Hannah was born with dry skin. The pediatrician told us to use a "good moisturizer" on her, like Vaseline Intensive Care. Little did we know that many lotions, this one included, use eggs to help emulsify their products. Hannah is allergic to eggs. We battled eczema, hives, vomiting and upset tummies with no knowledge of what was really going on. By 9mos we knew something needed to be addressed. We saw a dermatologist who recommended a "good moisturizer" and said she had eczema but there was nothing he could really do about it. Finally, at about 16mos I heard about an allergist - I didn't even know there were specialized doctors for allergies! - and I insisted to my pediatrician that we receive a referral. It was the beginning of a new life for us!
Finally the reactions, skin issues and seemingly inter-related symptoms were being validated. Hannah was given a scratch test of 50 common allergens and responded positively to nearly 1/3 of them. The nurse commented that she had never seen a more reactive 16mos old. We discovered she was highly allergic to eggs (both yolk and white), peanuts, all tree nuts, legumes like soybeans, green beans, pinto beans and so on, apples (the basis for most juices), lamb, cats, dogs, dust mites, tree pollen and corn. We were shocked! Hannah went on 3 types of topical steroids to control the eczema flare-ups and an oral allergen suppressant called Zyrtec. We started using an ointment called Aquaphor (the consistency of petroleum jelly), head to toe each evening after her bath. And our life of diligence towards ingredients and food began.
Bethany was born 2 years after Hannah and while she showed minor signs of allergies she did not have the strong reactions like her big sister. We were hopeful that Hannah might be the only Randall to inherit this irritant. Bethany is allergic to egg whites and strawberries, some pollens and cat but overall she has been free of most issues. What a blessing!
Caleb was born 2 1/2 years later and we saw instantly that he resembled his biggest sister (we have now coined them Type A and Type B). Type A's are smaller at birth, look the same and have allergies. Type B's are bigger, also look similar and do not have the allergy issues as badly. Caleb was an A. Because we already knew how to manage the skin issues we used Hannah's medications and treatments to control flare-ups and generally make him as comfortable as possibler during reactions. But when he turned 5mos he went from an easy-going contented little boy to a nightmare, especially at night. Some nights it took 2 hours before he would finally fall asleep, and the whole time he would be crying. I would rock and rock and rock but when I set him down he would start back again until, exhausted, he would allow me transfer him to his crib. We could not think of what was causing this change. He didn't like whole foods and did not really start solids until he was nearly 1yr old. We took him to see our allergist when he was 13mos and decided we should scratch test him now. We were shocked to learn that he was NOT allergic to eggs (we had basically become an egg-free home and assumed it would be a high allergen for all our reactive children) but instead discovered a high reaction to dairy and potatoes, along with animals, molds and pollens. Dairy. Dairy! The poor boy practically lived on the stuff. We switched him to rice milk and within a week our happy boy was back! We started him on Zyrtec as well and using the continued skin treatments along with severe dairy restrictions we are able to control many potential outbreaks.
When Leah arrived only a year later we were very happy to see a healthy Type B peek out at us. While she has some allergens she falls into the category with Bethany of easy management. We thanked God again that he saw fit to give us a break from the high maintenance of child allergies.
Mary came 17mos later and wouldn't you know it - Type A... all the way. She weighed within a few ounces of her older Type A siblings and was the same length. Most people immediately pick up on the physical resemblance, with Caleb especially. And she has dry skin that irritates her often. This time I realized we might skip the sleepless nights and have her tested early, so just a week ago (a few days shy of 6mos) we scratch tested her.
The scratch test involves a rubber ink stamp marking the whole of your back with 50 different numbered squares. Then the nurse places a single drop of liquid containing the allergic essence of a common reactant into each square - 50 different unique possibilities. After each square has their drop she takes a special needle and scratches off the top layer of skin under each drop to allow the liquid to react with the patient's broken skin, assuring the strongest possible reaction with the best chance of clear negative and positive results. Mary, not to be outdone by older siblings, was the most reactive 6mos old this particular nurse had ever tested... she has been doing this for 30 years.
So, we found out that cats, dogs and parakeet feathers are high reactants (so much for my dream of owning a dog - I told Christopher that there better be a dog with a bow around its neck waiting for me the day we finally move our last child out, I don't care how many years it takes). Mary is also highly allergic to eggs, carrots and oats. While the results can be saddening (no Cheerios) they are also incredibly beneficial. Maybe we can avoid some of the pitfalls we had with the other children because we won't even begin to expose her to these foods. I have to make adjustments in my eating because of my breast milk but it is a small price to pay. Besides, we all have our cross to bear. But I am looking forward to a Type B next time *wink*.