Last week I posted about my family’s journey to learning Possum has multiple food allergies. I shared the post with a Baby Led Weaning group I’m part of on Facebook as there are always concerned mummas posting about allergies on there. The response was so lovely! Alot of gratitude for sharing our story and our experiences, as it helped shed light on their own situation. Some mum’s were also asking some specific questions about the allergy testing itself, so I thought I would go into a little more details about what actually happened when I took Possum for her testing.
We had started an elimination diet the week before Possum’s first birthday (stupid timing in retrospect). I was following the RPA low food chemical elimination diet as well as making it gluten and dairy free. Possum’s symptoms were so all over the place I didn’t think it was a “true” allergy but more of an intolerance, hence choosing this option. Basically we were living off rice crackers, cabbage, tinned pears and sprouts. I think that week was the hungriest and crankiest I have ever been. I was already meal planning but the level of planning that comes with a strict elimination diet, especially for yourself and a toddler, is just insane! I printed out a diet and symptom diary so that every day I could monitor what we ate and what any reactions were. You are meant to follow the elimination for at least 3 weeks so that your body can rid itself of any built up proteins from problem foods. I lasted a week. Possum’s first birthday party was both wonderful because we were celebrating our amazing daughter turning 1 but also because I could eat real food again!!!!!!! Ah sweet relief!
The main thing I learnt during that week was Possum had a clear reaction to egg on the first night, coming out in a fine rash all over her trunk and back after eating egg and rice pie. The other thing was that Possum was sleeping better on the diet. Clearly she was reacting to some foods, but I knew we didn’t have the full picture.
I went to the GP and told her what we had been doing. She was a little sceptical when I was telling her about the diet and Possum’s symptoms. However she has been Legoman’s doctor since he was a kid and has seen him go through all sorts of treatment for his allergies (mushrooms, moulds, certains grasses and pollens). So she wrote me a referral to the Specialist Allergy Clinic at the large teaching hospital in our area.
After waiting a couple of months for an appointment, the day finally came to go see the specialist. I explained Possum’s symptoms in as much detail as a worried mother does as well as outlining all the facets of allergies that are present in both my family and Legoman’s family too. The doctor thought there were clearly some allergy issues present but was also quite concerned about Possum’s poor weight gain. Since starting solids she had dropped from the 50th centile to the 15th, despite having 12 breastfeeds a day and eating 3 meals and snacks. He had said technically she was Failure To Thrive. That broke my heart!
The doctor went on to explain what would happen next. Possum would need a blood test to screen for Coeliac disease and to check all her blood levels. She would also need to see a dietician to help with weight gain. And finally she would also need to have a skin prick allergy test at the hospital, screening all major allergens, which was over 30 in total.
I remember leaving the appointment feeling really worried about how the hell was I going to get my gorgeous yet very vocal little girl to have a blood test AND have her skin pricked over 30 times with stuff that may seriously irritate her system.
I had spoken to friends and heard some horror stories about skin testing but knew the daily stress on her body of eating the wrong things was far worse than any test she needed.
We went to our local pathology office to get the blood test. Sitting in the waiting room there was a family with 5 kids there, 3 of whom were getting blood tests. It made me feel much more comfortable about the staff sticking a needle into Possum. I demanded Legoman be there with us as I just couldn’t be the person holding her when they took blood. I hate needles on myself let alone my beautiful daughter. They called us in and the two pathology nurses were so wonderful. Possum cottoned on quickly that something was going on and didn’t want a bar of it. Legoman held her firmly on his lap and the nurse was quick and fuss free with inserting the needle. That moment Possum locked eyes with me as if to say “Why are you letting this happen?” and burst into tears. But once the needle was there she actually stopped fighting and settled down. They took the blood, removed the needle and a gave her a hand knitted teddy. Teddy cuddles and a quick breastfeed and she was everyone’s friend again. Apparently nothing had happened!
Phew, so hurdle number one was over and done with.
Next was to wait for the call regarding the skin testing.
The day came and Possum (15 months at this point) and I packed our things to head to the big hospital. I felt a little more at ease as I used to work at this hospital and specifically on the Children’s Ward for about 3 years. I had explained to Possum what would happen, saying the nurses would draw on her back and do lots of spots on her back too. I made a very conscious effort to stay calm and happy while we were there and to explain everything that was happening in clear and simple terms.
There were two nurses, one of which was in charge. This nurse explained to us exactly what would happen and showed the list of allergens they would be testing for. On seeing Possum they were worried that they wouldn’t get them all on her back as she was so tiny! The nurse then went and got an iPad for Possum to watch Play School while they were doing the test. We don’t have TV at our house so this alone was pretty exciting for Possum.
We undressed Possum from the waist up and lay her on her tummy on a bed, with me sitting at her head with the iPad. First the nurses drew on her back so they could identify which spot was which allergen after the testing was done. Possum tolerated that just fine.
They two nurses then used droppers to place a single drop of each allergen along Possum’s back. They were working very quickly as you have limited time to keep a toddler lying still, even with Play School! Possum was still tolerating everything amazingly well.
Then using a different little metal spike for each allergen, the nurses went along and pricked her skin ever so slightly, once for every substance. This was when Possum started to go “hold on a second!”. But it wasn’t until they were 2/3 done that she started to need real distracting. But we got there, and a quick breastfeed later she was happy again. We then just had to wait 20 minutes before the results were “read” off her back. So more Play School! Hurray! And a lovely chat with the nurses.
Before we knew it the time was up and Possum was still happy! The nurse explained that now she was going to draw around any raised areas on Possum’s back which indicated some level of heightened immune response. The nurse then used stick tape (highly technical!) to “copy” the shape she drew onto the results sheet. The shapes then got measured.
The nurse explained that she herself couldn’t give a diagnostic explanation of the results but that multiple things had come up as mildly positive. None of them were life threatening (best news ever). And that we would be seeing the Specialist the next week for full results.
The amazing thing was Possum then asked the nurse, not me, to get her top back on!
So the next week, back to the hospital to go see the Specialist. The good news was her blood results were totally normal and healthy (hurray we could still have bread and pasta). The bad and good news was that yes indeed she did have multiple food allergies.
They are egg, fish/seafood, sesame, hazelnut and pecan.
We were to eliminate all the problem foods from both our diets, see him again in 6 months time and have annual skin prick testing.
Well the worst was done, and I was amazed and shocked with how well our little Poppet had handled the whole thing.
And life started to improve from there. Nappy rash cleared, sleep settled into somewhat of a manageable rhythm and the most wonderful thing was Possum grew! A lot! 4cm in one month!
So now Possum is turning 2 in 2 weeks, we have been booked for an egg food challenge twice, but both times it has been cancelled on the day as the Children’s Ward has no free beds. But I am hoping, so much, that we get the all clear to eat egg again. They will repeat the skin prick test at the same visit. Fingers and toes are crossed…
What has been your food allergy experience? I would love you to share your story.
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