To most, these shelves are filled with all kinds of delicious treats – ice cream, chips, cheese and oh so many yummy snacks. I watch kids helping to push the carriage and grab all their favorite foods to lob into the cart. I watch as they answer “yes” when the deli counter attendants ask, “would you like to try a slice” or as they bask in all of the free samples meticulously placed outside each aisle. I watch with sadness behind my eyes because I watch these other families knowing that we are unable to walk around the grocery store with such ease. To us, the grocery store is more of a minefield than a fun outing.
When we get to the grocery store, we immediately must take every precaution to keep our daughter safe. First, we wipe the handle and seat down with our favorite Wet Ones wipes. Why you ask? Well, how many times have your children munched on a yummy snack while you pushed them around the grocery store? Even though that Starbucks Cake Pop tastes delicious (have you tried the new snowman one?), the allergen proteins that go from that cake pop to the seat are more than you can imagine.
Next, we cover the seat with our handy dandy Target seat cover. I’ll be honest, before we had Olivia I judged other parents that had these, hard. I would think to myself, really? Your kid cant handle a few germs – I am embarrassed to think that used to be my thought process but it was. Now look at me! I could be the spokesperson why these covers are so amazing! Pushing aside the germs argument (have you looked at the highchairs at some restaurants? Yuck!), the seat cover is an extra level of protection for Olivia against any food that may have avoided my wipe.
Finally, I give Olivia her bag of safe snacks and push her around the grocery store – keeping the cart far away from the nuts, which are so wonderfully placed in the same aisle as the BANANAS. Ugh, that subject is for another blog post…
Olivia knows her rules at the grocery store – we don’t touch the cart unless we wipe it down and we stay seated and in our seat. There is no walking around the grocery store for her – at least not until she is big enough to respect and understand how serious her food allergies are. For now, the wooden bear that protects the honey and allergy free aisle amazes her – don’t worry, we pet and greet him every time we go – and the robot that cleans the grocery store is a must see!
For any new allergy moms – you will figure out how to navigate intimidating places like the local grocery store. Take every precaution to make yourself and your child feel at your most prepared and you will get in and out in one piece. And you will start creating your own traditions – who needs that deli cheese anyway?! Remember stay prepared – not paranoid. We got this.
A few months ago, we experienced our first food challenge. Long story short, it did not go well. We brought a wheat roll into the allergy office and it was separated up into 4 different doses for Olivia to eat. The first round went great, the second round went down with ease, but when we hit the third round of wheat, Olivia refused to swallow. She started to sneeze, cough and rub her eyes. Since her reaction to the wheat involved two different body systems, we knew she was in fact still allergic to wheat and was experiencing anaphylaxis. She was given Benedryl and watched very closly to be sure we stopped the food challenge in time and that no other system had been affected. We left that appointment in tears. We were so confident and sure se had outgrown her wheat allergy – more wishful thinking than anything. And when she had such a poor reaction, it really took the wind out of our sails.
Putting your baby through a food challenge feels like you are going into the doctors office just to feed them poison. I know that may seem a little drastic but at the end of the day, that is what these foods are to kids like Olivia. Wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts or tree nuts COULD kill her if ingested. So going into the office to purposefully give her the food she is allergic to feels unnatural and cruel. Unfortunatly, food challenges are a necessary evil in the world of food allergies. Skin pricks and blood tests can only tell you so much – you have to actually eat the food before you know for sure if you are still allergic or not. Scary but necessary.
A few months have passed and our wounds and broken egos have healed from the wheat challenge and Olivia’s latest blood test showed it was time for the next challenge…EGGS!
We talked to Olivia about her food challenge coming up and that she would be able to try eggs and she was so excited! She woke up this morning like a kid on Christmas. Her eyes opened, she called for Dada and her first words were, “Dada cook eggs!” At least one of us was pumped up – Dan and I were a WRECK! It is so stressful that we found ourselves walking around the house aimlessly trying to get ready and out the door. Olivia wouldn’t leave without her Anna dress, Peppa Pig rain boots and ‘Livey baby’ but as soon as she had the essentials, she was ready to go! This time around, we had a much more realistic approach to the food challenge. We were going to take it step by step.
First: We got to the office and they do a skin prick test to see how her skin reacts to the food. She did show a small reaction to eggs – a small little hive where she had been pricked. This is the part of food allergies that is such a hard science to follow because that small hive could have been her eczema flaring because ya know, someone just pricked her skin and its irritating, rather than a true reaction to the egg The doctor deemed it small enough to proceed. So on to the next step.
Next: round one. Olivia was amped up to try eggs. Don’t worry; we didn’t forget the DipDip (ketchup)! She ate and loved the first dose and it went down with ease. She immediately asked for more and was disappointed when she had to wait 15 minutes before the next dose of eggs. Nothing a little Peppa Pig couldn’t fix.
