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It's Personal: Food Allergies

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Bulldozer was 9 days old when diagnosed with a severe milk protein allergy.  At 9 months old, due to continuous health complications unexplainable by several other specialists, he went through more extensive allergy testing, which showed the results below:

Severe Allergies:
Watermelon
Apples
Oranges
Casein
Alpha-Lactalbumin
Egg Whites
Wheat
Beef
Oats
Peanuts
Tree Nuts
Soy Beans
String Beans
Carrots
Celery
Cucumber
Peas
Tomatoes
Strawberries

Mild Allergies:
White Potatoes
Rice
Corn

Approved for Consumption:
Canteloupe
Peaches
Bananas
Chicken

Anything not on these lists was left an unknown.

Our life changed forever that day.

One could say I've become an expert at being a food allergy mom.  We carry Epinephrine and Benadryl everywhere we go.  My knowledge of packaged food ingredients and food processing plants is out of this world.  I've developed another personality.  My husband calls it "The Wolverine."  This is when I'm in panic and defense mode, trying to protect Bulldozer from more severe reactions.  Non food allergy parents tend to call me crazy when I'm in this mode, usually because they don't understand that food can actually kill my child.

Bulldozer was sick from birth, taking a prescription formula.  He couldn't try solids until he as 9 months old.  His main source of nutrition was his formula until he was about 2 years old.  Some of my scariest memories include Dinomite being a kind big brother, giving Bulldozer, age 1, a muffin from the counter.  I was in another room.  When I returned, Bulldozer and Dinomite were soaked in vomit. This didn't include the large puddle of it on the floor around them.  Bulldozer was struggling to breathe.

Most of Bulldozer's symptoms were ones I could not see.  As an infant and toddler, he couldn't tell me what was wrong.  It was a very scary thing to watch him react so severely to so many different foods, but the worst days were when I didn't realize what was happening.  We celebrated with vigor that  Bulldozer survived his first year of life!

Food Allergy Research and Education shares great tips on how to identify food allergies and treat anaphylaxis.  If you haven't checked out their website, please do!  The list below comes from a wonderful poster they shared in honor of Anaphylaxis Awareness Day.

Severe Symptoms
1.  Lung:  Short of breath, wheezing, repetitive cough
2.  Heart: Pale, blue, faint, weak pulse, dizzy
3.  Throat:  Tight, hoarse, trouble breathing/swallowing
4.  Mouth:  Significant swelling of the tongue, lips
5.   Skin:  Many hives over body, widespread redness
6.  Gut:  Repetitive vomiting, severe diarrhea
7.  Other:  Feeling something bad is about to happen, anxiety, confusion

Mild Symptoms
1.  Nose:  Itchy/runny nose, sneezing
2.  Mouth:  Itchy Mouth
3.  Skin:  A few hives, mild itch
4.  Gut:  Mild nausea/discomfort

Over the past 4 years, Bulldozer has grown out of some allergies including most grains, dairy, and eggs. At the same time we've discovered other food allergies along the way.  Still, some he's had since he was a baby have become more severe.  We are very thankful that Bulldozer only reacts when these foods are ingested.

Bulldozer had his 6 month check up with the allergist last week.  In preparation for the appointment I made an updated list of all the foods Bulldozer is allergic to vs. the ones he's not.  For the first time ever, the list of foods he can eat, is longer than the list of foods he can eat.

To date, Bulldozer is allergic to:
Almond
Blackberry
Blueberry
Brazil Nut
Carrot
Celery
Chili Powder
Coconut
Cranberry
Cucumber
Cumin
Curry Powder
Fish
Garbanzo Beans
Grapefruit
Hazelnut
Kidney Bean
Lemon
Lentil
Lima Beans
Lime
Oats
Orange
Pea
Peanut
Pineapple
Pinto Bean
Pistachio
Raspberry
Strawberry
String Bean
Sweet Potato
Thyme
Walnut


Any foods even processed in the same plant can cause a reaction if ingested.

Bulldozer can eat:
Apples
Bananas
Barley
Basil
Beef
Bell Peppers
Black Beans
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Canola Oil
Cauliflower
Chicken
Cinnamon
Cloves
Coriander
Corn
Egg
Garlic
Ginger
Gelatin
Grapes
Milk (Cow)
Mint
Mushroom
Nutmeg
Paprika
Parsley
Peaches
Pepper
Pork
Potatoes
Plums
Pumpkin
Rice
Rosemary
Tomato
Turkey
Onion
Oregano
Spaghetti Squash
Summer Squash
Sunflower Seeds
Sesame Seeds
Soy
Watermelon
Wheat
Zucchini
Vanilla Bean

Update (1/20/15):  Adam tried and can now eat Asparagus, Carrots, Coconut, Acorn Squash and Pinapple.

Updates (9/26/15):  Adam has officially outgrown his allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, and oats!

Though Bulldozer continues to have allergy testing every two years, the best way to test out his food allergies has been through trial and error, with the guidance and direction of his allergist. There are foods that we are told to not test out AT ALL, because of the severity of the reaction, which could lead to death. There are still many foods he's never had, and so about every month or so, we attempt something new.  If Bulldozer has a horrible reaction, we stop for a few months, usually at his request.  When he discovers something else he can eat, mot often he wants to try something else new the next month.

You may be wondering how we have survived this?

