Adjusting to Our New Reality: COVID-19

Adjusting to Our New Reality: COVID-19

Adjusting to our new reality! 
COVID-19

 

Like everyone else, over the last 12 days, our reality has changed quickly and dramatically! To help support our healthcare system as well as to keep Shaun healthy (his asthma diagnosis complicates things a bit), we have taken social distancing very seriously. 

 

Shaun school is closed indefinitely. Per the governor, the earliest Connecticut schools can reopen is April 20th, but today he indicated that it is likely they will remain closed until fall. 

 

John is working from home at least until the end of the month. (But honestly, as the days pass, I feel that he will be home longer.) He is set up in a spare room upstairs, allowing him a semi-quiet space as Shaun and I move about the rest of the house. 

 

I, too, am home, trying to write blog posts and plan podcasts in between the beckoning calls of a five-year-old who is trying to make sense of all the changes.

 

Changes we all are trying to make sense of. How does life look with:
  • No school 
  • Working from home
  • Distance Learning
  • Not seeing family & friends face to face
  • No church or faith formation
  • No playground 
  • No hanging out with neighbor friends 

 

You get the idea, your living it too! 

Except for two trips out to the stores (Grocery & Hardware) for necessities and two trips for John into work to pick up equipment, we have only had social interactions virtually. I can’t imagine if we didn’t have the technology how much more difficult this would all be.    

 

Nothing right now is certain, we don’t know how this is going to continue to play out. I have found myself wondering if it is worth diving deep into a new routine with Shaun only to need to change it again in a few weeks. But could it be months?  

 

I am unsettled, and some moments are harder than others. At the same time, I have experienced gratitude and joy!  

 

We are grateful to be home and healthy; To be together! We have found joy in small moments reading books, puzzling, learning about animals, creating art, cooking together. 

 

We are getting outside every day, no matter the temperature or weather! Playing in the yard and walking around the neighborhood has become a daily occurrence. Fresh air works wonders for all of us. 

 

We are holding up as best we can; Learning as we go. Making the best out of an unprecedented situation.

 

It is no surprise that food allergies and an asthma diagnosis complicate the current Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing to a further degree than most.  

 

Food Allergies 

Around the same time we got word that the schools were going to be closing, I started to see pictures of empty grocery store shelves. And although I am not one to stockpile food, my allergy mom brain did immediately feel worried that if shelves were being cleared, I might not be able to find the safe foods or brands that we often use to feed Shaun. 

 

I used Shaun’s last day of school to get to several stores (because with food allergies, you can’t just get what you need at one store), intending to be stocked for about three weeks. 

 

On this day, I did not pay attention to prices or what I could get on sale. I focused on what Shaun safe options were stocked, use by or sell-by dates, and how much I could store at home. 

 

I was grateful that I had been able to stock up on so much safe food. I did feel a twinge of guilt that as a food allergy mom, I had not been already more prepared for a possible emergency, then I let that feeling pass as best I could.

 

The next day, as the pictures poured on on social media and local news of empty grocery shelves and check-out lines with carts overflowing as people panic shopped, I realized just how close I had come to not finding safe food. 

 

The good news here is that the supply chain is not broken like it might be if there was a natural disaster. The empty shelves are a result of people hoarding and over buying out of panic. 

 

As of today, we are still in good shape for food. But I will tell you that I am nervous about what we will find or what we will not find when we begin to restock next week. Hearing of others in the food allergy community are struggling to find specific products makes me anxious. 

 

But in an effort to focus on what I can control, here is my plan. 
  1. Go to the store open-minded. Maybe it won’t be as bad as I am thinking, 
  2. Talk to customer service if I can’t get a safe product I need for Shaun. Explain his food allergies and see if they know when they will be getting stock or if they would be willing to contact me when they do. 
  3. Ask family and friends to keep an eye out for specific products if I can’t find them. Then I can plan a pick-up or drop off with them. 

 

I am hopeful that taking these steps, we will make it through this with the food we need for Shaun. But once again, food allergies complicated an already complicated new reality.  

 

Asthma 

12 days ago, I began to look for information about covid-19 and asthma. Knowing that sickness can flare Shaun’s asthma, I was curious to find out if there is any link. At that point, there was not that much out there. 

