, we still noticed her spitting up often. So often,
and so much, we started to call it “puking”…gross I know but a good descriptive word. It was hard to worry about all that puking because she was always smiling…never cried…and smiled seconds after a puking episode. Why would you call a doctor about a kid like this?
Check out the bib…we never went far without a bib or a burp rag. Or a change of clothes for her and, at a minimum, a shirt for me. (hmmm…i was skinny once…oh , allergies, right).
When I really started to think something was wrong, she was nine months old. This happy baby had stopped nursing at eight months and had only been on soy formula. Since she was so small the doctor wanted me to try a second stage formula and I purchased a dairy based … again, what did I know? This is kid #1. I gave her a bottle and after drinking three ounces she started to violently vomit; this was no puking or spitting up episode. She also had hives all over her little face. This sweet little girl was miserable. I called the doctor and they gave me the whole “well it takes two exposures to show an allergic reaction (I disagree), you can try it again” um no thanks. I had to hold my baby while she cried and was sick and itchy with hives and I didn’t even have benadryl in the house! We just decided to avoid dairy for the time being.
As time went on, we began to think she just had a sensitive gag reflex. Nothing to worry about. We would be eating dinner, she would puke, we would clean it up and all go on with eating. I wasn’t checking labels and she was eating table food. I was certain I wasn’t giving her dairy though…she wasn’t having milk or cheese or yogurt. Who knew that dairy was in everything?
When she was a little over one year old, we had two different families over for dinner in the same week. Judging by their reaction to watching our little girl puke, we decided we should bring this up to a doctor and maybe it wasn’t just a gag reflex. So we had an appointment with a GI specialist and after doing some blood work, we were not allowed to leave the Clinic without an epi pen. Now, those of you who know about allergies want to ask me what her levels were. The answer: I have no clue. All I heard was epi pen and don’t leave home without it.
We then met with some allergists. This was one that kids grew out of. Give it time. Read labels. Here I was, bummed that we couldn’t walk her to Dairy Queen for a kiddie cone, little did I know that “dairy” is in way more than ice cream, and hides in more than 40 ingredients, let alone the 10 different forms of “milk” to avoid. It was scary to think that something so significant in every day life could harm our daughter.
Our Allergist told us that God gives kids like this to OCD parents like me because I will keep her safe. And keep her safe we did. She never had dairy or any byproducts of dairy. We made everyone wash their hands and wiped their mouths after they consumed any dairy product. We were faced with questions from people…were we being too cautious? Was I a hyper protective first mom? Maybe. Probably. But we didn’t know, and all we did know was we wanted to keep her safe. At the time, she had two cousins with food allergies as well. So we knew a little about it. We all carried benadryl and epi pens just in case. We were doing so good. Then we went back for more blood work a little after she turned two. She didn’t improve…she got worse. Her numbers had gone up. Don’t worry about it they said. Just keep doing what you are doing.
We kept her safe until she was four years old. Then, a local ice cream store neglected to tell us they gave us sherbert instead of sorbet. While it seemed innocent to them, and most people assume sherbert is dairy free, the first ingredient in it is skim milk. Not realizing their mistake…we watched her grasp at her stomach and put her hands in her mouth, and drool for twenty minutes. Thinking she just is getting sick (she had started preschool). Then that mom instinct set in and I got uneasy. We called another food allergy family and they suggested benadryl just in case. She was then vomiting and we couldn’t see down her throat. We called the allergist. We were told to grab the epi pen and take her to the nearest hospital.
We didn’t need to use the epi pen, but were told later that she had started anaphylaxis. And next time we suspected dairy, go for the epi pen. We felt horrible. I guess now we knew what to expect.
She has had two other minor episodes. Both involved such a miniscule amount of dairy, it was surprising to see a fat lip. Luckily benadryl was good enough for those.
Leaving her in the care of others is always hard for me. She started kindergarten this year. I was scared to death. Not only was she gone all day, she had to eat lunch and snack there! To top it off…two days before starting school she had blood work done again. She continues to go up on the scale and is now considered “life threatening” when it comes to the dairy allergy. To us…it is looking like this will be a life long situation for her.
It is manageable. She knows not to eat other’s food without asking. She knows to not take food off the counter or out of the fridge. We have two other children that can eat dairy. The only items we really keep in the house with dairy are the obvious cheese and milk so she knows to stay away and the other kids know to wipe their hands. Sometimes it bugs her that we eat differently, or she is the only one that has to pack if we go to someone’s house. But for the most part she gets it. It could be so much worse. A food allergy shouldn’t be debilitating. We have a healthy and happy 5 year old. And smart too. The school put her at the peanut table. There was only three kids at the table (one of which was her). She came home one day upset and told me she cried at lunch. When I asked her why she said that she wanted to sit with her class at lunch, not at the peanut table. I told her that her teachers felt she was safer at the peanut table considering she had a food allergy too. She told me “but mom, I am not allergic to peanuts, and there is milk at the peanut table anyway!” Good point. The next day, she sat with her class.
You learn to adapt eating habits. You learn to check labels. You learn to educate your child and others. The hard part to learn is trusting her…and anyone else that has to feed her. Even the kind lady at the grocery store looks taken back when I don’t allow my child to sample ice cream. Inside you scream “it can kill her!”, but outwardly you say ” no thank you. She is allergic” while the kind lady gently rolls her eyes. Its manageable and quite frankly she is very healthy even though she doesn’t eat dairy. And someday…even if she never likes the Devil juice…I just hope she doesn’t have to use an epi to fight it off!