Food Allergies In Children
When I was pregnant with Kieran I was fully aware about food allergies in children as I had eczema as a child there was a ‘risk’ that he would get it too and I should avoid eating peanuts. So I did for a whole 8 months until I had two meals at home and at a Chinese restaurant meal that had satay in it, a peanut based sauce.
At 3 weeks old Kieran had developed eczema and after a visit to the doctor he was prescribed creams to relive the itchiness and an emulsifier for his baths. I was told the baby products I had used on him, soap, bubble bath and talc were too harsh for his skin and although they were a well-known as supposedly highly recommended I should avoid them completely.
At 6 months I decided to try Kieran with his first taste of egg.I boiled an egg and made some soldiers as you do, and proceeded to watch his little face light up trying a new food.Within in a couple of minutes his lips and around his mouth turned red and there were small white bumps over the area and he became really stressed. After a breastfeed and dabbing of a cold flannel (I thought he had heat bumps) he calmed down. I told my health visitor about the incident and she said he could have an allergy and said to wait until he was 9 months old before trying him with egg again.With Kieran I never knew about baby led weaning and I had followed another mum’s advice and started weaning him onto solids at 3 months old. At the time the government advised to wean between 4 month and 6 months.I never understood why I should have waited, just that I should.
At 9 months we tried egg again and it had the same effect as it had at 6 months. So I made an appointment to see the doctor. In the two weeks we waited to see the doctor he had another reaction to something else, peanut butter. I had read that I should avoid giving Kieran any nuts due to his eczema until he was a year old.
One morning after Kieran had finished his breakfast, I sat him on my knee whilst I ate my peanut butter on toast.He was patiently waiting for a breastfeed, I kissed him on the cheek and put him down whilst I took my plate out.
I came back and on the cheek where I had kissed him was a large red area and what now I now know was a hive ( I don’t have any photos as it never occurred to me to take any). The following week we saw the doctor and he was referred to have an allergy test.We were told it could take some time.
A couple of months later me and Kieran were eating out in a local café with my dad.Kieran had chips and baked beans.He was tired and was rubbing his eyes during the meal and because he was using his fingers to eat the bean juice got into his eyes and this made him rub them even more. After lunch we went to the local supermarket and Kieran sat in the trolley.He was grizzly all the way round and continued to rub his eyes.By the time we got to the till his face was totally unrecognisable (think Wil Smith in Hitch) as his whole face had puffed up to the extent where his eyes were just slits. Our next stop was our local A and E department and the first thing the nurse said,
“Does he have an allergy?”.
After going through his medical history she gave him some antihistamine and as he was under a year old he could only have a small dose and were told to stay in the waiting room to the be monitored.We waited for an hour and when the nurse returned she advised us to avoid baked beans and to see the doctor. So we went back and we were told we just have to wait for the appointment to come through but he would let the child allergy department know that he had a reaction to baked beans.
The appointment for an allergy test came through eventually and at 14 months old he had his first test. He had a pin prick test where he was tested for egg and several different nuts.He tested positive on all of them and we waited for the full report.It was advised that Kieran would have antihistamine on prescription and he was to have it with him at all times. Further advice about food allergies in children was that I was to make all his meals from scratch and I would be contacted to see a dietitian about how to maximise his diet. The dietitian advised me to check all shop bought food products for nuts, something which at first seemed a very tedious exercise but soon became a natural habit of which Kieran takes upon himself to do too.
I was told to start reintroducing egg back into his diet as majority of children with an egg allergy, grow out of their allergy by the time they are 3-5 years old.As Kieran’s reaction was fairly mild (tingle on his tongue and hives) and he doesn’t suffer from asthma we could start reintroducing egg into his diet at home. We were advised to try Jaffa cakes, sponge finger biscuits which are manufactured and highly processed foods that contain highly cooked egg. Next we tried food that contained highly cooked eggs such as homemade cakes, hard biscuits containing egg, dried egg pasta where he had no reaction but very hard-boiled egg he hasn’t brave enough to try. He was fine at this level but some foods from the next level, lightly cooked eggs he had some reaction to Quiche but he was fine with fresh egg pasta, pancakes, soft cookies, egg custard (bread and butter pudding), lemon curd, marshmallows but again didn’t want to try a soft-boiled, fried or scrambled egg. The next level which he is nowhere near to trying I think until he’s eaten boiled eggs on their own is uncooked egg, which is soft meringues, mayonnaise, uncooked cake mix (licking the spoon), home-made chocolate mousse and royal icing.In between going through each level there is a 3-6 month wait but Kieran has been apprehensive and so I left it to him to set his own pace.
