Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Went in to work today

Well, I went in to work today and left Geoff and Andrew with my mom for the afternoon. She did great! Got both of them down for their naps with no crying, and had both of them fed and happy when I got there at 5:30.

Geoff didn't even miss me, she said. Well, why should he? Her house is loaded with toys for him, and she lets him go anywhere and play with everything.

I've got an allergist appointment for Geoff in a couple of weeks. Hopefully it won't be too traumatic, and he won't have too many positives, so that then I can start adding foods back into my diet. This no-dairy, no-eggs, no-nuts diet is getting old. On the other hand, it's sure helping me keep the weight off.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stages of grief

I think that I'm going through the stages of grief in dealing with Andrew's food allergies. It took me a while to realize what was happening, so I figured I'd blog about it in case it helps anyone else in their journey.

The stages:
  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance
We were in denial for the longest time, though it was so obvious that he was allergic to milk. When he ate yogurt for the first time, he threw up and got hives. So of course, I gave him some more yogurt a month later. Threw up again. Then I made breastmilk yogurt, to make sure that he wasn't allergic to the bacteria in yogurt, but the dairy. And yeah, he was fine on the breastmilk yogurt. Nowadays, anytime he throws up, we take that food away without any questions about whether it's an allergy or not.

Did we have anger? Yup. And blaming, too. The allergies couldn't have come from my side -- or his side, said both our parents. Though Tony was colicky as a baby -- I suspect he had a dairy allergy back then. And we're both lactose-intolerant. So there's definitely a dairy sensitivity in the family. His cat/dustmite/mold allergy comes from me -- I've got those too. No idea where the peanuts/nuts allergies come from.

And yeah, we bargain. We're still bargaining. If we don't give him anything that could cause a reaction, then he'll be fine. Because keeping him away from all his allergens, his doctors say, is the key to letting his body "forget" that it's allergic to them, and then treating the allergen as a food.

Of course there's some depression. I sometimes lie awake at night wondering how he'll get through school, will he be able to make friends and survive to become an adult? And my attitude to food is just horrible these days. Food as fuel, not as a delight, as it used to be. Sometimes I see food as an enemy -- it's the thing that could kill.

Acceptance? No, I don't think so. Not yet. I'm still processing through the other stages, and I go back and forth through them.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sad today

I've got one more week of maternity leave, and I'm feeling the blues today.

I think Geoff felt it too. He was super-clingy all day, though he did take a bunch of breaks from being on me to play with his toys, climb the stairs a bunch of times, and try to ride Andrew's electric car. Though I guess it's now Geoff's car, since Andrew got a new electric dune buggy from Nana!

I'm going into work on Wednesday to have lunch with my team. I'll be away for a few hours, and it'll be a practice day for my mom to see how she does alone with both boys. I'm a little panicked, but I think I was just as panicked last time I did this with Andrew, and she did marvellously well with him. In fact, sometimes I think he's closer to her than he is to us! (He's certainly far better-behaved for her than for us.)

Tony came home and asked how my day went -- I guess I was being quiet. I said "désolée" -- "filled with regret". Though I think "wistful" would also have covered it. I don't really regret much about my maternity leave. I helped start a fabulous local moms' group, and I've started this blog, which I hope to continue.

I also spent a year as a stay-at-home-mom, and I think the kids are better for the experience. I just hope that Geoff will be able to adjust to the transition of hanging out with Nana instead of mommy. Heck, I hope that I'll be able to adjust to doing things without him!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Another Andrew

We met another Andrew today -- a neighbour's 6-year-old. And he's also allergic to peanuts -- he has anaphylactic reactions, and carries an epipen. So that's four allergic kids in our area.

By the time Andrew hits elementary school, I think the schools will be totally sensitive to all these allergies. I'm so glad that I'm not one of the first parents of allergic children in the schools. That must have been so difficult -- not only to advocate for your child, but also to then let your kid go to school, and trust that they'll come home again, safe and healthy.

Do I sound afraid. Yup, I am.

And I'm grateful to all those moms and dads who came before me, who argued with the schools about their kids' reactions, and showed them ways to keep all the kids safe in school.

