Thursday, June 12, 2014

I Am The Mom of An Allergy Kid

My oldest child Max had his second round of allergy testing 10 months after his first full panel allergy testing. This spring has been rough for him, us, and the school nurse. His eczema has been out of control, he developed a cough in mid-March that has just now, in the middle of June, subsided to occasional fits of coughing, a runny nose, watery, swollen, red eyes (that turned into pink eye when they got infected), among other things. The last two months of school we were getting daily calls from the school nurse to okay Benadryl usage and inform us his eyes were yet again so watery he couldn't  see. After our umpteenth time at the pediatrician for this "rash" and all of the symptoms listed above, the doctor called the allergist and insisted on allergy testing again.

Last August when Max had his allergy testing, everything came back fine minus his peanut allergy which we've been dealing with since he was a baby (read more about that story here: ). 10 months later and he's allergic to all trees (particularly oak and maple), grasses, shrimp, all nuts (before it was just peanuts), and he may be developing an allergy to soy and corn (we're on a wait and see basis for those).

The allergist explained the allergies to me and informed me we were starting him immediately on a daily prescription allergy medication(s) that he'll probably have to take for the rest of his life, he's REALLY lucky he hasn't developed any breathing issues, but that may come so we have to be extra cautious, cold showers after being outside, no grasses or flowers in the face, and opening our windows may not be an option in the spring and fall. I stood absolutely shocked as the allergist explained his newest food allergies because I truly did not think he had any other food allergies other than peanuts. Although it does stand to reason I wouldn't have had a clue because we never buy anything with other kinds of nuts (mostly because they're all processed on the same equipment as peanuts), we aren't huge sea food lovers so my kids haven't tried shrimp before, and our diet consists of little to no soy products (not by choice, the food we buy just happens to contain little to no soy).

As the allergist went over a long list of things with me, the only thing running through my mind was 'how do I keep my child from feeling like he can't have a normal childhood?' Max has always been exceptionally great about understanding his allergies and knowing what he can and can't have or do. My thought then shifted to 'I should just coat my house in plastic or put him in a bubble.' By the time we got home from the allergist I knew there would be some changes we would have to make.

I started going through our cupboards and reading labels (thankfully I had to give away very little). Grocery shopping just got more time consuming and more if it wasn't already expensive enough feeding 3 kids. The hardest part of these "new" allergies was/is going to be keeping grass out of the house, considering I have 8 kids most days running in and out of the house, who like to go barefoot outside and roll around in the grass. I can't expect them not to be kids. This is typical summer kid stuff. Again the thought of covering my couches with plastic and vacuuming 20 times a day crossed my mind, but doesn't seem to scream 'giving my child a normal childhood.' The only thing I can do is wash feet and hands and educate those in our lives.

That is the hardest part. Trying to explain allergies and getting others who don't have experience with them to understand is like trying to make a person who doesn't have kids understand what it's like to be a parent. It's impossible. They'll never truly understand or be as cautious until they deal with it themselves. I'm not saying I blame people for that--I was once that way myself until I had a child with allergies. What I don't appreciate is people looking at me and saying "oh he'll be fine to have a flower shoved in his face just this once" or "well, we just have a bowl of nuts next to the other food your child will be eating. He'll be fine." My favorite is when I ask the waiter(ess ) at a restaurant if something contains nuts or is cooked in peanut oil and I get the response "I don't think so" and still stands there expecting us to order. Um, nice try but go check with our chef. Because of this, we eat at the same restaurants because we know they are safe.

This isn't a complete nightmare, things could certainly be worse. This just makes every day things more difficult. Being a mom to an allergy kid, I must teach him to stand up for his allergies when people tell him "they aren't that bad." I must teach him to speak and teach others about allergies. His seasonal allergies will effect his every day life (we have seen this the past few months) while his food allergies could be life threatening if not caught. Too many people have no idea just how serious allergies can be. These are our every day worries because I am the mom of an allergy kid. Allergies and food sensitivities are so common these days, so please take a moment to educate yourself. Those that deal with allergies daily will appreciate it.