 

I then spoke with Shaun’s allergist (which I recommend you consider doing with your allergist) who told me that there is not enough information yet to answer a lot of the questions I had. She did also remind me that respiratory viruses (Covid-19) flare asthma, which means that the medications and care plan you should already have will be sufficient! 

 

Since then, some information for asthma patients has been released.
  • The CDC & AAAAI  have provided reliable information and recommendations.
  • The American College of Asthma and Immunology has released a statement about the growing albuterol inhaler shortage. (Don’t panic! Remember that each inhaler has 200 inhalations.)

 

Based on the information from Shaun’s doctor and these resources, we are keeping Shaun safe by: 
  1. Take daily asthma maintenance medications as prescribed to make sure asthma controlled. 
  2. Took inventory of all asthma medications in the house. Checking amounts and dates on inhalers and nebulizer medications. (We have the medicine we need at home already – this was more of a double check.)
  3. Review the asthma sick plan. Making sure we have no questions for our doctor.
  4. Coordinate with the school nurse to get back the asthma medication we had provided until distance learning is over. 
  5. Stay Home! 
  6. Wash Hands! 

 

I am taking a pragmatic approach to all this as much as possible. 

 

I am changing my anxious thoughts from what could happen to how I can best prepare. (Or reminding myself that I already am.)

 

Remembering that if Shaun does get sick, we have a plan and medication to help us control the asthma flare, just like with any flare-up caused by a respiratory virus. 

 

Remembering that social distancing is a temporary measure for a much greater good!

 

Remembering that even in all the change and chaos, JOY can be found, often in small moments! 

 

Prepare as best you can. 

 

Stay home. 

 

Be well. Whatever that looks like for you! 

 

Loving Valentine’s Day with Allergies

Loving Valentine’s Day with Allergies

 

 

Roses are sneezy 
Foods cause problems too
Let’s make Valentine’s Day 
Safe for you! 

 

It might only be the end of January, but love is already in the air. As you might be learning, when you live with food allergies planning for holidays is an essential part of life.  

 

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the love and friendships we have. We mark this occasion with special dinners (not always allergen friendly), flowers (that make some people sneeze), stuffed animals (AKA a dust mite house), and candy (often containing a top 8 food allergen). 

 

It can be hard to love a holiday that is so hyper-focused on traditions that can leave you feeling anxious, itchy, or worse. But, with some thoughtfulness and flexibility, we can make our Valentine’s Day plans safe and enjoyable. 

 

School Plans 

If your child is the one with food allergies, it is important to find out what events, activities, and treats the school plans to have. 

  • Check-in with your child’s classroom teacher. In my experience, they are the best point of contact because they know celebration plans for the classroom as well as any school-wide plans. 
  • Check-in with the PTA. Your classroom teacher may be unaware of the PTA’s activities and events, it is important to contact them as well.
  • Kindly ask questions to make sure the plans are safe for your child. Remain reasonable and work together to adjust any potential risk spots.
  • Offer to help! Giving your support both in ideas and time always eases the stress for everyone involved. 

 

Remember, often, the school staff and the PTA don’t manage food allergies day in and day out in the same capacity we do.  Use this opportunity to share your knowledge and make the environment safer for not just your child but all those with food allergies. You can positively impact the culture of the school.

 

Here are a few other tips on working with the school: 

  • Some schools choose not to have any food or candy-related items for celebrations. Find out your school guidelines on this before you start trying to fix a problem that might not exist.
  • When asking questions to the teacher and/or PTA, keep in mind that some art and science-based activities contain food. Ask about this directly! (Experience has shown me that when you ask about food, people are thinking about food getting consumed, not about hidden food proteins in other activities.) 
  • Know what boundaries need to be in place for safety. For example, we don’t need to exclude all of Shaun’s allergens from the classroom to keep him safe. If the celebration includes fruit and yogurt, we have precautions in place to keep his food separate, provide him with a yogurt alternative, clean his eating area before he sits to eat and post snack clean up of surfaces and hands. Some people’s food allergy needs require stricter boundaries; Know your needs and advocate to have the boundaries in place.       

