Monday, July 25, 2011
Living with food allergies
We thought "J" had eczema from genes. Never did we realize it was a reaction to egg products in the store bought baby food.
Most of her first foods were homemade - sweet potatoes, apple sauce, cheese, broccoli, spinach, ground meat, carrots, peas, brown rice, yogurt. And she loved it all. And she ate a ton. We introduced one food at a time and limited one new food once a week to ensure there was no allergic reactions. Making her food from scratch was my contribution to her growth (since "N" was still nursing). Many times J's meals were the inspiration for our meals (like the spinach wall soup in the photo).
However being new parents we did occasionally rely on store bought prepared food. We stuck with the organic brands and paid more with the intent of getting a better product (but they still tasted awful to me).
J had a little bit of eczema and we dismissed it to genetics. Never did we think the egg proteins in the store bought food or the eggs in N's diet, transferred by nursing, was causing it. It was never excessive and our doctor told us not to worry.
So how did we discover the egg allergy? Right after J's 12 month appointment. I'm not a huge fan of statistical averages and J's height was above the normal mean and her weight was below the normal mean. Doc said feed her more. We told him she eats, eats, eats, plays, plays, plays...and we did not feed her junk. Looking back her only "junk food" was freeze dried yogurt drops and crunchy melt in your mouth crackers. Doc said give her an egg a day. Yippie I thought..scrambled eggs for breakfast with my kid. I was getting tired of sweet potatoes and oatmeal every morning.
That night I had to work. So N is home by herself with J. N scrambles an egg with cheese and J gobbles it down. Then J's eyes swell, she became congested, broke out in hives and begun throwing up. J is having a text book anaphylactic reaction to the eggs.
N calls 911. Paramedics arrive (and those who know me personally know how much I appreciate the FD) - but this night they let me down. By the time they arrived J's reaction was almost over (she threw up most of the eggs). The Medics were rude to N, which in turn upset her even more. One medic couldn't understand why we didn't own kids benadryl and dismissed the event as a non emergency. Come on guys, a little compassion.
N calls me in tears and a short time later we meet at the local hospital (medics said to go there instead of the pediatric trauma hospital a few minutes further down the road since this was just a non emergency reaction). On a side note, the local Community hospital visit was a waste of time and money. When I get billed I discover the doctors organization contracted with the ER are out of network even though the hospital is in network - go figure.
The next day we visit our pediatrician, who is also an allergist, and receive training in using an epi pen. We toss any food item that contains egg or is made on shared egg equipment. We buy books, stress about meals and wonder how we are going to protect our little girl from eggs. And then we discover we are not the only ones dealing with this.
It seems everyone knows someone who has an allergy of some sort. We are lucky J's are limited to eggs. However most of our meals are also soy free, wheat free and can easily be dairy free. If you have a child with allergies recognize it will be a challenge however it is also a great excuse to eat good food.
J wants ice cream, instead we make fruit icicles...muffins are made with bananas and apple sauce instead of eggs (and I think the banana chocolate cup cakes rock), which reduces the sugar ingredients and she can eat the batter out of the bowl. At birthday parties we make cupcakes for all the kids, or pack one homemade cupcake or she gets a Peter Rabbit Organics, Organic Mango, Banana and Orange 100% Pure Fruit Snack, 3.5-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 10) as her celebration treat.
In Orange County an allergen focused bakery just opened up and Vegan restaurants have great allergen free items too.
Eating out we've discovered Chilis and In N Out to be allergy friendly. Chilis has a great allergen menu and once we explain J's allergy they are very accommodating.
Here are some alternatives to allergen foods:
Mayo (eggs) - avocado
Cake mixes - Whole foods/Trader Joes have allergen free prepared mixes
Wheat pasta - rice pasta
Butter for cooking - bacon grease, olive oil, coconut oil
Cheese - teese vegan cheese (awesome on pizza)
Flour - rice/potato flour
Eggs - apple sauce or bananas when a bakery good needs eggs
Bread - corn tortillas
Pizza crust - spinach crusts/meat crusts/potato+rice flour crusts
Crackers - sliced veggies, cucumbers, carrots, celery
Ice Cream - fruit juice icies
Traveling to relatives and friends homes can be tough. We usually pack meals, bring an ice chest, move allergen foods out of reach...and it sucks sometimes. Some days we feel like people understand J's allergies however make no effort to accommodate. But to put it in perspective, we live with her allergies every day, they don't and don't have an allergen free routine built into their wiring. Maybe we are a little overprotective at times however I NEVER want to use her Epi Pen.
J is now old enough to understand she has an allergy. She knows her buddies D and C have allergies too. And its comforting that she knows, and her buddies know, they all have something special in common.
I am by no means an expert with allergies however I am happy to share with you how we, and our network of friends, have dealt with allergies. If you live in the Southern Cal area I'll even go shopping and/or cook with you. Just send me a message through blog.
On a funny note, whenever N and I go away on an overnight, kid free trip, we always make eggs our first meal.