So I thought I’d give a little more info on one huge aspect of our family. My oldest daughter Kayla has a Severe Dairy Allergy. She was born, full term at 8lb, 3oz and completely healthy. I attempted b/f’ing and failed miserable. Due to my hormonal infertility issues (2.5 years worth), I was unable to produce enough. So off she went onto formula (she got some b/m from pumping through 3 weeks of life). At a week old, she started crying after her feedings. In a matter of days she would scream for 2+ hours after each and every bottle. Sometimes, I’d have to feed her again b4 she even stopped. We even had one emergency room visit b/c she was 2 weeks old and refused to eat AT ALL. It was after 9pm and her doc wanted her examined b4 prescribing medicine for her Reflux. She ended up on Zantac for the first 8 months of life and the only formula she could tolerate was Nutramigen which is dairy-based but very broken down (most dairy allergic babies don’t “recognize” it as dairy). And it’s double the cost of “regular” formula. Luckily the extreme pain ended between 3-4 months of age – but it was a loooong few months. She would scream for so long and so hard and high-pitched that when she was not in pain and actually coo’d (she was actually a very easy going baby), you could hear that her voice was horse. Very sad. She also has battled Eczema on and off (which is typical of food allergies as well). She was diagnosed with the dairy allergy at 8 months when she broke out in hives from 3 bites of yogurt. She also still has reflux and we had to battle FTT (Failure to Thrive) for quite a while (she was born in the 90% for weight and by the age of 15 months was in the 5%). Both of these often go hand-in-hand with food allergies. Luckily the FTT is now under control and she is holding steady with her rate of growth.
Her reaction to dairy is both hives (upon contact of the skin) and vomiting when she ingests (luckily she has only ingested it once). Per some definitions, this would be considered an anaphylactic reaction since 2 systems of the body react. Luckily, we have never had an anaphylactic SHOCK reaction where she has trouble breathing, etc. But we do carry epi pens just in case. With food allergies, reactions can progress very quickly, so her next reaction could be anaphylactic shock. Plus, hives are a precursor to this type of reaction. We actually feel much safer having them around.
They key to outgrowing a food allergy is COMPLETE AVOIDANCE. And with Kayla’s reaction being very sensitive to contact of anything dairy, that is no easy task. Two months after being diagnosed (before we knew all we know now), Kayla’s little friend was eating cheese doodles and b4 I could stop her (those Toddlers are fast), she touched Kayla’s back. I quickly cleaned it off, but to no avail – within a couple minutes she had hives on her back. The only other reaction she has had was over 6 months ago. After dinner – she somehow got into something with dairy in our kitchen. She had hives on one side of her face. To this day, DH and I kick ourselves – mostly b/c we can not figure out WHAT she came in contact with. So, now we are even more strict and don’t eat dairy around her. No matter how careful you are things happen.
We are not a dairy-free house, but don’t have a lot of dairy around anymore and we eat dairy free whenever she is awake and home. Reading ingredients lists has become second nature. I can be at work and eating something that she won’t be having anywhere near her, but I still read the ingredients. We read them at the store and we read them when we get home and put the food away and then I read them again when I take it out of the pantry/fridge to open it. You can never be too careful. She will not be tested again until she is 3. We are hoping beyond hope that she will outgrow this so she can have a “normal” life. But I’m not holding my breath for that. Be prepared for the worse but hope for the best – that’s what will work best here.
At home, things are very “easy”. Kayla has her own shelf in both the pantry and fridge. On these shelves are foods completely safe for her. So if my parents or a friend happen to watch her for any reason, they can always know they have somewhere to go for Kayla-safe foods. Going out is the tricky part. We don’t take the kids to restaurants b/c I am not ready to trust someone else with her food. And packing up her entire meal for a meal out is just not worth it to us. It’s no fun. Also, being home and having people over is not too bad b/c we don’t serve dairy and it’s easy to enforce your own rules (i.e. washing your hands and face after eating, etc). Parties are the hardest as these typically revolve around food. Plus, being elsewhere makes it hard to put on restrictions, depending on whose house it is at.
It’s hard to balance isolating your child for their safety, but also getting them involved so they can be a normal kid. Food is everywhere – grocery store carts, playgrounds, even in the lobby of her gymnastics. It’s nerve-wracking and stressful. It’s hard to constantly ask strangers to wash their kids’ hands, but I do it. I’ve even asked Moms at her Ped’s office and music class to put away a cup of milk their child was just carrying around. I have to say Mom’s have been very understanding and wonderful. And we’ve been surprised by those we thought would be harder on us by being wonderful about it. And unfortunately, we’ve had some that we thought would be understanding that was less than understanding. But overall, I have found some great Moms who have gone out of their way to help us keep Kayla safe, even in their homes. One purposely only gives her son water to drink when we go to her house. Another went out of her way to not put out any cheesy snacks at a party she was having so Kayla would be safer. And others have done the same/similar things. They are forever surprising me - I will be forever grateful to them. Then of course, there are the ones that think we are insane, overprotective, neurotic parents. Well, I won’t give them anymore of my time. :) We do what any parent would do to protect their child.<>We hope Kayla will outgrow this allergy – if not by 3, then later. Until then, I will continue researching and learning more about food allergies so I can give her the safest environment and give her the fun she deserves as a child. So far Alysa has no known allergies. But we are taking it slow with food introduction. We have our fingers crossed that she does not develop any food allergies.>