 

Non-Food Valentine’s Fun  

These days giving experiences as a gift is hugely popular – and I get it! It emphasizes spending time together, communicating, and making memories! While downplaying material things that clutter our lives. 

 

Here are some great, allergy-friendly, low-cost activities you can plan as part of your Valentine’s Day activities that don’t include food! 

 

  1. Hand Made Crafts 
  2. Books about Kindness and Love 
  3. Science Activities 
  4. Scavenger Hunt 
  5. Community Kindness Acts 
  6. Museum Adventure
  7. Bowling Date
  8. Hike 

 

Non-Food Gifts 

A simple internet search will reveal a tremendous amount of ideas for clever, non-food Valentine’s Day treats. These are some of my favorite’s: 

 

  1. Stickers – “Valentine, I’m stuck on you!” 
  2. Crayons – “Color your heart out, Valentine!” 
  3. Bubbles – “Your sweetness blows me away!”
  4. Watercolors – “Hope you have a colorful Valentine’s Day!” 
  5. Glow sticks – “You make my heart glow!”
  6. Rubber Ducks- “I’m a lucky duck to have a friend like you!”
  7. Book Marks – “You’re #1 in my book!”
  8. Crazy Straws – “Sip, Sip Horray! It’s Valentine’s Day!”
  9. Bouncy balls – “Valentine, you make my heart bounce!”
  10. Pencils – “Write on Valentine!”  

 

Although I have focused a lot on non-food options, creating safe and yummy meals and treats for Valentine’s Day is legitimate and encouraged. But even us food allergy folks can get caught up in being food-centric, and I wanted to show the variety of celebratory options beyond food. 

 

Also, if you still want to share candy as part of your Valentine’s Day celebration, try to see out an allergy-friendly option. (Just a reminder always read every label every time, even with an allergy-friendly company!) 

 

No matter how you choose to celebrate, I hope your Valentine’s Day is sweet. 

 

 

 

AoA Info & Support Links

If you enjoy our content and would like to support us, you can do so below:

Shop

You can also check out our social media outlets:

Instagram

Facebook

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

 

 

 

A Love Letter From a Food Allergy Mom *Updated*

A Love Letter From a Food Allergy Mom *Updated*

 

 

Dearest friend, 

 

I write to you today because I love you!  

 

You are kind and understanding. Yet I hesitate to write this because experience has taught me that even the kindest people sometimes struggle to fully grasp what I am about to share.

You see, I am not just a mom; I am a food allergy mom. 

And that comes with a tremendous amount of constant care you can’t truly understand until you hold the title. 

“Food allergy mom” was not a line item that I ever expected to add to my life’s resume … but here I am. 

 

Why does this matter?

 

How we treat each other matters. Without being aware that I live with food allergies and what that looks like, it might cause friction in our daily interactions. 

Sharing this part of my life with you will help us to strengthen our accord.

Your benefit: a deeper understanding of my life and an opportunity to act with compassion. 
My benefit: being fully seen and loved in a reality where simple food is life-threatening to my child. 

You can’t know what you don’t know. I get that … It would be unreasonable for me to expect you to be aware and understanding of food allergies when you have never truly been exposed to their reality. 

 

So here is a glimpse of reality … 

 

It is learning how to read labels … every single time you purchase a product. 

It is knowing that sometimes milk is not called milk or that a company doesn’t have to disclose sesame oil in a product as long as the ingredients say natural flavors. 

It is spending hours in a grocery store and coming out with no new food options 

It’s about learning all the places food proteins hide. Because they commonly exist in non-food products. That means hand soaps, art supplies, makeup, beard oil, house cleaner, toothpaste, to name a few. 

It is countless hours with doctors looking at test results that can’t tell you the severity of a potential reaction because the test only measures how likely it is that a reaction would occur.

It is scouring the internet at all hours of the night looking for answers. 

It is learning how to cook again and rethinking all your habits in the kitchen because a single mistake can lead to cross-contact making food unsafe, even life-threatening. 

It’s trying to inform your family, friends, co-workers, teachers what your needs are, making sure to be clear and accurate, without scaring them but without coming across as crazy and overbearing. 