Over the first six months of Bulldozer's food allergy experience, our grocery bill tripled.  I was purchasing all of these special diet cook books and trying to use ingredients I'd never heard of before, which usually Bulldozer ended up being allergic to anyways.

Over time I changed my plan.  I hosted a contest on facebook, for anyone who wanted to participate.  The goal was to find as many recipes for meals as possible that Bulldozer could eat, using everyday ingredients.  This contest helped me put together a month's worth of allergy friendly meals for everyone in our family.

My grandmother is a big magazine subscriber.  She would save all of her magazines that included recipes. When I'd come to visit, I would pick up the large cardboard box. My husband and I would then go through every magazine searching for recipes we could use.  We also used the internet, but found it to be a little overwhelming with so many dietary needs.

I'd go to the grocery store for hours, reading the labels of every food I could find, starting with the health food isles, and then work my way to the other isles.  This was how I discovered a dairy free margarine that didn't cost an arm and a leg.  I realized that there are many cereals Bulldozer could eat, as replacements for crackers and other snack foods.  The grocery store itself made a difference.

Over time, our grocery bill lowered to about $200 a week for our family of six.  There are definitely some foods that we have to buy special for Bulldozer, due to contamination etc. but for the most part, with the exception of sunbutter and energy egg replacer, I shop in the regular food isles just like everyone else.

I am very thankful that I have been blessed with a love for cooking and baking.  It brings me pleasure to make a fabulous meal from scratch.  Otherwise I feel this road would have been much more difficult.  All of our kiddos have lunch boxes for when we're out and about.  Eating at restaurants is a bit difficult.  At home, to make sure I don't mix up Bulldozer's food or contaminate it with foods he's allergic to, I use color coded plates, cups, knives, forks, spoons, etc.  Bulldozer's are green. Dinomite's are blue.  Princess' are pink. Sunshine's are purple.  When we do travel, we rent a suite or a rental home for a week, so I always have access to kitchen.  We prepare meals there, having brought our food with us, and do pretty well.

Food allergies have changed my life forever.  Dinomite, Princess, and Sunshine also have some, but nothing in comparison to Bulldozer.  More than anything else, I've learned that each day I can keep Bulldozer safe, is a day to celebrate.

Do you have a food allergy story? I'd love to hear it!

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. What a long list of foods he is/was allergic to!
    I know the fear that goes along with having a child with life threatening allergies (yet another thing you and I have in common!) but I am fortunate that our daughter now only reacts to one thing - tree nuts. She hasn't outgrown her allergies but is on a drug that binds her IGEs (the antibodies that react to allergens) and makes them unable to work so she can now eat normally. At one point before she started on this drug, she had developed oral allergy syndrome which means her body was mistaking certain foods for environmental allergies and her list of foods she could eat was frighteningly short but this drug has changed everything for us. She actually isn't on the drug for food allergies but for her lung condition but this is one of the effects and we are thrilled.
    I pray that your son continues to outgrow his allergies and that he remains safe in the meantime. Good thing he has a mom so willing to fight for him and learn everything she could!

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  2. Thank you for sharing Sharla! We do have so much in common. I guess we were just destined to become friends. :) That's very interesting about your daughter and her medication. It's amazing what some medications can do. I'm guessing she's the one with the lung problems from what you say, which is funny, because Bulldozer is my kiddo with all the environmental issues too. Not that it's the same, but you know what I mean. Bulldozer has been to every specialist under the sun through out this food allergy journey, just because even the allergist and pediatrician had their doubts at first. The list is up to 15 specialists I think. In the end we were sent all the way to Boston, MA to confirm everything when he was 15 months. So far no medications or special diets or anything have improved things for him. I get so exited when I hear about stories where something does help a food allergy kiddo. Bulldozer, who is also autistic, is just becoming aware of everything he can't have, within the last six months. It's been rough on him, but thankfully he's doing okay with it.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story. My boys so far do not have any food allergies but I have life threatening allergies to latex, bananas, kiwi, bell peppers, paprika, and aspirin. They have changed my life and make me anxious and nervous to eat in restaurants and at potlucks etc. But, having a child with allergies would be truly terrifying. As an adult I have control over what I eat but kids often don't and many not have the knowledge to articulate what they cannot eat. I absolutely love the idea of hosting contests and gathering resources from everywhere. Such a difficult journey but Bulldozer is lucky to have you as his mom who is constantly searching for way to make his diet varied and balanced even with severe allergies.

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  4. Kerrie, I feel for you. It's been rough with Bulldozer, especially when he developed PICA from such a small diet as a two year old. But we're on the upswing. Bulldozer is also allergic to adhesives of all kinds, such as band aids, tape, glue, stickers, etc. It's not the latex, but the actual adhesive compound. He goes into anaphylaxis when in contact. It's crazy. He also has an allergy to tylenol and most sunblocks. You two might make a good pair. :)

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  5. Thank you for sharing this with us. I think my youngest my be allergic to lactose.

    Did you see your post from last week is featured on the #pinitparty?

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome. I wish you the best with your youngest. I did not see the feature from last week. I'll have to check it out. Thank you so much!

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  6. Oh my goodness, this opens my eyes to food allergies in a new way. I had no idea they could be so vast..

    Hugs to you and your little for this challenge. Something as necessary as feeding your baby is anything but simple for you.

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

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