|1.||Referring to food products and recipes that do not contain any of Henry's allergens|
|2.||Dairy, Egg, Peanut and Soy free, excepting soy lecithin and soybean oil|
When our youngest son, Henry, was only a few months old, we knew there was a problem. He had a horrible rash all over his body. As a matter of fact, rash is a very timid word for what he had. What he had looked like second degree burns. His face was swollen and oozing, red and bumpy. So was much of his body. Something had to be done.
He was six months old when we started having him tested for allergies. I was breastfeeding him and had eliminated dairy from my diet. It didn't seem to help much. His pediatrician opted to do some scratch testing to get to the bottom of it.
We had many positive results.
Positive, in this case, was not a good thing.
We did the scratch testing on his back. He had a grid of numbers, and too many of them showed a reaction. Among his allergies were dairy, eggs, peanuts and soy, to name a few. Because I was nursing, all of those things had to go from my diet as well. Having both dairy and soy allergies proved difficult. A lot of non dairy products have soy in it, in some form or another. And vice versa. We were also avoiding things with soy oil and soy lecithin (caused reactions that he eventually grew out of) and it seems everything had at least one of those ingredients. It took quite a while for me to find products that were safe to eat.
Then he tested positive for a strawberry allergy. He was 11 months old when we found out he was allergic to strawberries. I decided he was old enough to wean. Partly because I wanted my normal diet back and partly because I was afraid that there were more things I was eating that were bad for him. We discovered shortly after that bananas were also on the no list.
We switched him to a formula that was both dairy and soy free in conjunction with any baby foods we could find that were safe for him. We were relieved to start seeing an improvement.
As a result of the allergies, he also developed ear problems. While they looked fine during routine check-ups, we became concerned that he wasn't developing a vocabulary. He seemed to start, and then suddenly it stopped. They ran some tests and found fluid buildup in one ear. They put tubes in both ears when he was almost two and discovered thick fluid in each. It prevented him from hearing things clearly and delayed his speech development significantly. Luckily, he's getting the help he needs and is trying hard to catch up.
It's been a long road. We've become very efficient at label reading and substituting. It is amazing to me how there was a time when if I had run out of eggs or milk and wanted to bake something, I would have thought, "Oh well. Don't have what I need." Now I can throw things together with just a few ingredients and know what to use in place of others. Once, I was excited to find a "butter" spread that was both dairy and soy free. Then I found out it had pea protein, which he is also allergic to. But, at three years old, he has a long list of foods that are safe for him. We dub these foods "Henry Friendly" and often refer to recipes and products as such.
He has started growing out of some of his allergies. He is now able to eat strawberries much to his delight. He can also have bananas, though he discovered he doesn't really care for them. We carry an epi pen around, but thankfully have never needed it. And his rash is mostly cleared up. It is definitely difficult at times to avoid everything he can't have, and his doctor has actually recommended that we don't. For example, he has minor wheat and meat allergies. We were told, "Give it to him. He needs those nutrients, and there's not much else he can have." So we do. He's healthy now and loves to eat.
I'm grateful that we caught all of these allergies early on. Sometimes people ask us if it's hard for him to be around kids who can have things he can't. The straight answer is, sometimes. But really, he's never had the opportunity to try those things, so he doesn't miss it. He's known his whole life that his diet is different than everyone else, so it's not a challenge for him right now. His five year old brother James is also great for support. He watches out for him and knows what he can and cannot have, and always speaks out to the grownups in charge when we're not around, even though they've been briefed on the situation. We don't make James avoid things for Henry's sake, so Henry is used to being around other people's food and not touching it. This has been proven useful now that he's in a group setting with other kids, and I don't have to worry about him during snack time as much. It's really just a learning process for everyone, but we do the best we can.
We know there will be more ups and downs the older Henry gets, but we are blessed by who he is every day. Seeing him happy and healthy, and watching him and his brother growing up... it just makes everything worth it. Living with food allergies is no easy thing. But when you're doing it day in and day out and you see the results pay off, it becomes no big thing, too. If you're dealing with food allergies, or speech delay, or whatever it may be, I'd love to hear your story. I hope that we can become an inspiration to each other.