It is about kindly speaking up to educate someone when all you want to do is scream, “what are you doing?! that could kill my child!” 

It is learning the many ways anaphylaxis looks and how to respond when the day comes that you see it. 

It is finding accessible and affordable epinephrine, the medication that saves lives.

It is praying that you never have to use it. 

It is about NEVER leaving home empty-handed. But instead with bags of stuff: auto-injectors, antihistamine, inhalers, wipes, extra clothes, and food!

It is about always mitigating risk. At the park, the library, the museum, the family picnic, the birthday party, the bus, the baseball game, the grocery store (literally everywhere)

It is about teaching my child to be aware of and respect his allergies. To advocate and speak up. Without making him scared, anxious, or feel less than and left out. 

It’s about finding people who understand food allergy life and cherishing them. 

It is about finding a place between fear and complacency so you can live life but maintain a level of protection.

It is about all of these things and SO MUCH MORE

 

I often operate in the space of fear and anxiety, which is why sometimes I come across as unreasonable, overprotective, and maybe even a little crazy. 

I spend a lot of energy pushing outside that fear because it is the only way to experience life. But some days it’s harder than others. 

I hope you can empathize with the care it takes and the anxiety that comes with managing food allergies.  

And maybe you value me enough to be mindful of your words and actions … 

 

Here are 2 simple ways to accomplish that:

Don’t assume …

 

That this is a lifestyle choice, it has changed our lifestyle, but it was not a choice.

 

That a small amount of the allergen is okay, it’s NOT. Even trace amounts of food protein can trigger anaphylaxis. 

 

That because you read a news headline you’re informed. Food allergies are multi-faceted. I promise it is more complicated than the headline. (I will know immediately if you actually read the body of the article) 

 

Food allergies are the same as an intolerance … they are not! 

 

That you need to suggest ideas to help. I know your desire to offer solutions is coming from a good place, but it just makes me feel more isolated. 

 

Ask questions … 

 

Can I do anything to make things safer for you? 

 

Where do you keep your auto-injector? Can you show me how to use it? 

 

Would you like to pick the restaurant? 

 

Do you have any treatment options? 

 

Where can I get useful information about food allergies?

 

Are you okay?

 

This is a lot to take in! It probably feels like too much … at least that’s how I felt when I found out I was a food allergy mom.

With time and practice, it feels more manageable.

Food allergies will always require extra care, but one day you will look up and realize you automatically account for them. With no cure at this time and anaphylactic episodes on the rise, your awareness and compassion are more important than I can express. 

 

I sincerely hope this has not scared you away. In fact, quite the opposite!

I shared this to provide perspective to empower you as you encounter food allergies and anaphylaxis. 

Now you have the information it’s your choice how to use it. 

 

 

With love and gratitude, 

An allergy mom 

 

 

 

When Planning Your Beach Trip Still Falls Short

When Planning Your Beach Trip Still Falls Short

 

What’s that saying about “the best-laid plans”…?

 

As an allergy momma, I understand this sentiment intimately. 

Vigilance and planning make it so Shaun can have happy, healthy experiences out in the world. But you see sometimes even our best-laid plans (the ones based on trial and error, research and our care plan), fall short and end with some type of reaction. 

Last week, we shared some ideas about How to Enjoy a Beach Day with Food Allergies. It seemed like a timely blog post as we were headed to our family cottage to enjoy the beach for a few days. 

 

 

The day after our post went up, my mom (Shaun’s Mimi) and I began to plan and pack to take Shaun down to the shore for the afternoon. 

Shaun safe food …. Check
Medication and care plan … Check
Blue Lizard Sunscreen … Check
Sand chair, sand toys & umbrella … Check 
Long sleeve rash guard shirt … Check
Full coverage beach hat … Check 
Extra 100% cotton, clean, dry clothes … Check 

 

Finally, we have the car packed up and we head down to the beach. 

We Arrive. Unpack the car, off to the sand to scope out a spot that seems open, close enough to the water, but not too far from the bathrooms and that will allow for easy egress should we need to head out in a hurry. 

My mom and Shaun headed down to the water’s edge as I set up our little space. I put in the umbrella, got some towels set up and put our medications and food cooler in the shade. 

