Wednesday, January 17, 2018

As I've said before, our pediatrician suspected that my son had food allergies almost right away. He had severe eczema, breathing problems and vomiting. Though she wanted to wait to test him until he was two, he had already gone to the emergency room several times, and she didn't think we could wait to get more information. She referred us to a local allergist when he was around one year old.

Finding the Right Allergist for You -
This started our journey to find the right allergist for us. Although that first allergist was a nice person, she did not fill us with confidence. She skin tested our baby and told us that he was allergic to peanuts, milk, corn and "a little allergic" to eggs. She did not seem very precise in the testing or in her advice. This was all the advice we had, though, and we were terrified. Learning that the food I was eating, and thereby giving my baby through my breast milk, could make him very sick was beyond frightening. I tried to follow her advice to the T. We went to see this doctor a few times, but felt we were getting differing advice every time. This added frustration on top of constant fear. Needless to say, we were not feeling too good at this time.
Finding the right Allergist for You -

We changed allergists. Our new allergist was affiliated with a top hospital. Her office was very clean, and her staff was kind, knowledgeable and precise. They tested his skin and his blood. We learned that our boy was allergic to walnuts, eggs, and milk. We were advised to avoid all tree nuts and peanuts, too. They gave us specific resources to learn how to read labels for each of his allergens. They taught us how to use the Epi-pen. We had the utmost confidence in their care. The allergist herself was not very warm, but that didn't matter to us. 

We continued with that allergist with annual testing and visits for several years. When our son was six years old, his allergist decided that he should have a dairy challenge. The food challenge is the "gold standard" of food-allergy testing. In a food challenge, your child eats or drinks his allergen in ever increasing increments under the doctor's supervision. We were very nervous before his challenge. I wrote about that experience here

Our son drank the first little bit of chocolate milk, and then they left us to wait. Immediately, he said his tongue was itchy. We called in the nurse, and she examined him. She said he was fine. They left us again. He started vomiting on the floor. The allergist came into the room and told us she would have to stop the challenge. She then told us that we had made him so nervous, that was probably why he vomited. She sent us home feeling awful and unsure.

Although we stayed with her for a few more years, we never felt good about our care again. We trusted her authority, because she was a top allergist in the area and the country, but by blaming us for his reaction, she lost our confidence in her as a care provider.

We changed allergists when my son was 9 years old. He is now 15. Since then, he has had several food challenges with mixed results. In every instance, we have been treated by everyone at our new practice with kindness, caring and with the highest level of professionalism. 

My son was supposed to have a milk challenge again this year. They tested his skin beforehand to be sure it was a good idea. He had a pretty significant reaction to that test, and the doctor decided that he was still allergic without the need for a challenge that would put him at risk of an anaphylactic reaction. I'm going to say that again. He is still allergic to milk 9 years after the challenge the last doctor said we caused him to fail by making him nervous. He did not fail because we made him nervous. He failed because he was allergic to milk.

When he failed his challenge to walnuts, his first symptom was an itchy tongue. Then his eye turned red, which was an unusual reaction, so the challenge continued. It ended after he vomited. He then had an anaphylactic reaction that included hives and impaired breathing and only stopped after getting epinephrine. Itchy tongue and vomiting? Sounds familiar.

I am telling you this story because it took us a long time to find the right allergist home for us. I am fighting tears as I type, because I am so incredibly grateful that we found the doctors and nurses that now help us keep our teenager safe and healthy. If your doctor is not the right fit for you, try another one. It seemed crazy to leave such a well-regarded practice, but I am so glad that we did. (Our current practice is also very well-regarded.)

Happy Cooking!



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