The Food Challenge


I’ve written here before about Declan’s dairy allergy. When he was 9 months old he pulled a cup of milk over onto himself and promptly broke out in hives everywhere it touched his skin–clearly a problem. Again, I’m thankful that I not only breastfed him, but that I was off dairy for my own reasons while I did it. Anyway, a trip to the allergist confirmed that he was allergic (not sensitive, not lactose intolerant, actually really allergic) to milk. We were told to try slowly introducing cooked milk products and see what happened and to come back for a skin test in six months. The allergist assured us that most kids outgrow this allergy by the age of two. She also told us that we would need to carry an EpiPen with us at all times. While the chance of him going into anaphylactic shock was very low, it was still there.

Subsequent skin tests, disappointingly, showed that he was still allergic. Each time that red welt appeared on his skin within seconds of the nurse scratching on the milk. At two, he was still allergic and we were to come back in a year. In the meantime, we should still try more cooked milk products. He was able to eat pizza and grilled cheese. This past August I took him back for a skin test before starting preschool, hoping to avoid the EpiPen paperwork and the worry that he would touch butter while baking in class.

Amazingly, no welt appeared on his arm! I was so relieved! But, the EpiPen paperwork would still have to be done. We still had to do a food challenge to be sure he could tolerate milk. I went to the front desk to schedule the appointment and was told it would be more than THREE MONTHS before we could do the challenge, during which Declan would eat small amounts of some raw dairy product while being closely monitored over the span of a few hours. I was deflated, but still hopeful.

The food challenge is tomorrow. I’ve been waiting and waiting for this day. I have yogurt and chocolate milk and cheese sticks–all foods that he wishes he could eat–in the fridge waiting. He is excited and even told his teachers that he gets to “go to a doctor appointment and eat dairy!” I got the confirmation text from the allergist’s office on Saturday afternoon. It mentioned that there should be “no signs of respiratory symptoms.” So, of course, Declan woke up with a cough on Sunday morning.

He seems ok, but I am FREAKED out! What if they turn us away? What if we have to wait another THREE MONTHS? I feel pretty sure I have a restless night ahead of me. His nose isn’t runny and his cough seems to only be in the morning, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. He’s a three-year-old and it’s November! Are there any three-year-olds who DON’T have respiratory symptoms in November. I’m aware that there’s a medical reason for this, but come on! Because I need him to have this test. I don’t care about what he can and can’t eat. It’s honestly not that difficult to avoid dairy. I just don’t want to worry anymore. I don’t want to worry that some kid will spill their Horizon milk box on him at the playground and he’ll break out in hives…or worse. I don’t want to have to worry that he’ll get frosting on his skin at a birthday party or grab his brother’s yogurt when he inevitably doesn’t throw it away. I don’t want to have to worry that I mixed up the cereal bowls because I was too tired and accidentally gave him the one with real milk.

I’m also thankful that there’s a possibility that he’s outgrown his allergy. It’s tough to avoid touching certain foods. I feel awful for the kids who have allergies they can’t outgrow and that they will take through adulthood. Good thoughts for us that all goes well tomorrow and Declan happily slurps up some yogurt with no adverse reactions.


Adventures in Allergies

It all started one fateful night last June. We were having a Harry Potter party at a friend’s apartment. The older kids had all finished the first book and we were watching the movie together. We had snacks and popcorn. It was great. Then Declan, who was only 10 months old, reached for a cup of milk that Brady left on a table and spilled it all over himself. Within seconds hives appeared everywhere the milk had touched. Not just where his shirt was soaked, but each and every spot that a drip had splashed.

We stripped him down and wiped his skin with a wet cloth. After about 15 minutes most of the welts had disappeared, but he itched at his skin for a good half hour or more. The next day I called the pediatrician. Now, I love my ped, I really do, but I wasn’t thrilled with his response to this particular problem. I spoke to him on the phone and he seemed not to believe me.

“Was the milk hot?” he asked.

“No. It was a cold cup of milk.”

“Was there anything in it?”

“No. It was plain, organic, 2% milk.”

“And he didn’t drink it?”

“No, not a drop.”

“And there were hives?”

“Yes, everywhere it touched.”

So that was fun. He told me not to give him any dairy until he saw him for his one year checkup in 2 months. In those 2 months I found out that my neighbor’s son had had the same response to dairy and that he had outgrown the allergy and that made me feel better. At the one-year appointment the pediatrician referred us to an allergist and we saw her a few weeks later.

The allergist told us that this allergy is usually outgrown and usually in the first 2 years. That’s good. She told us it was most likely not dangerous, but she gave us a script and a how-to on the EpiPen and told us to carry one with us all the time. We were to give him baked goods with milk in them and then try cooked cheese and see how that went. She told us to come back in 6 months and hopefully he wouldn’t have a response anymore.

So we did the baked goods and it was good. We did the pizza and that was good. We eventually did grilled cheese and that was good. We did mac and cheese and that was not so good. He rubbed the cheese on his face and into his eye. He face was covered in hives and his eye swelled shut. Mac and cheese was off the table. He’s stolen sips of Brady’s milk (although we try to be vigilant about him leaving it out) he was ok with that too, as long as it didn’t get on his skin.

Today we went back to the allergist. We talked about what he’s been eating and did a skin test. Within minutes the tiny dot of milk that was scratched onto his skin became a big, red welt. When she looked at it, she said to stay where we are, keep with the pizza, keep with the grilled cheese, don’t let dairy get on his skin. We need add soy milk to his diet so he’s getting enough protein and calcium. With the controversy over soy lately this does not thrill me, but he needs something and having his face swell up on a daily basis is not an option. Ugh.

If he has to have an allergy, this one is not a bad one to have. He will most likely outgrow it. He will most likely NOT go into anaphylactic shock if he eats dairy. Hopefully, when he starts preschool in a year this will be a memory. But this is also a tough one. People tend not to believe me. When I say he has a dairy allergy the response I most often get is, “Oh you mean he’s lactose intolerant?” No, I do not mean that. I mean that if he touches your kid’s yogurt he’s going to be swollen and itchy. No one watches what dairy products are out and about the way they do nuts. Pirate’s Booty is all over the place and it gives him hives every time, even on his fingers. So I have to watch him like a hawk when there’s food. I have to wipe the frosting off of all of his cupcakes. At least he can eat Goldfish crackers, those are nearly impossible to avoid.

I’ve also learned to be way more tolerant of other kids’ allergies. It was hard to be nut free for preschool and camp, but it makes things easier for those kids who can’t be around it. It sucks to be the kid at the party who can’t have the cake because no one knows if it’s nut-free. At least there’s a good chance Declan won’t have this forever, other allergies are lifelong.

When they scratched his skin today I was hopeful for a moment that he would have no reaction and disappointed when I saw the welt forming. No parent wants their child to have anything wrong with them. Aside from keeping him away from dairy, I also worry about Declan getting enough calcium and protein and fat. Brady has never been a milk drinker, but he ate yogurt and cheese everyday so I didn’t worry. Declan is a small guy to begin with so I don’t like worrying about his nutrition.

Six more months of cooked cheese and back for more testing. Not the best, but certainly not the worst. At least D and I had a little adventure today. We took the crosstown bus and headed home through Central Park. We stopped on a rock to share some berries before the rain hit and had a pretty nice morning, itchy arm aside.