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Same allergy, different reaction?

Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Andrea Thomas, the mompreneur behind the amazing ScratchMeNot mittens. I bow down to her because these mittens saved my son’s skin. Without them he would have caused irreversible damage to his already fragile, itchy skin.

Since her daughter has eczema as well as food allergies, I’ve asked her to share a personal story with us.

Bio: Andrea Thomas is the mother of a wonderful daughter who was diagnosed with eczema at 2 months of age. Her daughter’s eczema is triggered by various food intolerances. She documents the itchy skin chronicles of her life and of others through her ScratchMeNot blog. Andrea is the founder of Short Stacks and creator of the mom invented, baby inspired product called the ScratchMeNot, designed for babies and toddlers that scratch.

Andrea

We stumbled upon our daughter, Brea, food allergies. When I was nursing, I thought I saw a pattern that whenever I ate certain foods her body triggered eczema. It was a hunch that I had, so I began to eliminate various foods from my diet. I had a suspicion that she was allergic to peanut butter as she would get those red, itchy and inflamed patches on her arms and legs. Yet, I wasn’t 100% sure, because I had been eating a few other foods at the same time. I continued to add foods to my elimination diet which included nuts. Since she never showed signs of swelling, nausea, diarrhea or a swollen throat, I didn’t think she had any life threatening or serious allergies.

One day, I was eating a granola bar with nuts and gave her a small piece. I couldn’t resist those puppy dog eyes! I was thinking the worse that could happen was a little itchiness. Later that evening, I put her to bed and for some reason she wouldn’t go to sleep for long. I had been checking on her and couldn’t figure it out. Then she started to scream for no apparent reason. I thought maybe it’s a wet diaper or she was too hot. So I removed her pajamas and saw that her joints were swelling and hives were coming and going every few minutes. I gave her some Benadryl and we raced her to the ER. It had been about 6 hours since the initial exposure to the nuts. Fortunately, the Benadryl had reduced the reaction. She received a steroid shot and prescriptions from the physician. It turns out she had a full fledge food allergy to nuts. Of course, I felt HORRIBLE. I exposed her to nuts not knowing the dangers and it pains me that I didn’t catch on faster. I’ve never dealt with allergies beyond hay fever before her so this was all new to me.

After this incident, we tried our best to keep nuts away from her. We were at her grandparent’s house and everyone had just come back from Hershey Park with bags of candy. I made sure everyone knew to keep any nut items far from her presence. Better yet, not to eat any nut related candy around her. Yet, somehow she managed to get a hold of a peanut butter bar. I was fingertips away from her before she took a bite of it. I tried to get as much as I could out of her mouth. She was fighting me, as she really enjoyed eating it. Seconds later, she had nonstop nausea. Different reaction, yet more intense. Long story short, she received the necessary medications and recovered quickly.

For those of us who have dealt with allergies, we are familiar with the patterns of allergy symptoms. Certain foods almost always produce the same reactions. However, there are some exceptions. There are times when an allergen’s symptoms vary each time there is exposure to it.  These different reactions show that we can’t depend on a pattern. How can this be?

Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerances:

To understand the complex world of allergies, we’ll take a step back to look at the difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy.  Sometimes they produce such similar reactions that it becomes easy to think they are one in the same.

Typically food allergies have severe reactions that affect the body’s immune system which affects various organs. This is why it is imperative to avoid the offending foods all together for allergies. A food intolerance has milder symptoms such as itchy skin. One can consume small amounts of the offending food without serious repercussions. With food intolerances, the symptoms are fairly predictable.

What occurs internally?

When exposure to a harmful food occurs, the body produces antibodies to defend itself from the offending food. The next time the body is exposed to this food; it launches a swifter, sometimes more intense attack to protect itself. This, along with the amount of the exposure, can determine how the body will respond. Unfortunately, this tends to leave us wondering what will be the reaction(s)?

Types of Reactions:

In these cases, we must get a proper diagnosis of food allergies from a physician to determine what to look for and best ways to respond. Having the proper medication on hand, understanding when to administer the medicine and a variety of symptoms to look for are imperative to one’s safety.

Looking back, those were some hard and scary moments that caused our family to review the plan of attack in an emergency. While I wish life threatening allergies were more forgiving as we continue to figure out what she is allergic to, our best defense is a solid, defensive plan. I also provide allergy awareness to those who come in contact with us to help keep her safe. I truly believe allergy awareness & education is the key to reducing life threatening situations.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. I also truly believe allergy awareness through education is the key to reducing life threatening situations. Our experiences and stories need to be told to touch the hearts of those not otherwise connected to the allergy world. Compassion is our best ally. Much has improved in my 15 year journey with food allergies. It gives me great hope for the future…that food allergy awareness will hit the mainstream. Susan H. @ The Food Allergy Chronicles

    Like

    January 31, 2012

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