If memory serves me correctly, we started feeding Mila finger foods at ten months old. As recommended by our pediatrician, we were slow to introduce each food and would wait 2 to 3 days before trying something new.
Tyson had a slight egg allergy when he was younger, so, we were cognizant of the need to monitor for food allergies. We watched for the standard signs-diarrhea, rash or vomiting and saw no immediate reactions as we continued to introduce food after food after food.
Around her first birthday, Mila had her first eczema flare up. Tyson had eczema when he was younger, but his would quickly go away with an oatmeal bath and repeated applications of Eucerin. Mila's, however, didn't go away as easily.
At her one year check up, Mila's doctor prescribed a steroid cream which provided some relief. The eczema cleared, but flared up again a week later. A return trip to the doctor resulted in yet another steroid cream which, again, provided only short term relief. Rinse and repeat for the next six months.
At it's best Mila's eczema would be gone for three to four weeks at a time.
At it's worst, it progressed to impetigo and resulted in a painful and feverish little babe.
For a little over a year of Mila's life, we watched helplessly as our baby screamed when bath water hit her face, cringed when friends would ask what was wrong with her and struggled to find the answers to help her.
She had no other symptoms. We never noticed swelling inside her mouth, she never had diarrhea and never vomited.
We invested way more than I care to admit in lotions and potions and creams and bath salts. We visited her pediatrician 8 times between her first birthday and her second. We cut out gluten and then milk and then soy, but still no relief. We even (shudder) tried bathing her in a doctor recommended bleach bath.
During this time, we did visit an allergist. Through a blood test, we had her tested for dairy, soy, wheat, peanut, eggs and pet dander. Her results showed a "slight"peanut allergy, however, her allergist indicated that based on his opinion the allergy was so minimal that it wouldn't be necessary for us to eliminate them from her diet.
So, following the advice of our allergist, we allowed her to continue to eat peanuts and peanut butter.
And the eczema continued to flare on and off until last Christmas.
On Christmas Day, during a family celebration, Mila ate a homemade Chex Mix with almonds and peanuts. She also ate cashews and possibly even a few pecans.
Within ten minutes of dinner, I noticed a rash around her mouth and dismissed it as yet ANOTHER eczema flare. As I changed her diaper a few minutes later, I saw the rash was also on her stomach. And arms. And back. Panicked, we attempted to give her a dose of Benadryl only to see that her lips had also started to swell.
We rushed her to the emergency room of the nearest hospital and watched horrified and in tears as she suffered an anaphylactic reaction to tree nuts and peanuts.
I cannot describe the fear and panic I felt that day as I watched the nurses yell for another steroid injection. And the blame that floated around in my head as I heard them discuss calling an ambulance to transfer her to Children's. I could have prevented this. I should have prevented this. Unknowingly, I allowed my daughter to eat foods that could have killed her.
We now know that Mila is allergic to tree nuts. Eating hazelnuts or pistachios or cashews or pecans or walnuts can kill her. She still has a slight allergy to peanuts and we have now been advised to avoid them as well. Since cutting out all tree nuts and peanuts from her diet, we no longer have eczema flare ups. Mila will be blood tested and skin tested after she turns 4 to determine if any of her allergies have changed. Until then, I will carry my EpiPen and panic with me everywhere I go.
This will be our first Halloween since her reaction. I have sweaty palms thinking about. Mila is going as a kitty - a pink, fluffy and adorable kitty who cannot eat peanuts or tree nuts. We are hoping to keep her trick or treating experience as normal as possible and planning to go through her candy after we tuck her safely into bed that night.
As she gets older, it will become more difficult to monitor what she eats, but hopefully she will become more knowledgeable about her food allergies. In an attempt to help her and other kids with food allergies, we spent the morning painting a pumpkin teal.
This Halloween, FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) is encouraging families to place a teal pumpkin on your porch as a sign to other families that you have non-food treats available at your home. We plan on handing out Sixlets (nut free and processed in a nut free facility) and stickers. Additional information about the Teal Pumpkin Project can be found on FARE's blog
Here's wishing EVERYONE a safe and happy Halloween!