Thursday, August 9, 2012

Scratch Test

Last thursday, August 2nd, was our appointment with the allergist. I am not entirely sure what I was expecting, but I was really not prepared for what transpired. *Disclaimer: I want to point out that this was our experience, and that each individual experience is unique to your/their personality, medical history, and circumstances. Always consult, and take the advice of your pediatrician. If you are new to food allergies, as I am, and are about to go through the necessary step of testing, I hope that by reading this, knowing the details of what someone else has gone through, you will be better prepared for your first visit; because I wish I had been able to read about what to expect, in detail, before taking our daughter. That said, below is a detailed account of our appointment with the allergist.

The appointment started off just like any other, getting her usual measurements and vital signs. Sophie was in good spirits, in fact we were all smiling and laughing. Once the allergist came in, we talked a brief medical history and gave the story of how we came to be here that day. He gave her a quick check (looking at her ears, eyes, and throat) before explaining his thoughts and what he would be testing her for today; the usual culprits in food like tree nuts, shellfish, peanuts, egg, wheat, soy, etc. and inhalants such as: cats and dogs. He had a suspicion that she is allergic to eggs and that is what has been causing her horrible eczema. Fred and I just stared at each other, eyes wide, each hoping beyond hope that he was wrong. A peanut allergy we could handle, that is fairly easy to avoid, but an allergy to egg; this would be more difficult.

As we waited for the nurse to arrive and do the testing, Mason played on his LeapPad while Sophie listened to me read the ballet Strawberry Shortcake book. When it came time, the nurse explained the importance of keeping her still during this entire process. They do not use needles, but rather sharp plastic sticks to prick the skin. Sophie was laughing as the nurse drew circles on her back, indicating the different panels. She must have had close to 30 dots on her back, and as the nurse began to prick Sophie's skin, my heart went out to my little girl. She managed to get out an audible, "Ow", before all out screaming and trying to get out of Fred's grasp as he struggled to keep her still. I tried singing to her, anything to distract her, as the test went on, prick after prick. It didn't take as long as you would think, but when your daughter is screaming so bad that her brother is almost in tears and trying his best to tune her out, it feels like eternity. She was crying and saying she was scared and I did my best to choke back the few tears that began to well up. I will not cry today, I told myself. It was finally over and for the next 15 minutes we had the challenge of keeping her from scratching or messing up the marks on her back; which doesn't seem like such a difficult feat, but a screaming 39lb. three year old, whose back is now itching with all the fervor of an annoying mosquito bite, is a lot stronger than you think. I was glad Fred came to this appointment, as I would not have been able to keep her under control. I had to assist a few times when she got loose and stood up on his legs. He held tight to her arms as I sat her back down, holding her legs, careful not to touch her back. She kept yelling, "let go of me! Let go of my arms!" I felt bad for holding her prisoner in this state, but I knew this test was needed, as it was an important piece to the puzzle. Whatever we found out today would get us one step closer to being able to effectively manage her food allergy, ultimately keeping her healthy and alive.

We still had 13 minutes to go. Those 15 minutes felt like an eternity, as we struggled to calm her down. I tried playing her favorite My Little Pony episode on my iPhone; she was not interested. She wanted out of daddy's grasp and to scratch her back. Totally understandable. Mason was begging us to get her to stop screaming. We were trying as best we could. In assisting to hold her still, I was face to face with her back, and had the perfect view as the reactions developed. There was a significant welt appearing, and I prayed it wasn't egg. As hard as we were trying, it wasn't until Mason, who I'm sure was at his own wits end, came over with his LeapPad, to show Sophie his game, that she finally began to calm down. Proof, yet again, that they share a special bond. It was then that the nurse and doctor came back in, went over the results, and measured the welts that appeared. The test showed positive for peanut (that was the huge welt) and cashews. So we were advised strict avoidance of peanuts and ALL tree nuts. Other positive reactions showed up for cats and dogs. Not surprising, as Fred is allergic to both and Mason is allergic to dogs. At least these are not life threatening and can be managed with a dose of Benadryl before going to a house with pets. The doctor said there was a very minor reaction to egg, I didn't see it, and even though he did not diagnosis it as an allergy he is having us put her on an exclusion diet for the next 4-6 weeks. The goal is to find out if the egg is indeed causing her eczema. So if her eczema improves after eliminating it from her diet, than we keep the egg removed. If there is no change, than she can eat egg again. This means we need to avoid all foods that have egg, and let me tell you just about everything we eat has egg in it. As much as I hate to see her in pain with the eczema, I am hoping for no change. Does that make me a horrible mom? At least there is some relief in knowing that if she is allergic to egg it is not life threatening. So I won't have to freak out so much if she comes into contact with this food. The worst reaction will be an eczema break out; been there done that for the last 3 years.

I had a list of questions for the allergist that, of course, I didn't get a chance to go over; only one or two got answered. But, at least we now have a better idea of what she is allergic to and have gone about adjusting our lives to account for them. These last few days have been spent running around; getting school medical forms filled out, signed, and turned in on time; and making our home (snacks and meals) Sophie friendly. I have been posting cheat sheets all over the house and in my purse to help me with the process, and doing my best to educate family and friends. I am trying desperately to get as organized as possible before the school year begins in three weeks and find that I am feeling frantically unprepared. I thought I had it all in the bag until this food allergy through me for a loop. Now I am not so sure I am prepared for it all.
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