Thursday, December 10, 2009

Milk is the Enemy

Jumping right back into things here...

In late October, my little NatterPrincess was not feeling good. The usual doses of asthma- and allergy-related medications were not controlling her coughing and wheezing, so we made an appointment with an asthma-allergy-pediatric specialist. On the 30th, Nat went in for the dreaded skin-prick allergy test. They tested her for 24 common allergens, and she was allergic to no less than 18 of them. There were some non-surprises like cats, dogs, dust mites, and grass. There also some big surprises, namely milk, wheat, and egg whites. There were also some “Huhs?!” (hamsters – why do they test for that?) and some “Good to knows,” (goose down, shellfish.) Mercifully, she is not allergic to soy, pine trees, peanuts, or tree nuts, so she can eat something and go outside in Texas. Also, she has been exposed to everything on the list at least once, so we know there are no anaphylactic reactions.

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The whole thing left me very confused and conflicted. Natalie has eaten milk, cheese, and yogurt not only every day of her life, but quite possibly at every meal of her life for five years now. How serious can an allergy be if she has been exposed that much without us knowing? According to the test, her reactions were on the high end of the scale. She has never had eczema, chronic ear infections, or tummy troubles. On the other hand, I breastfed Natalie exclusively for the first year of her life, and I consume very little milk. Hindsight being 20/20, the introduction of cheese and yogurt probably DID coincide with her oxygen-tent-hospitalization episode around 10-months old, and she has had asthma-related issues off and on since then.

So do I feel guilty that I have been poisoning my kid into a life of chronic wheeziness? Or do I get angry that her pediatrician took this long to recommend allergy testing? We heard “Give her more Xopenex!” from the doc so many times that it became a household joke. Undeniably, the chest and sinus x-rays ordered by the allergist showed “very significant” inflammation and infection, most likely caused by all these allergies.

Natalie is now on a strict milk-free, shellfish-free diet supplemented with daily allergy medication. We cut back on wheat at a reasonable level (no wheat crackers, lower-wheat bread, etc.,) but we have not eliminated wheat completely. The allergist said there was no need to get rid of our cat as long as we keep her out of Natalie’s room – which kind of blows my mind. Then again, she can put her face in the cat’s fur and pet and snuggle her with no itchy nose or watery eyes. Apparently I don’t really understand allergies. I’m still looking for good literature on the subject that is not focused on how milk and wheat elimination cures autism. We have just completed 40 days on antibiotics, and the follow-up sinus x-rays show significant improvement. Natalie hasn’t needed a tissue in weeks, except for the day she played in the snow (yes, snow – more on that later.)

While I am overwhelmed with the task of handling a 5-year old who can’t eat any of her favorite foods, I am thankful that we have found a way to make our baby girl feel better that is simple and non-invasive. I’m just hoping that the path forward becomes a little clearer, because right now I feel like I am flying kind of blind.