Last month I talked about allergies and what to do when they occur. I outlined different types of reactions that occur and how to react when they do occur. This month, I want to talk about what to do when you think your child may have an allergy.
The reason why I want to talk about this is because of the adventure I have had with my son over the last two months in regards to what we now know is two different allergies. Last year, my son started getting a rash after we switched laundry detergents. It took us a couple weeks to determine it was laundry detergent that was giving him hives, and not an allergy to bug bites before we switched back to our original brand.
We have been using this original brand religiously since then, but a few months ago, Jack started getting a rash on his bum. His rash was itchy, so he started scratching it which turned into a giant, infected sore. Jarrett and I figured it was eczema and went to the doctor for some antibiotics to get rid of the infection. The antibiotics worked in getting rid of the infection, but the sore continued to grow, and Jack started getting another, different rash.
When the rash continued to grow, Jarrett and I sat down and realized that it was actually an allergic reaction. Now what? After some discussion about what might be making his bum and legs rashy, we checked our detergent. Turns out, they switched the detergent we usually buy at Costco to a 3 in 1. Which means they added bleach and fabric softener. Problem number one.
We figured both rashes were due to this detergent issue, so we went back to the doctor for more antibiotics (now a 10 day instead of a 7 day dose), as the sore was getting infected again due to the itching, and, once again we went back to the original detergent we know Jack isn’t allergic to.
I’m happy to say that the antibiotics and new detergent helped get rid of the giant sore on Jack’s bum and legs. Unfortunately, the second rash seemed to get worse. After 7 days of the antibiotics, Jarrett and I had a realization. What if the second rash was being caused by the antibiotics? We stopped the second round of antibiotics early as he had then been on 14 days of antibiotics and did not have an infection anymore. (Disclosure please always follow the prescription instruction and do a whole course of antibiotics because there is a huge risk of stopping early and the infection coming back. If you are afraid there may be an allergy to a medication, see your medical professional right away. As Jarrett is a nurse, we felt comfortable stopping after we completed the 7 day dose since the infection was gone.) Once we stopped the medication, the other rash started disappearing. Problem number two.
Two different allergies, similar rashes.
The reason why I am telling this story is to share the importance of problem solving and the process of elimination when it comes to figuring out allergies. IF IT IS A SERIOUS ALLERGY, DO NOT USE THE PROCESS OF ELIMINATION. IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE A SERIOUS ALLERGY, GO TO YOUR DOCTOR AND ASK FOR AN ALLERGY TEST. Sometimes it takes a while to get an appointment for your allergy test, which is when this process comes in handy. You would also use this when testing your babies for allergies as you introduce solid foods into their diets.
Keep a Journal
If you think you or your child may have an allergy, start keeping a journal. Write down everything that you eat, when you eat it and if you are cooking, what ingredients you used.
Don’t forget to look at outside factors. Consider if you have started using a different detergent, soap, fabric softener, shampoo. Is it spring? Were they around animals? Did they start a new medication? There are lots of factors to think about. What did you do differently?
If you start having an allergic reaction, write down when you start feeling or seeing the symptoms.
Process of Elimination
Now that you have a journal of foods you ate and products you are using, when you have that allergic reaction, you can start a process of elimination. I’m going to re-iterate, if it is a serious allergy that leads to anaphylaxis, do not try this. Just avoid everything you ate. This is more for if you have hives and are waiting for an allergy test.
Stopping the Allergy
First, if you are using any new products, stop and go back to your original product. Avoid the foods you ate when you reacted. You want to make sure that all signs of your allergy are gone before you start trying to find your allergy. If you have hives and start testing your allergies, you aren’t going to be able to recognize if you are getting more hives or if they are still there from your first allergic reaction.
It is important to remember to only change one thing at a time when you start testing out ingredients. Don’t restart using the new detergents, shampoo and try a specific type of food at the same time. You also may want to try different combinations of foods as some people are not allergic to specific ingredients, but a combination of two.
Be sure you continue to keep a journal of what you are eating and what products you are re-introducing into your life.
Another important thing to consider is that you want to use small test samples. Don’t give them an entire peanut butter and jam sandwich, just have a couple bites. Don’t wash ALL their laundry in the new detergent, just wash a couple outfits. It saves a lot of time and effort when you use small test samples.
Finally, make sure you have Benadryl at the ready! That way, you are covered and hopefully won’t be in discomfort for too long.
After all of this you may never find out what they reacted to. This is ok. One day one of our girls reacted to peanut butter and jam. She had eaten it lots of times before her reaction and the next time and subsequent times that followed, she didn’t. We have no idea what her reaction was, and I’m not sure we will ever know.