Andrew's off to preschool in a week. He's been packing and re-packing his Diego lunchbag for school since I gave it to him. He's allowed to bring a jug of water (not juice or milk) and a piece of fruit (not fruit leather or anything else preserved) for snacktime. It's the same rule for everyone -- so there won't be any dairy, or wheat, or any of the top allergenic foods at the preschool. They've had a lot of kids with allergies go through, so they were totally reassuring to me, and their policies are fabulous. Not to mention healthy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What's causing the allergy epidemic?

The most popular theory about what's causing the "allergy epidemic" is the hygiene hypothesis: "[C]lean living isn't necessarily good for us. By depriving our immune system of key infections caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites, we fail to develop the necessary tolerance for ordinarily tame foreign particles. In short, the immune system -- underused and spoiling for a fight -- goes ballistic when finally given the opportunity, no matter how slight the opponent." (Source is the Maclean's article linked above.)

Trust me, my house isn't clean. But I have a kid with severe food allergies.

What I'd really like is to have a researcher to look at the link between allergies and cigarettes.

There's at least one researcher who's found that
"Pregnant smokers increases grandkids' asthma risk." And we know that allergies and asthma go hand-in-hand.

And look at the demographics -- smoking increased dramatically in the 50s and 60s. That was the post-war generation, who could afford to smoke as much as they wanted. (Yeah, there were smokers in the war years, but cigarettes were rationed.) So everyone smoked -- at home, in public, in their offices, at parties, everywhere.

And in the course of doing this, they changed their grandchildren's genetic makeup, making them more prone to asthma -- and probably more prone to allergies as well. So here we are, two generations later, and seeing what's being called an allergy epidemic.

Friday, August 25, 2006

More pills for my kid

I bought more drugs for Andrew yesterday. (Sigh.)

I've been toting around the liquid Benadryl for his accidental reactions -- he's gone through a bottle over the last year and a half, so it's not like we're dosing him every day. But the darned thing keeps spilling just a little bit in the bag, and leaving everything else kinda sticky.

So yesterday, I was at the drugstore waiting on the pharmacist for some cream for Geoff's nasty bum rash, and looked in the allergies section. They do have a chewable Benadryl which would be much easier to carry around -- so I bought a box of those, even though they're labeled for 6 and up only. The pharmacist said that it was fine to give him half a pill for a reaction. Then I looked online, and Dr. Sears' recommended dosage by weight is one pill. I suspect we'll give him half a pill, wait half an hour, and if it hasn't really kicked in, give him the other half.

They also had Triaminic Softchews for allergies, so I bought a box of those, which actually do have a dosage guide for 3-year-olds. Andrew's going to be spending some time at Granny & Grandpa's house this fall, after I go back to work. He usually reacts to their cat by getting seriously sniffly, sneezy and generally miserable-looking. But he just keeps right on playing, even though his nose has a long snot line all the way to his tummy. No photos of that one -- yuck! Anyways, this might just help him out a little bit with dealing with his cat allergy. Though we'll probably still have to dunk him in a bath and change his clothes when he gets home, so that he'll STOP reacting at home!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sometimes, the universe answers

When I'm on the computer, I use a Graphire pen instead of a mouse because it's a lot easier on the carpal tunnel than the mouse. But it also comes with a wireless mouse so that Tony and Andrew can use the computer too.

Well, Andrew got into the habit of hiding or throwing the mouse when he was done with the computer, and it would disappear for days at a time, frustrating Tony to bits. So a month ago, I posted a note on Craigslist asking if anyone wanted to sell me their mouse. And yesterday, I got a note from a fellow named Nate, whose graphire tablet had just died: did I want his extra mouse and pen? He'd just chucked them into his office garbage, and fished them out when he saw my posting on Craigslist.

Hell yeah! So Geoff and I went out there last night, picked up the pieces, and when we got home, I hid them where Andrew hopefully won't find them. Until he hides the original mouse again. I gave Nate a bag of those two-bite brownies in exchange, and I hope that he and his girlfriend enjoy them!

The moral of this post: sometimes, you just need to put it out into the universe that you'd like something, and sometimes, the universe answers.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Socks, anyone?

