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As food allergy parents, we are so diligent in removing possible allergic foods in our home. We read all the labels thoroughly and buy only food we know is safe. So, how did my son have an allergic reaction at home today? I honestly have no explanation. I feel like a professional label reader. I can spot hidden sources of dairy, gluten and soy, like a champ. Nothing escapes these eyes. Not until recently that is.
I am embarrassed, ashamed, sad, and mostly I feel guilty that I let an obvious food allergy into my home and into my trusting son’s cereal bowl this morning. He is so good at asking me if a new food has allergies in it. Anytime anyone wants to give him food, he turns to me and asks if it’s safe. He’s so confident in me. But I made a mistake. Thank heavens he’s ok, but still, this one is all on me. Mom is not perfect – that’s probably a harsh lesson for any child to learn, but one they must.
What’s so odd is that he actually consumed this particular allergic food two times in the past week without any obvious reactions. But this morning, a few minutes after beginning on his bowl of cereal, he started to get pink around the mouth. A few minutes later his wrists became itchy and he asked me to tickle them to help him avoid scratching (that’s our little trick which he loves). This happens from time to time – he gets a little itchy and most the time we have no idea why (since we avoid all his major food triggers now). But, I was watching him carefully since the itch was combined with the pink around the mouth. Then a few minutes later he started coughing. My alarm bells went off. This never happens. The only time I’ve seen these reactions together was when he reacted to dairy during a food challenge over a year ago. Now I was officially worried. Other than the pink around the mouth, he looked ok though and was acting fine. I asked him how he felt and he said he wanted his medicine. So, I gave him his antihistamine and two puffs from his Ventolin as a precaution. The coughing continued and then he tells me his throat hurts. OMG, is his throat closing?!! Ok, now I’m officially on full alert and up to get the EpiPen. I sit by him and watch, asking him constantly how he is. The Ventolin kicks in and shortly after so does the antihistamine and the crisis is averted. Overwhelming sense of relief. We didn’t need the EpiPen, but we were VERY close. I always tell people that my son is not anaphylactic, that he’s never had a true anaphylactic episode, but now I’m not so sure.
Just what was this offending food? It was granola. The ingredient that almost led to an ER trip? Spelt flour, a type of gluten. The sad part, I know spelt is glutenous. But, I somehow overlooked the ingredient. I remember scanning the label on the box for at least a few minutes at the grocery story. I remember being so excited that it was free of all Tristan’s allergens that I bought four boxes so we wouldn’t run out. Ironic.
What I find so odd about this story, is that Tristan had eaten this cereal twice in the past week and was fine. The first time, no reaction at all. The second time, he was very slightly pink around the mouth (but we see this every once in a while and aren’t sure what it’s in relation to, so didn’t make the connection with the cereal), then the infamous third time – you now know the scary story.
Another interesting fact, Tristan has never reacted positive to gluten in standardized blood or skin allergy tests. He was tested once at one year old and again at three years old. But look how he reacted today. What does that say about allergy testing? It’s why we’ve come to rely only on our son’s past reaction’s to food, the elimination diet, and food challenges.
So, I suppose the moral of this story is that we can be lulled into a very false sense of security as allergy parents. We feel confident that we’re being diligent in allergy proofing our home, but in fact, we can make mistakes. I sure did. I feel horribly guilty, but that doesn’t help my son. I have to buckle up, keep my eyes peeled for the next offending allergy trying to strike, and be ready if/when it does.
Have you experienced false negatives in allergy testing? Have you or your child reacted to a food only after consuming it several times first?