Food Allergy Symptoms in Babies: Our Story

Food allergies are a serious and life-threatening medical condition that is estimated to send someone to the emergency room every three minutes. 1 in 13 children are diagnosed with a food allergy, with the most common (top 8) allergens being peanut, tree nut, milk, egg, shellfish, fish, soy, and wheat.

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Nine Months Since First Food Allergy Symptoms 

It has been nine months since our baby experienced his first food allergy reaction symptoms. He is allergic to peanuts, and before that day I had never seen an allergic reaction occur other than in the animated movie Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs. One of my friends from college has an all nut allergy, and one of my little cousins is allergic to peanuts as well. My mother-in-law is even allergic to shellfish, so you would think I would have seen a reaction at some point—or at least had a better idea of what a food allergy even is. The fact of the matter is that people just don’t talk about this medical condition often, largely due to people mocking it isn’t a “real” disease or problem. I think education is the only way to change this mindset, so that is why I am here.  If you are the parent of a recently diagnosed food allergy(ies), please know you are not alone.

What is a Food Allergy?

Food allergies are a serious and life-threatening medical condition that is estimated to send someone to the emergency room every three minutes. 1 in 13 children are diagnosed with a food allergy, with the most common (top 8) allergens being peanut, tree nut, milk, egg, shellfish, fish, soy, and wheat. Some are more likely than others to be outgrown, but you can also develop them at any time and to almost any food. 1 in 10 adults are said to have a food allergy. A food allergy reaction is caused by the immune system thinking that a harmless food protein is a dangerous germ that will make you sick. The immune system overcompensates to try to kick the allergen out of your system, and the result can range from a mild skin reaction to losing consciousness. Sometimes, the reactions can cause anaphylactic shock or be deadly. People with food allergies should always be taken seriously.

The Big Question: Why?

There are a lot of theories out there as to why certain people form food allergies, and we’ve heard a lot of them in the last year, but all that has been found seems to link to family history. Those with other related conditions such as eczema or hay fever, are also said to be at higher risk. How did the relatives get it though, or why do these related conditions occur? Frankly, I think there is still a lot to be researched, as nothing seems that concrete and there is no cure. The only way to be safe is to not come into contact with the allergen.

Story of Our Son’s Allergic Reaction

Unfortunately, our son started getting eczema at only a couple weeks old (more tips on that later!). Because of this, many would say it is not surprising he developed an allergy. That didn’t make it any more shocking the day that he had his first reaction, and it was severe (anaphylaxis).

Our son was eleven months old, and when he woke up from his nap he was a little cranky. He had eaten a little taste of different nuts from food we had before, and we had a brand-new jar of peanut butter in the cupboard. He loves food, and his pediatrician had just given us the go ahead to start giving him allergens such as nuts in small serving sizes. As a treat, I plopped him in his high chair, put a bib on, and dipped one of his tiny baby spoons into the jar. There was maybe a quarter of a teaspoon of peanut butter on the spoon, maybe even less.

He LOVED the peanut butter, and gnawed away happily… For a few minutes. All it took was a few minutes before I realized that his lips were rapidly swelling. His upper lip especially was at least triple its normal size, and a rash began to form around his mouth. I quickly grabbed him and wiped all the peanut butter off of his hands and face, realizing that everywhere on his hands the peanuts had touched was now swelling and breaking out in hives. Trying not to panic, I looked at his face again to find that big hives were breaking out on his entire face, back of his neck, and spreading down to his chest. I had not understood why hives were called hives until that moment, when it looked like my son was imprinted with a beehive on his upper body. My husband was at work, but fortunately my sister was home with me which helped me to remain relatively calm. As my infant started nervously scratching and grabbing at his mouth and neck, lips still swelling and now beginning to cry, I knew that I needed to act quickly.

I called 911 and explained my baby had peanut butter and was now having what I was pretty sure was an allergic reaction. He seemed like he was breathing fine, so I kept telling myself it wasn’t even that serious right? Wrong. He was already experiencing severe symptoms from multiple systems, and the dispatcher informed me she was speaking with paramedics who were on their way to treat for anaphylaxis. They got to our home within two minutes, but they were the longest two minutes of my life.

Multiple paramedics ran in and instructed I strip my baby boy down to his diaper and restrain him laying down. They described his coloring as starting to turn purple, asked his approximate weight, and then were quickly injecting epinephrine into one thigh and an antihistamine into the other. The look of terror in my baby’s eyes is one I won’t soon forget, not even nine months later, but the relief from the injections was thankfully fast-acting. As protocol for these sort of reactions follow, we took the ambulance to the children’s hospital where he was monitored for a secondary/biphasic reaction for four hours.

Symptoms of Food Allergy Reaction in Baby (and all ages)

It’s best to leave this to the medical and allergy professionals, as it can be different for everyone. Even if you react one way to an allergen, the next time might be drastically different for you. Here is the link to the FARE, Food Allergy Research & Education, website, with the symptoms below being some of the most common that they list:

  • Itchy or running nose
  • Hives
  • Sneezing
  • Swelling of the tongue or lips
  • Confusion or feeling of anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing repetitively
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin and faintness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea

A food allergy and anaphylaxis action plan can be found here, and that is where you will find more information on specific symptoms and how to act on them. If you, your child, or someone else close to you has a food allergy, I suggest printing this out and having it on you at all times. At the very least, hang it where it can easily be seen on your fridge.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read our story. I hope that the information above is helpful to you in some way. If you have concerns, please reach out to your doctor or an allergist. Of course, feel free to contact me if you have questions parent to parent or would just like to talk! You can always find us on social media as well with the icons below.

 

Thanks for reading! Please share to spread awareness.

Breanna

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