I've just won a couple of balls of yarn on ebay. They're self-striping, so they should be fun to knit up as Christmas presents for friends. If all goes well, this is what they should look like. (I got #739 and #736.)

So, who wants socks from me this Christmas?

This online shopping thing is fun. I just got a case of granola bars from NoNuttin' this morning. Andrew opened all the boxes, and devoured most of a chocolate chip one before his swimming lesson this morning. I got the last bite that he didn't want -- tasty!

And it's so nice to be able to feed him something without having to read the label and hope that the "may contain traces of nuts" line is just to cover their asses, and not because they've just run something containing peanut butter on that production line. Plus, these things are made right here in British Columbia!

Case of granola bars: $83.20 (Cdn). Peace of mind: PRICELESS!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Stomach bugs

There's a stomach bug churning through our house, and everyone's got it but Andrew. Tony's about 12 hours behind me -- I'm just starting to feel better. But the poor guy has to get into a car and drive for 5 hours tomorrow. Hopefully he'll have shaken most of it by then.

I think Geoff brought it home from the swimming pool last Friday. On Saturday night, he was up at 3 am to poop -- mostly in his sleep, but it took me an hour to get myself back to sleep again. He's also been a bit fragile, and he's had 6-8 poops a day since the weekend.

Hopefully now that I've gotten it from him, all the antibodies will be going into him via breastmilk, so he'll be able to shake it off in the next day or two.

Sorry for the poopy post. I'll try to find something more interesting to blog about next time.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Peanut allergy study

I just listed Andrew's three allergic reactions to peanuts over the last year, and sent off the information to a new research study on peanut allergies at McGill University. They're building a national database on people with peanut allergies.

I figure that the more people who know about his allergies, the better it would be for him.

I also just ordered some pretty funky silicone bracelets for him (with his food allergies listed as the text), and I'm trying to order a child's medic-alert bracelet but the website won't take my credit card, so I've emailed them to see what's up. The bracelets are in preparation for when he starts preschool -- in two weeks!!!

The preschool is a nut-free/dairy-free zone, so I'm not too worried about it. They've had lots of allergic kids, so they sound extremely well-trained and prepared.

Sleeping through the night

Andrew slept through the night last night. We're ecstatic. Tony's happier than I am. Normally Andrew jumps out of his bed sometime between 11:30 pm and 3 am and climbs in with Tony.

I'd probably be more excited about it if I wasn't so exhausted from Geoff's wakeups last night -- every half hour from midnight until 2 am, which is when he started grunting and pooping in his sleep. I got him to the change table, and took off his diaper. But he hadn't finished pooping yet, so kept on grunting and pooping -- on the changepad! Yuck!

I had a smokey and a lot of chili sauce last night as a late-night snack. I'm not sure if either disagreed with him, but I can tell you that they're not making an appearance on the menu for a while!

But I digress -- back to Andrew's sleep habits.

I found out last week that Andrew's RDA of calcium is 800mg/day. When I counted up what he's getting, I think that he's only getting less than half of that. So last weekend, we started giving him 500mg of calcium every day. His sleep has been getting progressively better over the week, and last night he slept from around 9:30 until 7:30 this morning when Geoff woke up and started yelling at me to wake up too.

So now I'm feeling guilty for not giving Andrew more calcium supplements earlier. And wondering if I've affected his growth/height. But his nails have never shown any calcium deficiency -- they remain thick and hard to clip. And he's somewhere around 40-50th percentile for height, which is his growth curve. So I'm hoping that all will be well and we've caught it in time.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

My kid is a fish

Andrew loves the water. Actually, that sentence needs a little more emphasis. Andrew LOVES the water. He loves splashing in puddles after it rains (and it rains a lot here in Vancouver). He loves taking baths. He loves dunking his head into his bathwater and staying down there and freaking out mommy. Daddy just gets his watch out and times him -- he'll stay under for 4-5 seconds. He loves going to the beach and watching the waves come in and out, and running into the water, and throwing rocks and sticks back out there.

And of course, he loves the swimming pool. Here he is with a swim ring at the vacation house that we rented this summer. He was in the pool or the nearby lake until 9 pm every night.

