Monday, 23 July 2012

Food allergies: What happened when I gave butter to my milk allergic daughter...

food allergy advice
Feeding croissants to a child with a milk allergy

Hands up if you've fed your child something to which you KNOW they are allergic?

Me.  I have.

Why?  Because since she was diagnosed with multiple food allergies* I've been getting conflicting advice. 

She's allergic to milk?  Feed her butter!

The day she did her first food challenge in hospital in France - aged 18 months - the doctor handed me an Epipen and told me to go home and feed her 10g of butter a week.

Pardon?  I've just watched my toddler break out in hives, cry, have diarrhoea all day and scratch herself all over.  And you want me to carry on feeding her milk?

I trawled the internet for hours trying to find evidence that this was a good idea (it was 2007) and I came across a few medical papers in the States that gave it a cautious thumbs controlled tests in a hospital.

So I didn't feed my daughter the butter.

And yet, and yet...

Magic allergy cure or DIY immunotherapy?

Everyone told me that she'd grow out of her allergies.  Would that just happen by magic?  Or did I need to do some DIY immunotherapy?

I've done the odd test and some have been exciting.  On my birthday in April my daughter tried a teeny bit of goat's cheese.  Then some more, then some more and I actually cried with happiness.

The next day we tried again and after a teeny bit she instantly started to wheeze.  No more goat's cheese then.

Child eats egg and is fine.  Child eats egg and has allergic reaction.

She can eat some biscuits that contain milk and she can eat the occasional biscuit that contains egg.  

But the day I baked an egg yolk in a cake was the day she broke out in a rash, felt faint and her lip started to swell.

There seems to be absolutely no rhyme or reason to allergies. 

Go on, have a croissant!

And now it's the summer and we are in France for six weeks.  And when in France you drink fiendishly strong black coffee and dunk your buttery croissant with glee. 

So I gave my daughter a croissant (I figured the coffee might kill her).

She ate the whole damn buttery thing, including the egg glaze.  No reaction.

And the next day she ate another one.  And today she's had another.

Bloody marvellous, no?

Butter today, not butter tomorrow

But yesterday she nibbled a shortbread biscuit - full of butter, like the croissant - and instantly got an itchy tongue, lips and face.

I definitely don't understand.  But I'm thrilled that she can eat a croissant.

Russian Roulette, allergy style

I can't tell you what to do and maybe you're apoplectic at my cavalier allergy attitude?  But if you could see the joy on my daughter's face as she chows down on a croissant, just like her siblings...

It's food for thought, no?  I'd love to hear your reactions, don't hold back!

*My daughter was diagnosed - aged 9 months(ish) - with a milk (casein) allergy, egg allergy and Brazil nut allergy.  She is also allergic to mustard, kiwi fruit, dust mites and horses.  She is now nearly 7 years old.

Image courtesy: FreeDigitalPhotos

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sugarpuffish said...

My allergies were diagnosed when I was a child & now I am in my 30's. I haven't grown out of my allergies but there have been stages in my life where I ate a bit of cake or chocolate with no ill effects. However at other times these things make me very sick. In recent years I have gone back to reacting to all my allergies in the smallest quantities. Now I just give up and have no desire to play Russian roulette any more.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Hi Sugarpuffish, thanks for your comment. I guess I'm REALLY hoping my daughter will grow out of her allergies and I also get quite forceful messages from health professionals about how I MUST continue or her immune system will be 'set' and she will NEVER be able to tolerate the foods.

There is always a sense that I could be doing her a long-term disservice unless I get my act together and feed her a bit of milk a day. Irony being that I'm really not a fan of milk as it's designed for calves not humans...


Think I've lost my thread somewhat there, but good to hear your thoughts!
Pig x

Bits of Stitching! said...

I can sympathize and empathize with you! I've been there a few times with my 6 1/2 year old daughter.
She had her 1st reaction at 11 months, after that it happened 2 other times (once taking her to the ER and the other with urgency to her pediatrician) then we got referred to the allergenist. She was diagnosed with severe foods allergies to: peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy eggs and milk. However she is able to eat butter (I guess she is not allergic to the fat of milk but to protein).
At times it is very painful (in my heart) to see her having to abstain.
Once while out & about I let her try whip cream... big mistake! The same with frozen yogurt and some fries that were made crispier with a bit of flour.
Thankfully I haven't had the need to use epipen (only high dose of Benadryl) on those occasions.
However I don't want to make this as a practice because I don't want her to experiment when I'm not around (or ever while she is a minor).
Sometimes loves hurt and it goes both ways... when giving in or refraining.
Maybe this year we will get the green light to have a tolerance test at the doctor's office or maybe not but for now she is thriving with her allergen free diet and I'm happy with that :-).
(uffs... what a testament ... sorry about that!)

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Bits of stitching, thank-you for your comment! And I always LOVE a testament/rant/monologue :-) It is really difficult and if I didn't keep hearing about her allergies changing/going I wouldn't keep trying stuff (with her permission by the way). Maybe I do just need to 'let it lie' for a while...
Pig x

Mimi said...

Well I'm certainly with you on cows milk, what's good for a calf is not necessarily good for a human, especially a little one! And there is nothing in milk that can't be got from another source.
I guess you're right to try out stuff now and again, I would be taking it very easy though, only little amounts at a time (i think I read that somewhere, but could be wrong!).
The thing about allergies is it's individual, and really you and your daughter are the experts.
My daughter had dairy, mould and dust mite allergies when she was little, but she has grown out of them, phew.
One final thing...I reckon they can resurface when you're stressed, cos the body is then coping with the stress and can't cope with the allergens too. That is just my hunch, obviously not scientifically proven.
I would LOVE a strong coffee with a French croissant to dunk in it..right now!

