As some of you may know, my little picky eater is now three years old. Time has flown by. I’ve been so caught up in my present challenges, that I’ve been forgetting where it all began. So for today’s story, I wanted to remember the newbie days and how our adventures in allergies started.
My sweet little bub came 18 months after my first son. Life was easy with baby #1. He was born after 13 long hours of labor and 30 minutes of excruciating pushing. He was costaud as the French say.
And, things went just like you prepare for after reading the book “What to Expect When Expecting”. I breastfed him for six months, started him on purees, then graduated to yummy solids. Baby #1 is a healthy, almost five-year-old who is a true gourmand, living it up in the city of croissants, quiches, pommes dauphines (just a few of his favorite things)!
Baby #2 was born effortlessly after nine hours of labor and a quick few pushes. He was a tiny shrimp. He looked like a true newbie, not costaud with chubby cheeks like big bro. He was a beautiful baby with perfectly soft baby skin.
The first signs of eczema
Fast forward three weeks later when he got red rashes on his cheeks. Since it was summer in our ancient Parisian apartment, I thought it was due to the heat or perhaps a bout of baby acne. Lo and behold, the pediatrician told me he had eczema. What?! I didn’t even know what eczema was!!
Being the fanatic researcher I am, I read through everything about eczema. In a nutshell, it’s red or very dry skin that is typically itchy and rough. On babies/children, it can be anywhere, but tends to be on the cheeks and joints of arms and legs.
What causes eczema?
Causes can range from low humidity, hard water, irritants, stress, heat and sweat, and allergens (food and/or environmental).
For more info, check out this website.
Among the various causes, food allergies seemed to be the likely culprit for my son. There was no low humidity as it wasn’t winter and we didn’t have heat blasting in our apt. He only wore 100% cotton clothes. And, I was already a stickler about perfume-free and paraben-free body cleansers, laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents, etc.
If it was food allergies though, that meant I was the problem since I was exclusively breastfeeding. I saw that milk was top of the list for babies with eczema so I immediately cut all milk and dairy out of my diet. Within two weeks, I saw my son’s eczema clear up. It was like magic. But, then the eczema would come back in the form of little flare ups. I knew there was something else triggering his eczema, but didn’t know what. So at this point, I asked our French pediatrician to refer us to an allergist.
Testing for allergies
Here’s a look at the various tests our brave little bub endured starting at four months old:
Diallertest: This is a nice and simple skin patch test: two round stickers on baby’s back, remove 48 hours later, doctor checks the results 72 hours later. This test can be found in pharmacies, without a prescription.
Skin Prick Test: Extracts of various allergens are placed on the arm and then penetrated with a prick. Reactions (wheals) are read by the doctor after 15-20 minutes.
RAST Blood Test: This tests the immune system’s response to a specific allergen by measuring the amount of allergy-causing antibodies in the bloodstream, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. Note that this test is less sensitive than newer blood tests now available and can result in false positives.
Immuno Solid-phase Allergen Chip (ISAC) Test: This is the leader in blood testing as it requires a very small sample of blood and can test for 51 different allergens and 112 different allergen components. It detects specific IgE antibodies to food and airborne allergens.
The start of a long adventure in allergies
Throughout this journey, we have had interesting results: positive to peanut at six months old, then no longer positive at one year old. We stand today with food allergies to wheat, sesame and egg. No true allergy to milk, but it is a trigger for eczema. We even did hospital challenges for milk and egg, which I will share with you some other time.
This is a long and most likely never ending adventure in allergies. Like some of you parents out there, in the back of my mind, I always wish that some of the positives are false.
Whether or not you want to venture down this path with your baby is a hugely personal choice. In the end, I feel that my husband and I made the right decision to start testing early as it has greatly helped us control our son’s eczema, avoid major food allergic reactions, and prepared us for last year’s discovery of his allergy-related asthma. Like many allergic kids, he has the trilogy of allergies, eczema and asthma.
Keeping things under control
I’m a firm believer in following instincts. Like I’ve said before, we know our kids the best. I touch wood that my son hasn’t had any major allergic reactions. His skin is clear, except for some eczema on his right hand that comes and goes. And, his asthma is under control.
As a family, we have settled nicely into our food allergy lifestyle at home, out and about, and on holidays. Allergies affect the whole family emotionally, mentally and physically; and understanding and supporting the person affected is just the beginning. We are always prepared.
At three years old, my son has an incredible sagesse about his allergies. He’s my little man wise beyond his years. And, for the first time, I feel my stress and fear start to subside knowing that he will be OK.