 

 

I walked down to the water …  and I took a nice deep breath of ocean air! I enjoyed the interaction between Shaun and Mimi as they waded a little deeper into the waves. Feeling grateful and peaceful I returned to our spot on the sand, settled into my chair and grabbed my book. 

 

Not even one page of reading and Shaun was standing in front of me shivering. Bouncing up and down at his knees just a little bit … he was clearly uncomfortable. I suggested he lay in the sun, on the towel, so he could warm up and dry off a bit. But he continued to bounce and tell me “momma I can’t lay down.” 

Finally, after a few minutes of frustrating back and forth about laying down to warm up, he asked to go to the potty. Off we went back up the sand toward the bathhouse, used the potty and then back to the sand we marched. 

Hopeful that Shaun was now content, I planned on picking my book back up while he spent some time building in the sand! 

 

Unfortunately, as soon as we arrived back at our spot on the beach Shaun started itching. For Shaun itching happens often so there was no need to panic or pack up. 

 

Me: “Hey buddy, what’s going on?’ (I try to keep my questions open-ended so I am not giving him words he will just repeat back to me) 
Shaun: “My knee pits itch” 
Me: “I see that … any other spots itchy?”
Shaun: “No” 

 

But I could see he had already started scratching around his waistband and his crotch … 

 

I decided we needed to take off his clothes to get a look at all his skin. Mimi and I help him get off his wet shirt and hold up a blanket as we take off his bathing suit (we are trying to teach him he can’t just be naked anywhere he wants … ahhhh parenthood)

The creases of his knees were red and puffy with hives but the rest of his body seemed okay. I wrapped him in the towel, sat in the shade with him lying across me while Mimi got us some ice packs from the cooler in an attempt to calm down his hives. 

 

 

For the next few minutes, I tried to settle him. He rolled this way and that. He squirmed. He began to itch his ears and eyes. So I stood him back up and opened the towel to look at him again … he had hives on his torso, behind his ears and in the creases of his thighs. So I scooped him up in the towel and quickly made my way to the bathhouse where they have freshwater showers. 

As soon as I turned the handle to rinse Shaun off he darted out of the water screaming “its ice-cold!!!”

 

Yes, it was time to go home … 

 

We had not even been there for 30 minutes. 

 

I knew with the way the hives were spreading that if we didn’t rinse him in freshwater and get his skin covered in clean dry clothes the hives were not going to calm down. 

 

 

So back to the sand we went to get Mimi and pack up all the stuff. I didn’t want to bring Shaun back onto the sand so I sat him at the entrance (that was in my view 100% of the time), with a lifeguard. 

Lugging Shaun and all our stuff back to the car as quickly as possible so we could return to the cottage to get his hives under control. 

When we arrived it was straight to the shower, a dose of hydroxyzine, ointment and cotton PJs (long pants / long sleeves) And within about 30 minutes he was finally more comfortable. 

 

Shaun stayed amazingly calm and happy despite the discomfort of the hives. 
Was it life-threatening? No, not this time, thank God! 

 

However, it was uncomfortable. It was stressful. It ended our afternoon at the beach before it even really began. It was disappointing and frustrating but it will not stop us from going back! 

What caused his hives? Almost impossible to answer. Often with Shaun’s hives, we don’t know the exact trigger: too hot, too cold, something in the ocean, the detergent residue on his bathing suit, the sand, something on the toilet seat that contacted his skin? And yes, this makes me crazy because without knowing the cause we can’t modify our plan to prevent it next time. 

See, allergy living can put you into a bubble if you let it. You must be relentless and determined to keep engaging even when, despite your careful, thoughtful preparation, you end up having a reaction. 

John and I feel it is critical to teach Shaun how to avoid becoming isolated! How to live a full safe life even though sometimes his beach trip will be cut short due to hives. 

 

Here is to a hive free beach trip next time, 

 

~ LC 

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

 

 

How to Enjoy a Beach Day with Food Allergies

How to Enjoy a Beach Day with Food Allergies

With the summer here in full swing, many people find themselves at, or wanting to go to, a beach! Hot temperatures and refreshing ocean are a perfect combination, but this becomes a little less carefree when you have allergies. So here’s how to enjoy a beach day with food allergies.

