As Kenna grew her life of allergies was all she knew. For the most part, I was able to shield her from accidental exposure. She was my first child and I was lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom. Because I was able to protect her from accidentally ingesting milk or egg products I was naive to the risks she would have as she grew up.
At home, I learned to make rice milk (using a soy-milk making machine), cook meals without milk or egg products, educate family members on what she could and could not eat, and generally adjust without too much hassle.
Here she is trying her first (egg-free, dairy-free) cake. I’m not sure she liked it. 🙂
When Kenna was 2 years old I took her to a new allergist. After skin testing (clearly testing positive for milk and egg allergies), the doctor recommended blood testing as well. The doctor said that her allergy was not too bad and that we should give her regular milk and egg products to eat. This advice felt very unsettling to me. I wasn’t sure why. From what I knew about allergies though, the numbers on the skin and blood testing don’t always mean that she won’t react. If she is allergic, even at a small number, the risk of reaction (even a very serious reaction, like anaphylaxis) is possible. I did not want to put my child at that sort of risk. I contemplated the advice but decided to discard it and continue with what we were comfortable with.
A year later, after researching and asking for referrals to another allergist, we took her to a new doctor. This doctor confirmed what I suspected about the allergy and risk of reaction. We needed to use caution when introducing foods and figuring out tolerance levels. She discussed with us Kenna’s level of tolerance and what we may be able to do to increase it. Often, with time, tolerance can lead to a person growing out of their allergy. If you introduce small amounts of the allergen the body will realize it is not harmful. The body may begin to tolerate larger amounts and antibodies reduce. At the time, Kenna was tolerating milk products in baked goods (at small levels, like in bread). She was not tolerating egg products at all. We decided to continue giving her baked milk products daily and to avoid all egg products. Over time, we increased her intake of milk in baked goods, going from bread to muffins (adding more milk in each serving). Kenna adjusted well and did not have any complications. Also over time, her egg allergy became more severe (evident from blood testing). Yearly, we would meet with the allergist to do testing and get a new prescription for an epi-pen. We would always discuss our progress with milk tolerance and how we were avoiding egg products.
After a few years, Kenna’s egg allergy became so severe the allergist would not do skin testing anymore. Blood work would tell us how much it was getting worse. Every year, I would panic as I saw her egg allergy numbers increase by 10% or more. Every time I renewed an epi-pen prescription, I would use the dummy epi-pen to review how to use it properly. I wondered what I would do when my child went to kindergarten. Would she be old enough to make good decisions about her food intake? Would she be able to read a food label? Will there be other adults and teachers who will look out for my child like I do? As Kenna grew, so did my worry. So, so much to worry about. Her toddler years were a learning phase for us, one that launched us into a new world of allergies in society.