By Kristen Chandler
As a parent, there are many different milestones we celebrate in our children’s lives—first tooth, first words, first steps, first day of school, birthdays and other holidays. The list goes on and on. As a food allergy parent, last year I got to add another milestone to my list: the day we found out that my son had outgrown his egg allergy.
My son, who is now 12, had his first allergic reaction to egg at 10 months old, when I decided to share some of my scrambled eggs with him one morning. He had several other reactions to different things over the next few months, including a severe reaction that placed him in the emergency room. Our doctor at the time would not refer him to be allergy tested because he was under two years old. After changing doctors, and because my son also had a history of breathing trouble and eczema, he was finally referred to an allergist and tested just before he was two. He was diagnosed with allergies to beef, eggs and milk. His egg allergy was so severe that once when he was younger, he picked up a dishrag someone had used to wipe up raw egg, and he wiped his face with it and immediately broke out in hives on his face.
After that, he was tested yearly, and each year we went in with the hope that he may have outgrown one or more of his food allergies. But each year we were let down. In fact, by the time my son was five, his allergist suggested that we only come back to be tested every two years. At that point, it didn’t appear that he would outgrow any of his allergies, at least not anytime soon.
As he got older, I noticed that my son would appear as defeated as I felt when we would get those results back. No matter how much you prepare yourself or your child not to get your or their hopes up, there’s still a tiny part of you that will be hopeful. And it is so hard not to be upset or feel let down, especially when your child is old enough at that point to understand, and he gets upset and let down too.
We again went in for allergy testing at the end of March in 2017. My son had an anaphylactic reaction in July of 2016, and I had to administer epinephrine and take him to the hospital. It could have been a lot worse, but after the epinephrine, a round of steroids and being monitored, we were sent home and he was ok. The food he had ingested contained both egg and milk, so with him being allergic to both I assumed he reacted to both and that was why his reaction was so severe. I also knew that because he had that severe reaction just a few months prior, he probably had not outgrown any of his food allergies.
The allergist came in talked to us first, and I told him about the anaphylactic reaction. He agreed with me that with my son having recently had such a severe reaction, he probably had not outgrown his allergies to milk or eggs.
Then a nurse came in to do the skin test. Since he had not had any reactions to anything new, my son was only tested for his allergies to beef, egg and milk, as well as his environmental allergy to cats. I carefully watched which vials the nurse drew from to stick by each number, so as we waited for him to react, I knew which allergen each number indicated.
Even though I stared at the number two on his arm with no reaction beside it, I still tried to prepare myself. I thought maybe he was just slow to react to it, and the reaction was still coming. It wasn’t until the nurse came in and checked his arm, and I watched her write the results on paper and saw that she didn’t write anything beside egg, that it hit me.
I already had tears in my eyes, but I wouldn’t let myself believe it or say anything until she said it out loud. She said, “I’ll let the doctor come in and check these, too, but he’s showing no skin reaction to egg.” The dam then burst, and I was a crying mess. I expected my son to be excited as well. Not crying but maybe jumping up and down, or at least laughing or smiling. Instead, he told me I was embarrassing him while the nurse got me a box of tissues!
The allergist came in shortly after and confirmed that he had no skin reaction to egg. We weren’t out of the woods yet, though. Since he had a history of anaphylaxis, my son’s allergist wanted us to come back to the office and do an oral challenge to egg before he would confirm that he had outgrown it.
As if the skin test isn’t nerve-wracking enough, the oral challenge most certainly is. The morning of the challenge, I got up and scrambled my son an egg for the challenge. I was concerned that he may still have a reaction, but I was also worried that he may not care too much for the taste or texture of the egg. After all, he had only had scrambled eggs once, and that had been 10 years ago.
When we got to the allergists office, he was instructed to rub a little bit of egg around the outside of his mouth. After about 30 minutes with no reaction, he rubbed the egg on the inside of his mouth. Still no reaction. He was then able to eat a little bit. Each time they came to check him and there was no reaction, my son was able to eat more and more until he’d eaten it all. By the last two times, he was shoveling it in his mouth. By then, it had finally set in—he really had outgrown his egg allergy.
My son is still allergic to milk and beef (and cats,) but outgrowing the egg allergy has opened a lot of options for him that he didn’t have before. Instead of baking him an allergen-free cake from scratch, I can now use box cake mixes that don’t have milk and add the eggs. He liked his cake before, but he said he loves cake with egg! And he LOVES eating scrambled eggs. He still hasn’t tried a boiled egg yet, though. Because most noodles either contain egg, or are processed in facilities that use egg, before there was only one kind of noodles I could use to make him spaghetti. Now, I can buy all the noodles (if they are free from his other allergens). He also got to dye Easter eggs last year for the very first time. He started raising chickens last year, and because he outgrew his egg allergy he can handle the eggs that his chickens lay (and eat them, too). We are also back to yearly allergy tests to monitor his other allergies.
Have you or your child outgrown any allergies? Do you know anyone that has outgrown a food allergy? What was your or their experience like? We would love to hear from you.