When we got back from vacation, we put him into swim lessons by himself (none of that mom&tot stuff for him!). The instructor said that we could bump him up to level 3 of the swim lessons because he's so good in the water.

My kid is barely 3 years old, and can already swim a couple of feet by himself. Man, I'm proud of him.

And of course, if he takes up swimming as a major hobby, there is a major plus as far as his allergies are concerned -- you don't often get peanuts/dairy in the pool, as you might in a ballpark. Also, if he is exposed to an allergen, swimming will wash it off him.

But best of all, swimsuits are a lot cheaper than hockey equipment! But I hear that the practices are just as early in the morning.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Peanut-allergy trial on children

This series of posts is from a mom whose 2-year-old is in a peanut allergy desensitisation trial. There's another set from another mom in the same trial.

The first child has gone from being extremely senstitive to peanuts to being able to tolerate two peanuts a day.

More importantly: both are still alive after eating the equivalent of a LOT of peanuts. (They powder the peanuts into peanut flour for the trial.)

I'd call this hope for the future.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Nothing happened

We went out for lunch today to the chinese supermarket, which also has a great food court. Andrew loves the "gai fan" -- steamed chicken with rice and hot steaming soup, and usually eats a ton of it.

All was well until we were done and walking back to the car. Then, as we were passing the chinese dried herb store, he stuck his hands into one of the open bins at the front of the store.

I looked more closely -- it's usually just stuff like dried mushrooms or dried shrimp or scallops or really weird stinky herbs. And it was a bin full of walnuts!

I'd just read this discussion at an allergies board where kids went into anaphylaxis while playing with acorns in their own yards. So I was a little panicked for a moment. Reviewed where his epipen was (in my bag, on my shoulder), and kept an eye on his hands for a few minutes.

But nothing happened. Whew! So he's either not allergic to walnuts, or not contact-allergic to them. (He's never been exposed to them.)

This is kind of a non-post, but certainly a slice of how I'm finding that I have to think now. The entire world is a minefield when your kid has allergies.

After-dinner fun

Every night, the neighbourhood kids get together after dinner to play in the street. It's actually a little dead end road that's blocked in so that cars don't go into it.

Those are heavily-laden blackberry bushes in the background. Andrew LOVES to eat fresh sun-warmed blackberries, then go back and play with the various cars and bikes.

This is Geoff's first time in the car -- he loves it!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Finding food for Andrew

Sometimes it seems that I spend half my shopping time looking for food that Andrew can safely eat. So when I find something safe, I'm ecstatic.

Well tonight, I found three safe things for him!

The first two might even send me free samples (I'll believe it when I see them), and the third one is available at an organic grocery store in Coquitlam. One of my coworkers hits that store regularly, so I can ask her to pick up some for me the next time she goes, and then I can get them from her when I go back to work next month.

The source for these was a great new web board that I just found: PeanutAllergy.Com. If you're not a parent of food allergic kids, you should read through some of the posts on the board to get a taste of what living with a peanut allergy is like.

Lunchbox Killer article

Bending over the bubbler to take a mouthful of water in readiness for the antihistamine, Daniel heard a voice: "Would you like some of this" The boy waved another bit of the sandwich, peanut butter exposed, under Daniel's nose. "I was surprised, so I took a deep breath and inhaled," recalls Daniel, a bright student and talented pianist who at the time was nearing the end of Year 9. He gulped the tablet, but antihistamines take about 15 minutes to kick in and he knew he was no longer dealing with a lesser, skin-contact reaction. "Immediately, my eyes and throat and tongue started swelling," he says. "Eventually, my tongue cracked open and bled."

Read the full article if you have any preconceptions about "just" having an allergy to peanut butter.

Mother's instincts

I was talking to a friend yesterday night, and spouting off about mother's instincts. You see, a mother is supposed to know when something's wrong with her kids.

But in today's parenting game, most mothers don't trust their instincts. They trust their doctors, or their own parents (okay, sometimes not so much their own parents), or whatever book has been recommended to them. But as another mom once told me, the doctor -- or the book's author -- isn't with your kid 24 hours a day, and doesn't get it when you just "feel" like something's wrong.

