Caring For The Child Who is Allergic to EVERYTHING

From the boogordoctor (aka, Dr. Russell Faust): I am honored to bring my readers more from Tasha. You may remember her introduction almost exactly a year ago, with Some Effective Natural Remedies Based on a Mother’s Experience. Well, I have been pestering Tasha to tell us more about what it is like to have a child with multiple, severe allergies: basically, the child who seems to be allergic to everything. She shares that experience here. An inspiring read:

Allergic to Everything? Sometimes it Seems Like it!

I am often asked what it’s like having a child with multiple allergies.  What can he eat?  What can he not eat?  Can he eat at a restaurant?

Mike at 11 months: eczema improving only 2 months after allergy testing and starting elimination diet

Mike at 11 months: eczema improving only 2 months after allergy testing and starting elimination diet

Well, let’s begin with Mike’s allergies.  He is now 9 years old and although he has never had a reaction requiring his epi pen, his allergist believes that Mike would be anaphylactic to dairy (cow), eggs, peanuts and possibly mustard based on his skin and blood test results and past reactions to trace amounts.  On top of that, Mike is also allergic to soy, shrimp, eggplant, birch, alder, grass, weeds, dog, cat, and artificial food dyes.  We also avoid tree nuts (except for coconut – which is controversially classified as a tree nut by the FDA), all shellfish, goat’s milk, and chalk as the dust can trigger his asthma.

What reactions have we noticed?  Eczema (for more details about this, refer to http://www.boogordoctor.com/11-home-remedies-to-treat-eczema/), hives, swollen and itchy eyes, itchy mouth, swollen lips, runny nose, chest tightness, and lots of coughing.  Mike also seems to have the propensity to catch every single bug that roams around his school (AKA the germ pit!).  I absolutely dread the colds that produce a horrid sounding phlegmy cough that takes eons to go away.  I’m sure many of you can relate to what I’m talking about.

So what’s it like having a child with multiple allergies, eczema and asthma?  In a single word, “INTERESTING.”  How about another word, “EXPENSIVE.”  And another….“STRESSFUL.”

Yes, it’s an interesting life that we lead, but it’s what we do.  It’s our “normal” which might not be normal for anyone else, but it is for us.  Yes, I cook a lot from scratch out of necessity because there isn’t a lot of processed and pre-prepared foods that Mike can have – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, other than it typically takes more time and planning.  Everything that I cook for our family is Mike-safe.  I made this decision long ago because I wanted our home to be the place where Mike could eat freely and not feel “different.”  Everywhere else we go (such as a restaurant or social gathering), I’m aware that Mike is “different” with his own food brought from home all the time.  He can’t eat restaurant food, other than white rice – and even then we have to be careful because we’ve seen egg bits before, likely because the spoon was previously used for something else.  I can tell you that there have been times when my heart broke in pieces when Mike was upset that he couldn’t have what others were having or the times when he would say, “I wish I could try that” when he sees our meals at a restaurant.  But I can also tell you there have been many times when I joyfully watched Mike sneak freshly baked cookies off the cooling rack.  It’s what I always envisioned children doing and I’m glad that I can bake safe cookies for Mike to eat.

Another thing I do quite often is I scour grocery store shelves for any new product that Mike could possibly eat.  Many times, there is only one type of product – one brand – one grocery store that carries a food product that Mike can have.  So it’s not unusual for me to be going from one store to another store to pick up one thing – not very environmentally friendly for the carbon footprint, I know.  And then I want to cry when that one product is no longer being carried by the one grocery store in town….but then I’m elated when I find it online, only to be slapped with a huge shipping cost that amounts to more than the product itself!  Yes, specific diets can be rather expensive in more ways than one.  There was a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, where researchers found that costs related to food allergies in children amounted to almost $25 billion in the US (http://children.webmd.com/news/20130916/costs-for-kids-food-allergies-estimated-at-nearly-25-billion)!

Stressful?  Yep, it is.  Why?  Well, on top of all the normal day to day stresses that we all deal with – like dealing with deadlines and what’s for dinner?  I need to educate Mike and others about his allergies and what precautions need to be in place – this alone can be another post for another day!  I need to check labels, shop for special foods, figure out how to make Mike-safe versions of “normal” food, cook a lot from scratch.  I’m often on alert as I scan an environment to see where/how Mike can get exposed to his allergens and then do something about it before Mike can get exposed.  I need to observe him all the time for signs of any reactions or his asthma flaring up and then manage it.  There’s also the financial aspect to keep in mind – the food, doctor visits, medications, natural supplements – it’s expensive!  Then there’s the ultimate stress when Mike is left in the care of others, such as at school.  I pray that I never get that call that he’s on his way to the hospital because of a life threatening anaphylactic reaction.  I can tell you that my phone is always nearby.

So, yes, caring for a child with multiple allergies can be interesting, expensive and stressful.  But there’s so much more to it than that…and for that answer, how about looking to the child?  Mike is energetic and his teachers describe him as always happy.  He loves sports, reading, running around in a playground with his friends and of course, the Wii.  His favorite subjects in school are recess and gym.  He loves to giggle and have fun, just like any other kid.  He still gives me hugs and kisses, of which I am a willing recipient!  And he still doesn’t mind me walking him to his classroom at school!  So what’s it like to be his mom?  How about this…A LOT OF EFFORT, BUT SO WORTHWHILE.  And that’s what being a mom to any child is all about, isn’t it?

If you have children with allergies, eczema, asthma or any other condition, please share your experiences of what it’s like to care for them.  I’d love to hear from you!  Support from other parents who are going through similar situations is the best support around!

In health,
Tasha

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Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.
That wonderful photo of me is by Chris Stranad; here is his site: http://www.chrisstranadphotography.com/Index.html

I encourage any moms (and dads, too) who are reading to share your experience here! Even if you don’t have the cure, it helps everyone to know that others are struggling with similar, difficult challenges. And few things in life are as stressful and challenging as caring for your sick child. So share your experience. Send me an email, we’d love to hear from you!

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Russell Faust, PhD, MD boogordoctor / healthy children

Dr. Faust and friend

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Comments

  1. Saba Laeeq says:

    Hey Tasha,
    Caring for one child with severe allergies is challenging, I have two and it’s all good! :) As you wrote, there is a different norm in our household. Now that my older one is 13, I can tell you that it does get better :) Eczema is non-existent, occassional wheezing (for no good reason! :) has disappeared, and thankfully no more hives or swollen, red eyes! Has he grown out of all his allergies? No, but his immune system is stronger, and perhaps not as hypersensitive in general as it used to be. Best thing we did was that we made sure he read labels no matter what – even better, he knows that while it may seem unfair that both of them have so many allergies, given tons of GMOs and bad food around, they are truly better off! :)

    While we eat only organic fruits and vegetables, I realized that one of the fruits we buy added a label “treated with sulfites.” As we know, sulfites is a known trigger for asthma in people who are predisposed. My younger son who loves grapes and has atleast one serving daily suddenly developed quite a bit of cough and wheezing until I realized added sulfites in his grapes! Within a week of detox, his wheezing disappeared! Next year, I’ll be growing my own! Lol

    Best,
    Saba

    • Russell A. Faust, PhD, MD says:

      Hey Saba!
      Thanks for sharing that. I always say that the best information is from the been-there-done-that moms like you and Tasha!
      Thanks for visiting, and for adding value.

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