 

Establish your “safe” zone

As with just about any other situation you will encounter with food allergies, going to the beach is no different. It always helps to plan (even scout the beach if you want to be super thorough). When you arrive, try to establish your safe space early on.

When our family goes to the beach, we tend to lay out our blankets, towels, umbrellas, etc. as soon as we get there. This gives us a well-defined area to spread out and sets up a perimeter around our safe zone.

When Shaun was younger, we used to bring our PlayPen with us to the beach. It was a perfect way to allow Shaun to be there with us and also have a wholly contained area to limit exposure for him.

 

Bring all food (plus backups)

Packing your food is almost always going to be the best option in general, but especially on a beach day. Granted, it does mean you have some extra stuff to carry, but the peace-of-mind that comes from knowing you have access to safe food is invaluable.

On top of bringing all our food, we generally bring backups/multiple options for food. Nothing worse than having a food-meltdown ruin the day, or force you to have to leave early.

 

Be aware of your surroundings

This also should be a given with any outing, but on a beach day, emergency resources may be slightly less accessible than in some other scenarios, so extra precautions/awareness are usually helpful.

 

Check for:
  • Food/Snack stands. (especially at state beaches, there are usually places that sell food)
  • Ice Cream Truck(s). Pretty much a given, but this means melty/dripping dairy allergens.
  • What have other people brought? The people on the towels nearby could have peanuts, seeds, PB&J sandwiches, or any number of other possible allergens. Pay attention when they pull out their food so that you can walk around/avoid potential risks.

 

Care plan

For those that also have eczema, the beach can have other potential challenges. Between the heat, moisture, sand, and others, something is likely to trigger some increased eczema response or rashing. 

You want to do what is needed for your situation, but this does not mean you can’t go or have fun at the beach. Go through your typical care plan and make sure you have all your skin-care items with you.

Where is there fresh water nearby? Knowing this is important in case you need to wash off because of hives or eczema.

 

Although it’s not typical, packing a light cotton outfit (long sleeves and pants) will give you the option to clean your skin, apply any skin care treatment products and cover you skin with a soothing fabric to relive the flare up. This practice has saved us many times!

 

Medications

Having your medications close is always essential, but the heat and direct sunlight at the beach can be a problem, especially for Epinephrine. As we mentioned in a previous post, as well as on FARE’s website, Epinephrine has to remain within specific temperature limits to maintain its efficacy.

There are many ways to combat this issue, however. Chief among them being several insulated carrying bags that help maintain the temperature of the epinephrine or any other temperature-sensitive medications you might need to carry. We have used the ones made by Allermates. However, there is another one made by ParcMedic, which is also highly reviewed.

Additionally, there is a slightly different kind of bag made by Frio that people swear by. They have a unique technology that allows it to cool using evaporation, eliminating the need for ice packs or coolers to put your medications in. Most of these are advertised as insulin bags, but they are useful for Epinephrine auto-injectors as well, and many other allergy families and friends we know far prefer these to other carrying options for the beach or other hot, outdoor activities.

 

Sun protection

Sunscreen, swim shirts & hats are part of our beach routine. In general this is part of health skin care but it becomes even more critical with sensitive skin.

Sunscreen will get its own post in time but here are the two things to keep in mind. First, sunscreens may contain ingredients you are allergic to!! Always read the label! Secondly, if your skin is sensitive it might some trial and error before you find one that works well for your skin. We have had excellent luck with Blue Lizard.

 

Exit plan

As with any other outing, you want to go in with a plan to get out. This is not to say you want to leave early, but this also contributes to lowering everyone’s stress levels and allowing you to actually enjoy the day at the beach, rather than merely live through it.

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

 

 

Food Challenges and What to Expect

Food Challenges and What to Expect

 

Food challenges are part of allergy living, and like most things in allergy life, it is stressful, nuanced, and rewarding all at the same time! A food challenge is considered “the gold standard” test to determine if a person is allergic or not to a specific food.

 

3 years ago this month, Shaun (at 19mo old) had his first food challenge (Soy) that ended in success! We left the allergy office that day with the OKAY to add soy products to his diet. (If you live with strict avoidance of soy, you know how huge this win was for us! Soy is in a tremendous amount of food.)   