Kieran had a pin prick test every 3 years and each time his peanut and hazelnut (we found out he was allergic when he had a Milky Way and a Kinder hippo) intolerance goes up and he is now not allergic to walnuts but he is not willing to try them. Incidentally peanuts aren’t true nuts as they grow on the ground they are legumes along with haricot beans, are a cousin of the peanut (of which Kip still had a reaction to until he was 11). Added to his allergies are pollen, fur and plasters but Kip leads a very active life and enjoys going to birthday parties, staying at a friend’s house for tea and even sleep overs.As long as the parent is aware of his allergy and he has antihistamine to hand there has never been a problem.
I had always felt guilty that I had peanuts during pregnancy but there is no scientific fact avoiding them will prevent you baby from having any allergies at all and I went through both Caitlin and Mia’s pregnancies eating nuts and well cooked egg.The government now advises pregnant and breastfeeding women who would like to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding, then they can choose to do so as part of a healthy diet, irrespective of whether they have a family history of allergies. It is also advised if the mother chooses to go against the recommended 6 months weaning age for solid food, they should avoid peanuts, seeds, milk, eggs, wheat, fish or shellfish before this time. When the baby is 6 months old each of these foods should be introduced one at a time so that they can spot a reaction.If your child has eczema it advised to consult your doctor or health visitor before weaning onto solids commences.
Back in July 2012 Kieran went for his 3 yearly allergy pin prick test, a test he’s had since he was 14 months old.We were both hoping that as he was getting older his allergies would be waning and he would be able start eating more of the food he has had to avoid.He did have in the last a few months prior to his last test a couple of mishaps, the first being with a chocolate bar at Easter where neither of us looked at the ingredients.He asked what the huge lump was in his bar which turned out to be an almond, one of the nuts he is allergic too.He had no reaction so we assumed this was a good sign.In the same week we had a picnic where I bought some Bakewell tarts.Neither us were thinking about the ingredients which are predominantly almonds.He ate the tart and asked what was in them.I had a sudden realisation what it contained and asked if he was ok.He said yes and had another one.Confident he was now able to eat almonds I made a vegan Moussaka where the topping used ground almonds.But within minutes of eating it he had a reaction where he had a slight tingling on tongue.I made a pecan loaf of which he had a severe reaction to where his tongue swelled up.
Bugger I thought.Then the biggest shock came when he had a reaction to kiwi, a fruit that he rarely has.It wasn’t looking good.I had hoped I wouldn’t have to think about what to do when your child has to face living with food allergies for life.
When he had his test we told the doctor in the allergy clinic about his recent non reaction to almonds and the new allergy to kiwi.After the pin prick test we were given the results.
- Almonds- 2mm which is consistent with a high proportion of people being able to tolerate almonds.She advised to cautiously re-try him again.
- Hazelnut and Brazil Nut- 2mm.
- Walnut- Negative result.
- Peanut- 10mm x 5mm.The hive was bigger than his last test 3 years ago.Due to the peanut reaction he has to remain nut free for life.
- Kiwi- Avoid the fruit all together and to check all shop bought drinks for kiwi.
- Egg- 4mm which is slightly lower than his previous test.He is able to eat Yorkshire puddings, Toad in the hole, egg noodles with no problems, but anything else he has with egg in he has not only hives and a tingle on the tongue but a severe stomach ache and becomes pale.
- Haricot beans- I avoid these altogether, the only incident where he’s had any was at school when he had cottage pie with them in (who the hell puts baked beans in cottage pie???).He wasn’t test for this but will continue to avoid them although he is able to eat lentils and other beans.
Due to Kieran’s age (10), he is now past the age of where he would grow out of any childhood allergies.But when your child has to face living with food allergies for life it does mean he has to be extra careful, as with his kiwi allergy it is more likely he will develop more allergies as he grows older.I am now carrying antihistamine around with me and I have to make sure he has some wherever he goes.At the moment he doesn’t have to use an Epipen as he doesn’t wheeze or have asthma, but if he develops any more allergies or he has a severe reaction we have to let the allergy clinic know and they will re-test him and consider having it prescribed.
I didn’t think that he would have any more allergic reactions to anything else.How wrong was I? He has had allergic reactions to prawns and other shellfish out of the home, he can’t touch grass at all and the latest one happened last week with strawberries, which left him with hives on his hands, a swollen face soon after he had them. They also gave him stomach and nausea for over day where he had to miss school.
We were told that Kieran wouldn’t be tested during his time at secondary school but only if he had a severe reaction to something, would they test him again.I am now wondering what other food allergies in children that could be added to the list like wheat and milk are the only things I can think of left that he could have left.
I am inspired by other parents like Emma, who talks about hip dysplasia, Joy and her son with sensory processing, Helen’s daughter coping with Type1 diabetes and Lucy who is advocate for Tandem Breastfeeding and natural term breastfeeding.