One morning, around 9 months of age, Baby V sat kicking her chubby little feet as she happily munched on her breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and strawberries. This is a breakfast she had eaten many times before. Shortly after eating, mama cleaned her up and brought her back to the living room to play, like usual. But unlike the usual, Baby V started getting upset. Her cheeks and forehead began to break out in a red, itchy rash. We had had our first encounter with food allergies.
This post is one of a series in our journey with food allergies. As our journey with Baby V’s allergies continues, I will post periodic updates to these Journey posts. *Every individual with allergies will have a different experience, some with more severe reactions than what I will describe. If you suspect that your child may have a food allergy, seek medical attention from your physician or local hospital. *
As readers may know from previous blogs, Baby V learned to eat through baby led weaning (BLW), which means that she was not introduced to individual foods one at a time as the outdated “3-day rule” would suggest. I did, however, introduce high-risk allergy foods (peanut, tree nuts, egg, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, sesame, and dairy) one at a time – that is, I didn’t give peanut butter for the first time on the same day that she also ate shrimp for the first time. This simply helps to identify which food might be responsible should a reaction occur with the first exposure. However, as we learned, allergic reactions can occur at any exposure, not just the first few.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can vary, but may include any of the following (and this is not a comprehensive list):
- rash and/or hives, may or may not be itchy
- swelling of the face, lips, eyes
- GI symptoms including vomiting or diarrhea
- wheezing, difficulty breathing
Baby V was exclusively breastfed to 6 months of age and continued breastfeeding beyond that. She was introduced to high allergen foods early on (I think she’d had all of them at least a couple of times by the time she was 8 months old or so). Neither Daddy or I have food allergies or a family history of food allergies. It would seem that she was at pretty low risk of food allergies and we had done “everything right” to prevent them, per the most recent infant feeding recommendations. She had been eating eggs regularly, probably 2-3 times a week for months before this
day. She’d also been eating foods made with egg, including meatloaf and meatballs, french toast, pancakes and waffles, muffins, and others. Then this happened (pardon the brightness, the rash isn’t as obvious on my phone photo as it was in reality :/) —->
The rash persisted for the day and even appeared to get a bit worse after she ate lunch (consisting of leftover spinach walnut pesto with pasta, which she’d eaten earlier that week with no issues at all. More on that later). Thankfully she was having no difficulty breathing and no other symptoms besides an itchy rash around her eyes, cheeks and upper lip. I called our family doctor and made an appointment for two days later. In all, the rash persisted for 3 days.
Our doctor suggested an elimination diet of sorts, given that she had eaten a few allergenic foods that morning. We cut out wheat, eggs and strawberries for a couple of weeks and reintroduced one by one. The next time she had scrambled eggs, the rash broke out while she was still eating them. No question, we had an egg allergy. We called the doctor again and headed back the next day. This time the rash only lasted a few hours.
We now received a referral to a pediatric allergist, which would take a couple of months before we could see her. In the meantime, obviously, we eliminated eggs from her diet.
Meanwhile, remember that walnut pesto from lunch? I still had leftover pesto in the freezer. Baby V ate some more a week later for lunch. She was fine, but several hours later got some freckle-like pink dots on her cheeks. Ate dinner (which consisted of pork chops, sweet potatoes and veggies, no major allergens here). Her cheeks were a bit pink before bed, I thought she may have been catching a cold or something and thought little of it. Until about 10pm when she woke from her sleep crying and screaming her poor head off. Daddy and I tried to no avail to comfort her for an hour, rocking in the dark. Eventually I thought maybe she was thirsty and came out to the kitchen to fix her a bottle (as our breastfeeding relationship had come to an end at this time – a story for another day). I turned on the light and saw why she was so upset.
Her entire face was bright red, covered in hives, and she couldn’t stop itching. Our family doctor had given us instruction for Benadryl if we needed it, so I administered it and cuddled her to pieces, and she was able to get back to sleep for the rest of the night. I stupidly didn’t get a photo for the doctor that night, but her face the next morning spoke volumes anyway (this is significantly better than it had been hours earlier).
Back to the doctor we went. Unfortunately wasn’t much more to do than give Benadryl as needed and wait for the allergist referral. So that’s what we did, meanwhile still avoiding eggs and still unsure what had caused this latest rash breakout but suspicious of those walnuts. We also discovered all the sneaky places that eggs can be that I had never really thought of until Baby V got rashes again, like the mayo in the tuna sandwich I shared with her at a restaurant (duh, oops), or her Nonno’s fresh Italian pasta.
In the next post on the Journey series, we visit the pediatric allergist. Stay tuned!