How to Identify Allergies in Your Family

family allergiesIn our family, we have three children and three types of allergies, not all completely diagnosed as of yet. My best advice to you is to closely monitor your child’s symptoms. Talk to your pediatrician and don’t be afraid to ask for a referral or second opinion. Don’t give up. You know your child and you know when something isn’t quite right. Pursue every avenue until you find an answer that meets your child’s needs and satisfies your concerns. We are very fortunate that our children don’t have severe allergies, as some children do to peanuts. Extreme caution and sensitivity needs to be exercised by everyone around children with those types of allergies.

We always suspected allergies in our children for a variety of reasons. Our son, the oldest, has always been a sniffler, snorter and snorer. After taking him to an allergy and asthma specialist and having him tested, we learned the culprits are dust and dust mites. Not surprising considering how much dust I find in those hard to reach areas around the house.

To help him, we had to encase his mattress, box spring and pillows. He can’t have fun theme-style blankets and all. We had to purchase special allergen free bedding and detergent to properly clean the special bedding. All this has definitely helped. He still snorts in our room, as I have found a lot of dust behind the headboard of the bed. That’s the next project.

The younger two, our daughters, have been a challenge to diagnose. They both suffer from eczema. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but it’s been really bad in our older daughter, the 4 year old. Since infancy, she had horrible outbreaks on her little legs that have scabbed and oozed frequently. Somewhere around 12 months or so, the pediatrician started treating the problem, first with over the counter cortisone cream, then a mild prescription drug, then eventually to Dermatop, a steroid ointment. We grew concerned that prolonged use of the steroid would damage her skin.

So, move forward to her third birthday. We walked into a health food store one day. The clerk took one look at the her bare, scabby legs and stated to me, “That child is allergic to wheat!” It was definitely unexpected, but helpful. That one comment moved us quickly into a diagnostic stage. We didn’t find it hard to imagine that she could be allergic to wheat, as my husband was also when he was a little one. But his allergy didn’t give him skin problems, it made him ill.

A word of warning here, testing children is not fun or for the weak stomached. The little ones are particularly easily frightened during testing. Ours were no exception. However, our oldest girl had the worst experience of all our three. During testing, two controls are used; histamine and saline. The first should have a strong response on the skin, the second, saline, should have no skin response. Our luck, not being good, was such that she had a strong response to even the saline. That meant that the entire testing was skewed and a blood test was now warranted. Short version, the results were a mild milk allergy. However, combine that with super sensitive skin, e.g. response to saline, and her milk allergy is very strong.

She has been off all dairy products for seven months. We have sought help from dietician, which I highly recommend if you have a child with food allergies, to help determine how to avoid dairy and its derivatives in all foods. Talk about hard! I thought Lucky Charms were safe. She had it four days in a row and has a terrible outbreak of eczema again. Must be the natural flavoring in it.

Even while off dairy, she has continued having eczema problems. Further consultation with the doctor is now prompting a round of patch tests, where adhesive patches of contact allergens are adhered to her back. According to the doctor, eczema from food allergies shows in the bends of the arm, backs of the knee, etc. The other areas, on the thigh, calf, forearm, etc. are indicative of contact dermatitis, a contact allergy like a dye, wool, etc. That’s also the kind of eczema we see in our younger daughter.

Helping your child with allergies is not easy. It doesn’t end and requires your focus and strict attention. Family must be educated regarding your child’s needs. You may need to bring in special food at restaurants you enjoy, just so your young one can eat there with you. And you need to continue to educate yourself on any updates regarding your child’s allergy.

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