Anonymous said...

Like you, Ive tried my (nearly) 4 year old with the foods he's allergic too with mixed results. He is thriving on his restricted diet and Im proud of both him and myself for getting to grips with his intolerances but like you, it feels like a real treat to be able to prepare something for your child that is "taboo".

For my son, cumulative effect seems to be a consideration. Little and infrequent can be tolerated - too much or too often cant. Im also fairly convinced there is a link to his diet and sleep - lack of sleep will lower his tolerance to allergens and too many allergens will disturb his sleep.

Whoever said parenting was easy!?!

Kellebelle said...

There is nothing worse than food allergies! I have been allergic to kiwis since a child. I remember eating them sometimes and being absolutely fine… then other times my throat would get itchy and swollen. I ended up in hospital with breathing difficulties after eating a kiwi once and have never eaten one since! Since then kiwis have been the only food I have avoided.

It is only in the last five years that I have developed new allergies (fun, fun). I can no longer eat mangos, papaya, melons, raw pineapple, raw tomatoes (but cooked is fine!), avocado and banana. In general - exotic fruits are not my friends.

How this allergies came about is anyone’s guess! I was obsessed with Mexican food and guacamole for a while so ate avocado once a week – then all of a sudden while in a restaurant I got crippling stomach cramps. I didn’t know what it was until it happened again the next time I ate guacamole. The same happened with bananas. I went on a bit of a banana craze – had banana sandwiches every day for lunch for a week or so… then bam! – the same reaction as with the avocado. Terrible stomach cramps and now bananas are off the menu.

Hoping no other foods will decide to attack me. I’m a vegetarian so hate not being able to eat certain fruit and veggies!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Hi mimi, yes I've been taking it really slowly and I'm sure your theory about stress is true! Just off for my morning croissant...:-)

Anonymous, good news that your son is thriving. I get quite stressed about my daughter's diet wondering if she's getting all the right nutrients, etc. Not that croissants are particularly nutritious...! Parenting is horribly difficult and I spend most of my life failing at it I think!

Kellebelle, ugh the kiwi allergy! I found out that I'm allergic to them by coincidence, after my daughter's diagnosis. I necked a home made smoothie that had TWO kiwis in at 8am. I had hideous hay fever like symptoms all day and by the evening was trying to rip my face off because my skin was itching so badly. Kiwis are from the devil... It's so wrong when food attacks us!

Thanks for your comments!

Pig x

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit the same. My son is allergic to cow's milk protein and eggs but seems to do okay with baked eggs. I had to so some graded exposure with him and skimmed milk powder/whey make him vomit, yoghurt/cream cheese bring him out in hives but hard cheese and butter seem to be okay..sometimes! Like your experience, their seems to be no rhyme or reason and I agree that sometimes I get a bit blase.

Michelle Peacock said...

My little Peachicks have Milk & soya protein allergies, although the oldest (4) seems to be able to tolerate small bits of dairy now it really is hit and miss. Some days she can eat a whole ice cream and other days the merest hint of milk protein in, on or near her makes her poorly! The littlest is much worse but wierdly can have small amounts of butter (only proper block butter and only from france!) every now and again. She too can eat Croissants but again only from the bakery in the village the in-laws have their house in! Must be something about French butter.

Littlest is doing really well despite the severity of her allergies and we've been told just to keep things as they are and experiment as and when she is completely well and when her hayfever is not bad. Butter is as far as I got I'm not brave enough to try the rest with her yet its been a long 2years getting her up to somewhere near a healthy weight!

The joys of parenting kids with allergies! I'm fairly sure it bothers me more than it bothers them! x

Iota said...

Do you think one day we'll understand allergies? They seem so mysterious.

Kristina said...

Oh I hate the uncertainty of allergies! Why is her lip swelling? She hasn't had anything new, what did we give her, what has she touched? etc etc We're off to the hospital for our first food tolerance test on Monday and I am DREADING it and do not want to go and see my little one suffer. Think I'd be much happier just to ignore milk and eggs for the rest of my life!
So pleased for your daughter with the croissants!
(Our wee pudding was diagnosed at 6 months with a severe dairy and egg allergy and has had no exposure that we're aware of since - now 3 and a half)
Feel like Monday is definitely the Russian roulette!

Nikki-ann said...

I'm still trying to work my head around allergies and intolerances. Sometimes a small amount of something I shouldn't eat can give me a rash, diahoria and other such things... yet just the other day I ate a whole strawberry sundae (in a fit of indulgence, I decided I'd live with the consequences) and I was absolutely fine!

Heather said...

Hi I'm Heather. I have a question about your blog, please email me when you get a chance. HeatherVonSJ(at)gmail(dot)com Thanks!!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment. Gah, what IS it with allergies??! I wish they'd just behave themselves and go away!

Michelle, It is such a pain isn't it? I definitely didn't sign up for this when I became a parent!

Iota, I'm guessing not. Or just when we think we've got it all taped up, they'll mutate and do something different :-(

Kristina, how did the test go? I hope it went well!

Nikki-Ann, yay for the strawberry sundae!

Hi Heather, things are a bit crazy at the moment, are you ok to email me? I'm at: piginthekitchen at homtail dot com


Pig x

Caroline said...

Re croissants in France - sometimes croissants are made with margerine, not butter, so maybe your daughter didn't react because she wasn't eating butter?

Anonymous said...

Indeed Caroline... a croissant ordinaire is made with lard, or some other fat.

Fr Benedicte

Arthur Smith said...

Don't you just hate it when they're inconsistent with allergy tratment? Add that to the shaky cost of nasonex and things start to suck.