 

 

Shaun has gone through 4 food challenges with a 75% success rate.

 

We have challenged:

Soy: Passed

Egg: Passed

Rice: Passed

Baked Cows Milk: Failed  (a post all its own)

Each time Shaun passes a food challenge, our menu opens up, and we feel a little lighter!

 

So what is a food challenge?

A food challenge is when an allergic person under the supervision of their allergist, in a highly controlled environment, eats food they have previously been diagnosed as allergic to and are strictly avoiding.

Our allergist looks at IEG blood work results along with results from skin tests to determine if a food MIGHT be successfully added to a person’s diet if it is challenged. The recommendations an allergist make varies depending on patient history, age, ability to communicate, etc.    

The entire food challenge process is very structured and highly monitored because although there is a chance that the outcome can be successful … there is also a chance that the challenge can end in hives, anaphylaxis, or anything in between.

For me, this was the part that elicited stress and strong emotions. How can I possibly bring Shaun into the doctor to feed him something that could send him into anaphylaxis? I had to rely on the controlled process and allow the reward of opening up his diet to outweigh the feelings of fear and the counter-intuitive nature of the food challenge.   

 

 

 

Here is what we have learned to expect with a food challenge:

 

They take a long time to schedule.

If your allergist recommends that you schedule one of these tests sometimes, it can take 6 months or more (we have waited 8 months) before there is an available appointment. Because these challenges take a minimum of 5 hours, there is a limited number of available appointments per day. Be ready to take what you can get and rearrange other plans.

 

You can’t be sick.

Because food allergies are auto-immune based, it is essential that your immune system is not already taxed at the time of your food challenge. This means a cold, virus, or infection just before or at the time of your scheduled test will require you to reschedule.

3 of our 4 food challenges have needed to be rescheduled. Yes, it is beyond frustrating but also an important reality. First, because an already burdened immune system will increase the risk of a reaction occurring, and secondly because if you were to carry out the challenge in this state, you could fail the test only because your immune system is already working so hard; leaving you with inaccurate results.   

 

Pass or fail it will be a long day in the office.

Because the doctors monitor you for any symptoms (from hives to anaphylaxis), you’ll be in the office for several hours. Plan to be out of work or school all day.

You will want to pack a few things to keep yourself busy!

With Shaun at such a young age, both John and I have always attended the food challenges together. This allows us to take turns distracting him in the small exam room and step out without leaving him alone if we need to use the bathroom or take a break.

We have read books, built puzzles, written postcards, played dinosaurs, colored, raced matchbox cars, and in really desperate moments watched movies. I try to pack one bag with varied activities that we can spend the day exploring. It is hard to be cooped up in a small room, but these activities help so much!

Also, it can be frigid in doctors offices, dressing in layers is crucial so you can add or remove layers as needed.

 

Skin Test

You most likely had a blood test, skin test or both to determine that you are in a position to schedule a food challenge, but the day you go in for the test they will repeat the skin test to verify that there have not been any changes that would increase the risk.

Skin test are, no doubt, unpleasant (we always have tears). Going through this just before the food challenge is another way the process is set up to lower the risk of anaphylaxis.  

 

 

Signing the release form.

As with any medical procedure, the food challenge includes a release form explaining all the things that could go wrong as a result of ingesting the food you are about to test. It is always a scary moment acknowledging the risk involved. However, it’s important to remember that THIS is the safest way to carry out a food challenge to increase dietary options!

 

 

Do not try to do this at home, without proper medical supervision and emergency personnel ready to assist!    

 

 

Dosing & Waiting

When you get the all clear to start the challenge, you will be given a precise dose of the food you are testing. Then you wait … 20 minutes … if you have no symptoms, a second dose (larger than the first) will be delivered.

This cycle will continue until you pass the test or have symptoms that end it.   

Pass or fail; there is hope in this process! Hope that you may be able to open up your diet.

Work closely with your allergist, push through the fear. Food challenges have been life-changing for us, and they might be for you too!  

 

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

 

 

close

Enjoy this post? Please spread the word :)