Round two: this dose was a little bigger than the first but could still be eaten in one bite, covered in ketchup. Still asking for more…15 minutes on the clock…
Round three: This dose was even bigger than the first two. She had to take two bites with this one and by that second bite she was done with eggs. She tried to spit it out but that food had to go right back in! She kept the eggs in her mouth and swallowed, reluctantly. That excitement over eggs had now dissipated and we were left with a toddler who wanted out! To make matters worse, she developed a hive on her chin – AH! The doctor came in to check the hive and just told us to watch it closely. Thankfully, it wasn’t bad enough that we had to stop the challenge – just some extra anxiety for momma and dada. 15 minutes and counting…
Round four: this last dose of eggs came in and it was a doozy. The cup was almost filled to the top with scrambled eggs and Olivia wanted nothing to do with it; but she did want some of her sweet potatoes that we packed for lunch. My friends, I have never been more proud of myself than I am for what I did next. I hid the scrambled eggs in with a spoonful of sweet potatoes and she ate them without complaint. Now, the eggs had to be COMPLETELY hidden. I mean, if you could see any yellow, she would not take a bite. She would only eat the eggs if they were hidden in sweet potatoes and ketchup – but it didn’t matter how she ate them, just as long as she did. I held my breath the entire dose and didn’t relax until that last bite of egg went into her mouth AND was swallowed. We did it. Four rounds of a food that is essentially poisonous to Olivia, down the hatch! This time we had to wait 45 minutes…
During this 45 minutes, we played with the Doc. McStuffins doctor kit, watched Pepa Pig and 101 Dalmations on the iPad and even read some books – all while watching every little red mark, scratch or sneeze that came from this tiny little kiddo. After the 45 minutes were up, the doctor came in and gave us the good news – Olivia PASSED THE SCRAMBLED EGG CHALLENGE!
Now what does that mean? Well, because her skin still reacted to the egg i.e the scratch test reaction and the small hive on her chin, we should still avoid raw egg. So, we will still avoid Mayo (vegan Mayo is way better anyway!) and some frostings that contain raw egg. This means no over easy eggs or raw cookie dough for Olivia. BUT we can scramble up eggs for breakfast, make pancakes and cupcakes without having to substitute flaxseed or applesauce and she can go to her favorite bakery and order whatever she wants – not just from the egg free section!! For the next two weeks, I have to give Olivia 1 egg a day and watch her like a hawk…I know right? I have an exciting 2 weeks ahead…but once she does that for 2 weeks, we are in the clear and can just give her eggs as she wants them. She has officially outgrown egg and we couldn’t be more excited. So my friends, just keep challenging! Challenge the impossible every day – you never know what you may outgrow!
Everyone’s worst nightmare…a trip to the dentist!! At Olivia’s last pediatrician appointment we were told that it was time to take her to the dentist and my heart stopped. Not because they would be checking out her teeth but because they would have to put things in her mouth – things that could potentially contain her allergens! We have to be so meticulous about ingredients in everything that even comes close to her. We know every possible name for dairy, wheat, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, but I had never had to worry about ingredients in a medicine or at a doctors’ office. Through the years, there have been a few stories where children were given a fluoride or toothpaste that contained their allergen and they had to go into pure survival mode – EPI included. I went home and started doing research.
Cue Google Search –> Food Allergies and the Dentist
I wrote down all of my questions, all of the names that could possibly mean the same as any of her allergens (ie Casein is another form of Dairy!) and had a plan of attack.
The morning of the dentist appointment, I told Olivia we were going to the Dentist so the doctor could check out her teeth and she couldn’t have been more excited. She pointed to her teeth all morning and kept yelling “momma, teeth!” It’s so funny how all the fear and anxiety I had been holding on to for this appointment can just melt away with one smile from that little girl. I took a page out of her book and we walked into the Dental office with all the confidence and courage I could muster.
We filled out our new patient paperwork and waited to be walked in. My stomach was in knots! When we were called back, the dental hygienist told me to avoid the dentist chair and sit Olivia on the bench next to the computer. She said most kids get really freaked out by the big, scary chair and they tend to shut down. She had obviously never met Olivia! She climbed right up onto the big girl dentist chair, with a smile so big it could be seen from the moon.
“Momma, look, chair” she would say followed by “Momma, teeth!”
While Olivia played in the chair, I pulled the hygienist over and asked her to see an ingredient list of anything they would be using on Olivia for this appointment. I needed to be 100% sure nothing contained her allergens. Unfortunately, the office didn’t have a printed list of the ingredients in their products, which threw me for a loop. My research had shown that they had to have the product ingredients available and the fact that they didn’t have them made me so nervous. Instead, they gave me samples of the Floride and cleaner to have it tested at the allergist to be sure it was safe. I settled for this solution but it did leave me underwhelmed.
Thankfully, the first appointment at this office simply consisted of a short medical history interview, a discussion about what types of foods and drinks are consumed and a quite look into the mouth! Olivia was a rock star and got her teeth checked out an the all clear from the dentist! When they were done checking her teeth, she kept signing more so they would keep going – she is the only kid that LOVES the dentist. I was relieved nothing was put in her mouth today – but to be honest, without knowing the product ingredients – nothing was going in her mouth regardless.
She picked out a stuffed animal prize and we took a trip to Dee’s One Smart Cookie for an allergy safe cake pop.
For any allergy parents that might be nervous for their child’s first dentist appointment – there’s nothing to worry about! The first appointment was very straight forward – interview and quick check with no products. Remember, if you can’t see ingredients or don’t have that reassurance that the product is safe, don’t let them use it. Just Keep Advocating!! And tell them why you aren’t able to proceed with your appointment and hopefully they will get you what you need to feel comfortable.