Personal Story – How food allergies can affect an infant

I want to share a quick health related story about my son.  I know food allergies are very common these days but the symptoms my son had weren’t very obvious so he wasn’t diagnosed right away.  I’m hoping by sharing this story it might help people have a better idea of what could be causing their infant’s issues.

 

When my son was about 3 months old, he developed eczema on his cheeks.  At first it wasn’t too bad but quickly it became severe.  It got to the point where I couldn’t even put him down without swaddling him; if I did, he would start screaming within seconds and I would look over to see him scratching his face so hard it was bleeding.  And even swaddled the poor thing was so uncomfortable he couldn’t sleep.  I took him to our pediatrician and she prescribed a steroid cream.  I didn’t feel comfortable putting a steroid cream on his face for many reasons but the doctor dismissed my concerns and didn’t have any other suggestions.  So I accepted the prescription but didn’t fill it and instead hit the internet.  I know – doctors hate that!  But I was left with no other choice.

 

After weeks of reading, researching and stressing out, I found some helpful information on Dr. Sears website.  Dr. Sears believes eczema is a result of two factors: dry skin and allergies.  So the best way to “treat” eczema is to moisturize the skin and avoid allergy triggers.  But I thought – my baby is 5 months old.  What could he possibly be allergic to?  Is it an environmental allergy, a food allergy, a chemical allergy?  How do I even start to explore the vast possibilities here?  Thankfully Dr. Sears said it is most common for the allergy component of eczema to be food related and furthermore it is most likely one of six foods (wheat, milk, egg, fish, soy, peanuts).  Ok, great, I thought.  I’ll just cut those foods out (of my diet since I was nursing), but here’s the catch – I had to wait several weeks to see if there was any improvement.  And then even if there is improvement, I still won’t know which of those six foods he is allergic too.  Normally I’m a pretty patient person but I just couldn’t handle him being miserable for several more weeks nor could I handle the possibly of waiting several weeks and possibly still not having an answer.  So I did some more digging and found a chiropractor in my area who focuses on pediatrics.  I had never seen a chiropractor before but I have a few friends (Angie is one of them!) who told me their chiropractor practices alternative medicine techniques; he/she thinks outside of the box and tries to understand the cause instead of treat the symptom.  I figured – what do I have to lose?  So I went to New Life Family Chiropractic.

 

Dr. Trish (the chiropractor) was very sympathetic and assured me she had helped identify the allergy component of eczema in children using a simple blood test, an IgG test.  It was expensive and not covered by insurance but I didn’t care.  It was worth it; she said she had a 100% success rate in treating eczema using this test.  Basically the IgG test is a blood test that tests for food sensitivities.  Before I was able to get the blood drawn and sent off to the lab I ended up taking my son back to the pediatrician because he had developed impetigo (a skin infection) on his cheeks from scratching them raw and exposing them to bacteria.  At the ped’s office, they weighed him, as usual.  I thought nothing of it.  When the ped walked into our room she had this “oh gosh, I wish I didn’t have to tell her this” look on her face.  She said my son is being diagnosed with failure to thrive.  Based on his current weight and his weight at the previous two visits, she thought he was not “thriving” or gaining enough weight.  So to recap, that’s eczema, impetigo and failure to thrive.  I had never heard of failure to thrive before so I asked the doctor what causes failure to thrive.  The first thing she mentioned was cystic fibrosis and I’ll be honest, I didn’t really hear anything after that.  I was ridiculously sleep deprived, hell-bent on figuring out this eczema situation and now what?  Cystic Fibrosis?  I cracked.  The doctor calmed me down and said my son most likely doesn’t have CF since his newborn screening was negative but it’s something we have to consider.

 

Once I pulled it together I decided to ask about food allergies – could that be causing weight loss?  She said it’s possible.  So then I caved and admitted I took him to a chiropractor and was going to have an IgG blood test done.  My ped’s response was that she rotated with a well-known, well-respected pediatric immunologist who advises against the IgG test mainly because it is not very accurate.  However, she (the pediatrician) agreed to do an IgE blood test because she said it is more accurate.  So what’s the difference?  In someone with a food allergy, the body’s immune system reacts when the food is consumed.  In some situations, the immune system creates IgE which results in immediate reactions.  In other situations, the immune system creates IgG which causes a delayed reaction, anywhere from 2 hours to several days later.  Of course, I was interested in either test – please just give us some answers!  So I had his blood drawn that day and within a couple days we received the results of the IgE test.  He is allergic to eggs and peanuts.  And guess what, I ate eggs nearly every day. :(  That poor kid!  So, obviously, as soon as we received the results I cut eggs and peanuts out of my diet.  His eczema gradually improved and within less than two weeks his cheeks were baby soft, flesh colored and more importantly not itching!!!  It was incredible.  Here are before and after pictures.  The before was taken about two weeks prior to being diagnosed with failure to thrive.  The after was about two months later.  As I mentioned, his skin looked better within a couple weeks but unfortunately I didn’t have a good picture of his cheek from that time period.

 

Eczema: Before

Nate's Eczema - before

 

Eczema: After

Nate's eczema - after

 

Of course food allergies might not be the cause of every baby’s eczema but nonetheless, I wanted to share this story.  If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I probably still wouldn’t believe food – food I was eating and he was receiving indirectly through breast milk – could cause severe eczema and weight loss.  But it did.  Now I can go on and on about eczema and food allergies so if you want any more information or have any questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected]  I would be happy to share what I have learned.  :)

 

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3 Responses to Personal Story – How food allergies can affect an infant

  1. Sarah says:

    Shannon- love hearing your story again. As you know, I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with Alyssa. This is a great reminder to me that Moms know best and to push the pediatricians when you think there’s something wrong. Too frequently they dismiss things as “normal” or don’t listen and the poor kids suffer. Thanks!

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Sarah! Thanks for the comment! I hope you figure out what’s going on with Alyssa. I know you mentioned the possibility of dairy being an issue. If it ends up being that, let me know. A couple of the Girls have experience with dairy allergies and I’m sure they would love to help. Good luck!!!

  2. Dawn says:

    So glad you found the answers to help him and can share with others!!:)

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