Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Living with Food Allergies


This is part of the chain of posts to raise Food Allergy Awareness, started by Tara of Winkie's Ways.

T1 was barely a few days old when we noticed patches of dry, red skin caused by eczema. Our pediatrician, Dr.N suggested that we try and keep her skin as moist as possible with a topical application of Eucerin or Cetaphil. We did as we were told. But her eczema was only getting more rampant. That's when Dr.N suggested that I avoid milk, nuts and eggs, since I was exclusively nursing her. I did that. We did not see a dramatic difference, but I continued to follow the restrictions in my diet...
She also suggested we do a skin test to check for food allergies before starting solid food. There can be many causes for infantile eczema, food allergies being just one of those. In our case, that WAS the reason as we soon found out. When T1 was 7 months old, we did a comprehensive food test on her tiny back, since her arms were not big enough. She tested positive for Wheat, Oats, Potatoes, most Tree Nuts (including cashews, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and pecans) and Peanuts. We were naturally devastated as much as we were terrified.
Fortunately, she outgrew most of these (except nuts) by the time she was 2.

To-date, we are thankful to Dr.N for suggesting the test. With food allergies, the smartest thing to do is to stay away from the allergen as long as you can. Had we not tested and learned of her allergens, I am sure we would have made things worse for her. Especially with wheat! There is no way I'd have otherwise known to avoid wheat and oats!

Until we tested her, the eczema probably never got better because I'd been eating different forms of wheat when nursing her almost exclusively.
Sometimes I wonder if nursing her really helped her immune system, or if it made her immune system so powerful that it started treating even normal food as allergens, and basically making matters worse??!! Your two cents??

If an allergen triggers an anaphylactic reaction, it starts right away. But other symptoms including hives, rash, or stomach disturbances can start 2-3 days later. So, as much as we were excited to try out new foods, we waited and went by the book.
We were very, very, very particular when trying any new food. We started in small doses and continued for a whole week. No less!
As a matter of fact, we kept with this trend even after her first year. We had the food allergy results with us, so why did we do this? Because all of these food tests have false positives and false negatives. JA!!!
Usually, treenuts show better results with the skin test, peanuts with the blood test. Elimination and Re-introduction with careful supervision is probably a good way to test for food allergies.

We've learned a lot of things about managing food allergies and being on top of it. A lot of posts in this chain have listed a bunch of DOs and DONTs, and TIPS and TRICKS from Dottie, PG, Sue, Kiran, etc...
I have myself written a few posts on T1's allergies - here, here, and here.

So, for my part this time around, I'll primarily write about Reading Labels. While some Food Allergy labels are informative, some are very, very confusing and seem like they've been added as a "cover your a$$".
There are so many different variations of the same disclaimers. Some of the popular notes include -

"Manufactured in the same facility that uses nuts"
"Manufactured in shared equipment that uses nuts"
"May contain tree-nuts or peanuts"

"Manufactured in the same facility that uses nuts" makes a lot of sense because some people can have react to an allergen if it's "In the air."
So these folks have to really stay away from such products.

"Manufactured in shared equipment that uses nuts" is another of the informative messages that I did not know the real meaning for a long time. The possibility of contamination from shared equipment is exponentially more when they are "Dry-cleaned" as opposed to being rinsed with water.
If they are "dry-cleaned" there is a good possibility of nuts sticking in those unreachable corners. Especially Chocolate!! It may take a few batches to absorb all those remnant nuts before making totally nut-free chocolate. Ever since I learned that, I've completely stopped taking chances with chocolate.

In a FAAN meeting with Anne Munoz-Furlong (The founder and then CEO) as the Key-Speaker, she mentioned that if enough people call and request for nut-free chocolate, the manufactures will pay heed - apparently that's how you get disclaimer-free M&Ms in Canada!! The power of consumers!

"May contain tree-nuts or peanuts" is just too vague. If you've noticed, even Maggi has started adding these labels on! How frustrating! T1 loves Maggi, and I continue giving it to her, but I'm so scared and watchful each time. I should probably stop!
What's the deal with Trader Joe's?? As much as I love the store, I hate that they add these "You Can't Sue me Now" disclaimers! I mean from sandwiches to broth, their products May contain Shellfish and Nuts!!!
What next? Bagged spinach that May contain nuts?

I decided to keep a positive tone, and will stop my frutstration with labels at that!!
Oh, while I'm talking about Disclaimers, I'd like to add that this post is completely based on my experiences and to be taken with a pinch of salt (Hopefully we'll continue to find Salt with no nuts).
The other thing that I want to mention is being a member of an Allergy Network.
Being a part of my county's chapter of FAAN has helped us a lot. With regular meetings, we get to learn from other people's experiences. It's a good support group for each other. The founding members have worked VERY hard with the school board to stream-line rules and bring about a scripted "Health Plan." It's still in baby stages, but at least there is something in the works. We have had two amazing Halloween parties with completely safe food (aka none). They have also organized many play-groups, which I never had a chance to be a part of. But my point is that a support group like this has helped us in many ways. I learn something new every time I attend a meeting. There is a whole bunch of people who go through so much more than I do and have done it wonderfully so!

Finally, a note about treatments. There is no proven allopathic treatment on record. Yes, there are allergy shots for seasonal allergies, but they are so intrusive, and not even reliable! There are remedies that contain the symptoms, but nothing that really claims to cure - EXCEPT when you take the Alternative Route, that is!
Again, these are from my own experiences -
We have been treating T1 with BioSet for about 2 months now. As far as BioSet practitioners are concerned, they use intolerences and allergies interexchangably. The practitioners check the energy flow of any susbstance using its unique wavelength (Pup's Quantum Mechanics ken agrees with that logic). They sorta create a "circuit" using the substance they test against. If there is a block, the circuit is not complete. That's how they decide if must be treated.
Sounds far-fetched? We decided to try it nevertheless.
My niece, D took the treatment from the same doc and her Wheat allergies just went from +ve to -ve in a week, leaving her regular Allergist totally perplexed!! That's when I became a believer.

Both the test and the treatment are totally non-intrusive. All T1 has had to do is hold this metal rod wrapped in a wet paper-towel and chat away to glory for 15 minutes! Wait! The chatting away is nothing new to her!

We have so far attempted to treat outdoor allergens like mold, weed, pollen, trees etc. I do not know if this Fall's outdoor allergens were mild or if the treatment is working - but we haven't used a Nebulizer for T1 ALL season (Casting Anti-jinx Spells). She still has an itchy, runny nose...but nowhere close to what she endured last year!!
We've just started with foods this past week...
At the end of it, even if we do not have a cure for her food allergies, we are hoping that accidental exposures will not harm her much. That's good enough for us.

I'll end this note with this link to Dr.Sears' notes on Food Allergies.


Sue said...

Nice to see the humuourous take. :)

I didn't know about the dry cleaning bit. Man, every post I read makes me so grateful we've not had this scare so far.

Anonymous said...

oh boy! u know so much about this... shows how much you've researched for ur baby :)
proud of you and at the same time worried that you worried..

yenna kaayam aana podhum endhan meni thaangi kollum,
undhan meni thaangaadu senthene..


DotThoughts said...

i saw the labels on maggie and said this is prolly cover your a$$ at work! Great post. I should look up Bio-Set for Chip now.

DotThoughts said...

and i am ROTFL-ing at salt with no nuts!