Saturday, February 20, 2010

Life Changes

My life has changed. In the past week, we officially found out our baby boy has severe allergies. It's something we've suspected for awhile, but I wasn't expecting them to be this significant and widespread. Keep in mind this is a breastfed 8 month old who has never eaten nuts, wheat, or eggs and has had a minimal amount of dairy and soy in his lifetime. We had noticed an extreme sensitivity to dairy and peanuts. The one time he reached his hand into his father's milk, he immediately broke out in a rash, and more recently, he was covered in red bumps after my husband and I ate chips cooked in peanut oil (I'm guessing some oil residue was transferred to his skin from our hands). He was having other sensitivities we just couldn't figure out, so last week we decided to take a trip to the allergist. They performed a basic blood test for childhood allergies. In infants, this testing is known for both true positives and false negatives, meaning if it tests positive it very likely is an allergy, but an allergy may also be present even if it comes back negative. The allergens in the blood are measured on a 0 to 6 scale. Zero means that not enough registered to detect an allergy. Three is a high allergy reading. Six is extremely high. Anything at a six is above numbers they count and is essentially off the charts. I was scared when I saw my baby's numbers ...

Soy 3 (high)
Eggs 3 (high)
Cats 3 (high)
Dogs 5 (very very high)
Peanuts 5 (very very high)
Dairy 5 (very very high)
Wheat 6 (extremely high)

For days after getting the test results, I was petrified, mad, and sad. Obviously, I'm worried about what would happen if my son accidentally ate one of these foods. The idea of losing him to something as simple as food absolutely breaks my heart. I'm mad that it's my son with these problems and that world is not conducive to someone with these types of dietary restrictions. I'm sad thinking about my little boy not being able to participate in regular kid activities like Halloween, birthday parties, or even eating school lunches and going to restaurants. I want to cry at the possibility of having to get rid of our three dogs. I've been so overcome by emotions, it's been hard to handle at times. Will my son be able to play safely on playgrounds with kids who've eaten PB or cheese sandwiches? Will we be able to fly on a plane without him breaking out on hives due to others munching on mini-bags of peanuts? Will we be able to keep our dogs without our child being miserable and sick? Is there even a place where he can be safe from his allergy triggers right now? I hope with all of my heart that my precious baby boy will outgrow this quickly and that we manage to keep him safe and healthy in the meantime.

The first step is for me to cut out the high allergy foods. I've been advised by the doctor to remove Eggs, Dairy, Nuts & Wheat from my diet. She was concerned about nutrition if I also cut out soy. For the moment, I'm avoiding soy based foods like soy milk, tofu, & veggie burgers, but I am ignoring soy in my diet when it is a minor ingredient. Legumes and seeds are close relatives of peanuts, so I'm consuming them with some care. The kid himself is still working on solids, so there isn't much to change for him. I just have to be very very careful about cross contamination in things like his grains. Apparently, it's not required that all food manufacturers print whether or not a food is handled in a facility that also handles typical allergen foods. That definitely needs to be changed.

When I first started this much neglected blog, it was with the intent of exploring veganism, vegetarian/vegan being a term formed from the word "vegetus". With the extreme dietary restrictions I'm now facing, I'm certain veganism will not be a good idea for us in the near future. Vegetarianism without veganism, technically speaking, is not even an option considering the required absence of dairy and eggs. However, when I reminded myself about the literal translation of "vegetus", it in fact means full of life and energy. Looking forward, I take these words to heart. Rather than dwelling on the negative, we will take on these challenges and move forward with the intent of living life to the very fullest. My son deserves nothing less.

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