Hollows Eve

Halloween… one of the words I dread the most. Why? Think about it; Halloween means one thing: CANDY. What are the most common ingredients found in these treats? Top 8 allergens. When we go out on this day, all I see around is just a potential allergic reaction.

Before Penny was diagnosed with food allergies we used to go trick or treating, but after she got the diagnosis, we felt it was too much of a risk, and decided to avoid it the years that followed. Not wanting to exclude the kids from having fun we started a new Halloween tradition, painting our pumpkins teal, getting our costumes on, and offering non-food treats to people. This year things changed: Penny is older and now understands what Halloween is, she talks about it with her friends and we felt like she wanted to be more involved, so we thought we should give it another chance.

The day started pretty excitingly. Fairy Princess costume on, breakfast, and off to school for a small Halloween bash. Like most of you know, Penny’s school is pretty accommodating when it comes to her food allergies. For the event held at her school, people brought treats and party foods to share with everyone. Even though there weren’t any peanuts or tree nuts, there was plenty of dairy around. The day was going O.K., but at a certain point a rash started to appear in Penny’s hands and face, and before her reaction got worse, my husband picked her up from school. He cleaned her hands and face really well, and the rash eventually disappeared. In the evening, I took the children trick or treating to some neighbors houses whom I had already given non-food items to offer to them, and it was a happy end to our day.

Even though our day was a successful one, it was stressful. Are we going trick or treating next year? I am not sure; maybe we’ll go back to passing non-food treats and raising Food Allergy awareness. Am I overreacting? Perhaps. It might be that I am overwhelmed because one of our family members went into anaphylactic shock less than a week ago and is fighting for his life. Maybe I seem like I am being overly cautious, but there’s one thing I would like you to understand: my children’s allergies, intolerances, or disorders are not their choice; it’s something they have to live with. Let’s create awareness; let’s cultivate empathy in our family members. Judging only clouds our thinking, if we try to walk a mile in other’s people shoes we contribute to a better society.

 

 

Advertisements

Four Years Ago

It’s almost the four-year anniversary of Penny’s food allergy diagnosis. We’ve come a long way ever since, and there’s so much more that we need to learn. At that time, when her doctor said the words, “Penny is allergic to dairy, peanuts and tree nuts”, I was filled with mixed emotions. Happy because we finally had a name for those unexplainable hives that would appear on and off during the past 5-6 months, but at the same time it felt like a “life sentence”. It felt like our lives were turned upside down.

Choosing things to eat without her allergens was hard, going to gatherings, birthday parties and play dates seemed impossible, and to be honest it is still hard sometimes. Even choosing a school for Penny to attend, where her allergies are taken seriously, was a struggle. Things got harder last year when my husband had to do an unaccompanied Army one-year, overseas tour. Penny was sick a lot that year. From the moment my husband left, she started getting ear infections. Of course, her allergies to antibiotics made things harder. Then after recurrent ear infections (one each month for 6 months), she was referred to an ENT, and the Dr. decided that she had to undergo surgery to place tubes in her ears and also remove her adenoids and tonsils.

I am so lucky to have friends that go above and beyond for my children and me. So, when the decision was made that Penny was to have the surgery, my best friend (Sonia) offered to fly into town and be here with us through Penny’s recovery. The day of the surgery, I was a nervous wreck. Since Penny has not only food allergies, but also allergy to medications, I was so scared how her body was going to react to anesthesia. Thankfully, surgery was a success, and Penny didn’t have to stay at the hospital that night. Although Penny recovered pretty fast from surgery, she did have some complications. A week after surgery, her lungs started accumulating liquid, but eventually (with treatment), she pulled through. Sonia stayed with us for 3 weeks, making it possible for me to go to work while helping to take care of Penny & Paulo. I am forever grateful for Sonia’s help.

These past four years have taught us to read labels, eat healthier, cook and bake at home, create awareness, educate people, deal with uncertainty and more, but overall we’ve learned to see life differently, to live with empathy, and to think about the everyday struggles of others. We’ve received so much love and consideration from family, friends, and even strangers. Food Allergies are hard, but the hidden gems it brings are far more valuable. We’ve met great people, and we’re part of a beautiful community that looks out for each other. Can’t wait to see what else this incredible journey has for us.

Another Food Allergy Diagnosis

When Winter Break was over, we all went back to our routines. Juan got back to work, Paulo to school, Penny & I to our everyday activities. As I’ve said before, we avoid having allergens in our house, which means no dairy and no nuts. So, school was the only place that Paulo was able to have his cup of milk without me worrying about cross-contact and consequently an allergic reaction. However, when Paulo tried having his usual cup of milk at school, he threw up. That day he said he was too full from the lunch he ate and maybe that was why he threw up. Next day, same thing happened. This time, I was sure that it had nothing to do with being too full because it was accompanied by a week of stomach pain, bloating, gas, etc. Maybe it was a virus or maybe he was starting to develop either an allergy to milk or lactose intolerance.

We decided he was going to avoid milk until we could find out what was going on. He was tolerating cheese, and then one day, after having pizza for lunch, same thing happened. This was the day when he ended up admitted to the hospital (see Hospital Stay). Doctors discharged him with a gastroenteritis diagnosis. I knew something was not right, I felt that it was not gastroenteritis. So, I scheduled a follow up with his pediatrician. After a few visits to different doctors and some tests, it turns out that Paulo has a food allergy: he is allergic to cow’s milk.

This diagnosis taught me that there are different types of food allergies. There are the IgE-Mediated Food-Related Disorders and the Non-IgE-Mediated Food Allergic Disorders. The initial blood test done measured the presence of IgE antibodies to a specific foods. However, Paulo has one of the Non-IgE-Mediated Food Allergic Disorders, reason why that first test came back negative. If you want to find more about Non-IgE-Mediated Food Allergic Disorders, click here… I guess we do learn something new every day.

Like I’ve said before, even though Food Allergies are, most of the time, overwhelming, in my case it has had its share of positive outcomes.  At this point, we are aware of what we eat, we eat a healthier diet, we grow our own organic vegetables and fruits and we know how to avoid diary. Also, Paulo’s reactions are not life threatening. Yes, it is an inconvenience if cross-contact occurs and yes, he gets sick, but his life is not at risk when a reaction occurs. Nevertheless, it is still serious.

We started Food Allergy Awareness Week with another Food Allergy diagnosis in our house. Now I have more than one reason to advocate and raise awareness about food allergies. This week I wear teal for both my kids.