The friend I was talking to had a colicky child who screamed for hours a day, until about 4 months of age. And then once she started solids, she got hives and a horrible rash from dairy. But the mom hadn't really cut out dairy from her diet, even though she'd gotten that advice from friends, and her own mommy instincts told her that something was wrong. But the doctor said that dairy doesn't go into breastmilk, and so did the La Leche League counsellor.

(I want to go and throttle the La Leche League counsellor, but that's another post. I think that she should hold herself personally responsible for this poor babe crying in pain for all those months.)

But I'm just as guilty of ignoring my mommy instincts.

I've been (mostly) off dairy for the last year. I went off dairy about a month before Geoff was born, and then had an accidental exposure when he was about 3 months old. That wee exposure made him cry for two nights, and caused a rash on his calves that took six weeks to go away.

Last week, I decided to try again. I had a bite of aged cheddar cheese because it's supposedly got the lowest amount of milk protein. No reaction from Geoff that night, so I was delighted. Two days later, I had a bit more. Again, no reaction. Woo hoo!

Then last weekend, I had some (cow's milk) feta on my greek salad. Still no reaction that night. But the next day, he stated getting rashy dry-ish skin on his calves and forearms. I spent the next day coming up with excuses for why his skin was dry.

But my mommy instinct has finally kicked me in the shins. It is an allergic reaction, and I need to recognize it as such. I'll go off dairy again for another month, and maybe I'll try again after that.

Photo of my kids

A photo of the kids together. Why is it that Geoffrey is happiest when he's being squished by his older brother?

Poisoning my child

I'm poisoning my child. At least, that's how I feel every time I feed him something and he vomits it up.

We haven't had any allergic incidents for months, and then in the span of three weeks, we've had three vomiting incidents.

The first in the chain happened when we got back from our Summerland vacation. I gave Andrew some juice that he hadn't had before (Minute Maid Fruit Solutions) and topped it up with a quarter tsp of his strawberry acidophilus. He'd had the acidophilus before, so when he vomited about two minutes after drinking his juice, I blamed the juice. He also got two hives on his face about 10 minutes later, but a little dose of Benadryl cleared that right up.

Well, I blamed the wrong culprit. Yesterday, I gave him the acidophilus again, on top of some of his berry juice. He vomited again, and this time, I knew it was the acidophilus because he's already drunk half a carton of that berry juice, without incident.

I called Natural Factors this morning, and they confirmed that the acidophilus does have dairy in it. So that's going back to the health food store -- hopefully they'll take it back. I bought it months ago, but didn't get to open it until now because he had to finish the previous bottle first. (I'm not deliberately poisoning my child. He's finished 2-3 bottles of the previous formulation of this acidophilus, but they've now changed the formula, and priced the bottle at $5 more.)

We've had our three incidents -- hopefully that'll be our three in a row and we can go a few more months without anything happening.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

He threw up again today

He threw up again today. I'd given him a new calcium/magnesium chewable vitamin, and about two minutes after he chewed it up, he started heaving. Only spit came out for those first couple of heaves, and then he seemed to settle down. And then, about 20 minutes later, he started heaving again, and left three big mucousy puddles on the hardwood floor. At least it wasn't on the carpet.

His name is Andrew, he's three years old, and he's allergic to a lot of things. Milk and all other dairy. Peanuts. Tree nuts (but possibly not almonds). Eggs. Cats. Mold. Dustmites.

I'd read the ingredients on this bottle of vitamins very carefully, and there was no declared dairy in the ingredients. But there was a comment that it didn't contain eggs or soy, but didn't say anything about not containing dairy/milk. So for that omission, I've returned the bottle of vitamins to the store, and purchased another one that says that it doesn't contain dairy. When I left the house this afternoon, he was finally taking his afternoon nap next to his father. And his breath was wheezy and hoarse-sounding.

Life with an allergic child is always frightening. It's all about listening to your child sleep, to make sure he's still breathing. It's about reading every label, and hoping that the manufacturer hasn't lied about something. It's about having nightmares about letting him out in public where peanut-butter-eating children lurk in every corner, waiting to smear him with enough peanut butter to kill him.

Yeah, I'm feeling a little sorry for myself today. It always happens after an allergic incident. :-(