Our boy started showing signs of food allergy when he turned ten months old. He came home one day from Grandpa’s with a bad hives breakout. For someone who loves food like he does, the need to be selective on his intake is almost a tragedy. The newest ingredient added into his porridge that day was anchovies aka Ikan Bilis. We immediately accused these tiny common salt-water forage fish as the culprit.
Our ignorance led Ewan to suffer further when I lay him into a warm (or was it cold) bath, hoping it will ease his itching rash. Little did we know, these rashes were actually hives and they bloomed even more after the temperature change. The way he screamed and cried frightened us but thankfully he was immediately pacified from breastfeeding. Of course, the pacifier after unlatching calmed him down as well.
We removed anchovies in his diet and continued feeding him his usual thread fin, which he had been consuming since month eight by the way. Thread fin was his daily protein consumption and he enjoyed them too. Yet, after this episode, he couldn’t stomach thread fin any more. Only then did we find out that thread fin was the guilty party for this awful allergic breakout. Can allergies be developed? I guess it happened to Ewan. Ten drops of Zyrtec, once at night, should do the trick to beat these nasty hives.
Note to new mums: Do not panic. Head your child straight into a clinic and request for an anti-histamine. It works like magic. Hives blossom when there is a change in temperature. Keep your child away from wind and avoid a bath no matter how sweaty she becomes from her struggles. She should be fine until the anti-histamine is administered. But you will have to closely monitor the seriousness of her reactions to certain food allergens from then on. Some can be so serious, you will be advised to keep an EpiPen in your bag. These are for emergencies in life-threatening situations caused by food allergens.
The next time Ewan showed mild signs of hives around his mouth was when we offered him scrambled eggs from MacDonald’s. Before we could give him his third mouthful, he rejected the eggs by spitting them out. Then the hives appear. It seems like Ewan knows what he can or cannot take. When he feels that his body isn’t feeling right, he rejects the food we feed him. He had it bad with both scrambled and half-boiled eggs. I read that scrambled eggs when cooked over medium heat still contains Salmonella bacteria at the end of the cooking. 1 in 15 servings of scrambled eggs was still Salmonella-positive. He takes hard boils and steamed eggs well so we are sticking to fully cooked eggs until further notice.
With him being less than a year old, we put back the allergy test. Until one fateful August afternoon. He was already fourteen months old and eating table food. Ewan shared a bowl of Carbonara pasta with Alisteir at Marmalade Pantry. Oh how they loved it. Hot, fresh, delicious bowl of Penne Carbonara with Ham. Should Ewan gets an allergy, he will react to it within 5 minutes. However, this time, this bowl of pasta caused him to have the worst allergic reaction of all times. Instead of hives, he swelled. His lips, eyes and ears swelled so badly he was unrecognisable. We did not send him to the doctor’s but administered Zyrtec immediately. It took 8 hours to fully subside – the longest recovery ever. We were certain it was the ham but then again, Carbonara is whipped out of raw eggs right? That is why I had also avoided mayonnaise during my pregnancy in case there were Salmonella bacteria. What is the cause of his reaction then?
An allergic reaction can quickly put your immune system into a state of emergency. A tiny amount of food may cause symptoms such as digestive problems, hives, facial swelling or trouble breathing. We were thankful he could still breathe and it was not a life-threatening reaction. This swelling reinforced our decision to get him tested.
We headed in for our appointment at National University Hospital today with a referral letter from the Polyclinic. It was supposed to be last Thursday but Meyer was out of the country. We postponed it to today so that he can come along just in case the skin prick test is too much for Ewan to handle. Unfortunately, he had to fly off again this week. I did not want to postpone it again and was ready to brave the morning with Ewan, just the two of us.
Thankfully my cousin, Ruyi, insisted on coming with us. I rejected her offer because she lived too far away. For her to travel to NUH would take her at least an hour in a bus and train. Besides, I trust I can handle any situations well enough on my own. I challenged myself each time and even though it turned out really tough for some, I still managed to pull it through. Ruyi is a mother of two with her younger one a victim to food allergies – a very long list of food allergies. Her experience will aid me in my visit to the doctor’s today and true enough it did. She asked questions I never thought of asking and she mothered Ewan well enough for me to concentrate on what the doctor had to say. Told you she’s experienced right? She even brought a tube of puffs for Ewan in case he needed it! Thank you for going the extra mile for us.
So here comes the skin prick test. First you get marked, then you get a small dollop of food allergen on the markings and lastly, you get pricked with a needle. Should the food allergen be tested positive i.e. your child is allergic to that food, his skin will itch around that marker. A measurement will be made to check its severity and then you are done.
We tested for egg yolks, egg whites, sea bass and flounder. The initial request was for thread fin and anchovies but these aren’t common food allergens so it was not available. The reason why we tested for sea bass and flounder as well is to ensure he is okay with other fish other than cod and salmon.
Ewan was surprisingly composed during the whole procedure. The tester ran through every step with my son which I thought was really thoughtful of him. He spoke to Ewan like he was a child that understood what he was saying. It actually kept Ewan concentrated on the talking while he did his thing. This little boy did not move an inch, did not cry and did not fuss. Instead, he watched intently as the marker made an X on his arm with needles pricking at his skin 6 times thereafter. I came with no expectations and left the clinic, relieved. It also helped that there was a balloon, a playhouse and brightly painted walls outside the procedure room. They kept him so occupied, he did not think much of the itch on his hand.
Ewan was tested positive for eggs. The doctor encouraged us that Ewan should be able to outgrow it since he can stomach fully cooked eggs well. It is believed that regular feeding will help him accept the food better. Feeding scrambled eggs once in a while may boost his immunity towards it. He used the word “BELIEVED” but it does not necessarily work for every one. Let us hope he grows out of it at 5 years of age.
As for peanuts, a highly food allergen, I decided against testing. Skin pricks are not expansive and they are not 100% accurate. I would prefer letting him taste a little bit of peanut butter first and see if he has any adverse reactions to it.
Overall performance of Yang Ewan: Brave, Cheery and Sociable.
He was brave during the prick test, showing no signs of pain or fear. His curiosity overrode all anxiety. His cheerful disposition took him away from all the negativities and sickness the hospital exuded. He stayed playful and happy the whole while, saying hello and goodbye to people he met. The nurses were happy to spend more time interacting with this social butterfly.
Proud, I am.
“Yes! I am a victim to food allergies but I am ready to weather it away!”