Baked Milk Challenge

Last week we had E retested for her dairy, egg, and peanut allergies.  It’s been six months since her last blood test when her allergist was hopeful she was starting to outgrow her dairy allergy.

I already knew the peanut allergy was still going strong.  A month ago E had a reaction from cross contamination.  I gave her a piece of toast with cashew butter that was fresh ground in a machine right next to a peanut grinder.  Never again.  This pic was taken about six hours after exposure:

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I also expected we were still dealing with an egg allergy since we’ve had some suspected cross contamination reactions there as well.  I was correct in both of my suspicions–egg and peanut are both too high to do anything but retest again in six months and see if the IgE numbers have decreased any.

E’s milk numbers dipped low enough, though, that her allergist allowed us to try a baked milk challenge in the office.  They gave me a recipe for muffins (we still had to use an egg substitute) and we set up an appointment to monitor E after she ate them to see if she had any reactions.

Our appointment was at 8:45, almost an hour later than E’s normal breakfast time.  She would have to eat two muffins for the challenge, so I had to starve the poor child until we got to the allergist’s office.  By the time the challenge began, she was so excited to be presented with the 1/4 of a muffin she was allowed to start out with.  When she finished, we waited 20 minutes and monitored for a reaction.  There wasn’t one.

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Next she got half of a muffin and we watched her for 20 more minutes.  There was still no reaction.  I texted updates to B about every 15 minutes.  The last leg of the challenge was for E to eat a whole muffin, and we would monitor her for 45 minutes.  After the whole muffin, I texted B and we were both so thrilled that E wasn’t reacting.

No sooner had I texted him that last update than I noticed it:  all of my excitement and hope and optimism melting away as a rash appeared on her left cheek.

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I stepped into the hallway and summoned the allergist, who came in and examined E’s face.  He noted the rash and asked me to step out and let him know if it spread or got worse.

Over the next 20 minutes, the rash began to fade, but then more began to appear on other parts of her face–the other cheek, below her eye, in between the eyebrows.  I knew what this all meant but I refused to believe it until the allergist said the words himself: that E hadn’t passed the challenge.

What this means:  despite E’s super low IgE numbers for dairy, she can’t completely tolerate baked milk.  What this doesn’t mean:  that there’s no hope and we’re not making progress.  Though E reacted, it was mild enough that her allergist wants to continue exposing her to very small amounts of baked milk regularly in the hopes of building up a tolerance.  For the next six months, we’ll give E half a muffin, three times per week.  When we retest at her second birthday, the hope is that her numbers will have come down significantly and we can redo the challenge and pass with flying colors.

What THIS means:  I’ll be baking.  A lot.  Every single week.  The muffins need to be fresh, so there’s no batch baking and freezing here.

What THAT means:  I picked a good time to get back into running.  Mmmmmmmm muffinsssssss.

I had a nice little cry after we left the allergist’s office.  It’s a step in the right direction and for that I’m grateful.  But it’s tough, knowing that on your child’s second birthday she will still be unable to tolerate so many foods in a world that is awfully insensitive to dietary needs.  It’s a hard thing to accept.  But we will keep fighting and I will continue to hope.

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Table Food for the Allergy Baby

E’s former doctor referred to her as the “allergy baby.”  It’s true, E does have a lot of known allergies…already…and unfortunately, two of those allergies are to dairy and eggs.  E is over ten months old now which means she’s getting a couple of “meals” of solid food every day.  Recently E graduated from purees to table foods, but at times this is proving to be a challenge. A lot of my mom friends give their babies cheese cubes, cottage cheese, yogurt, and scrambled or hard-boiled eggs.  I can’t do that.  In fact, I can’t even give E a piece of bread to nibble on without first scrutinizing the label to ensure there are no “hidden” dairy ingredients.

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So, what do I give miss E when she can’t have a lot of the soft, yummy foods babies her age are typically eating?  Here are her current favorites:

  • Pasta.  This girl LOVES pasta.  She’ll eat it plain, but I like to drizzle it in a little olive oil and lightly sprinkle some salt on it for some flavor.  Eventually I’ll make some dairy-free sauces for it, but for now she’s perfectly content with the minimal-effort version.
  • Cheerios.  These are her absolute favorite.
  • English muffins.  Not all of them are dairy-free, but I did find some safe ones at Trader Joe’s and E is a big fan.
  • Almond milk yogurt.  Although E also has a peanut allergy, tree nuts aren’t a problem.  I wasn’t a fan of the almond milk yogurt, but E has a different opinion.  We buy the Almond Dream brand and she can’t get enough.
  • Olives.  I buy the pre-sliced canned olives and cut them in half.
  • Canned fruits and veggies.  For the fruit, I only buy it in 100% juice, not the syrup.  These are nice because they’re super soft and I don’t have to be peeling, slicing, and steaming things to make them soft enough for her to chew.
  • Plum Organics Super Puffs.  When I show E the bottle, she knows exactly what I’m about to give her and she dances out of excitement.  Best baby snack ever!
  • Ground turkey.  Plain.  Sounds boring but E loves it.
  • Shredded chicken.  Plain.  Sometimes this baby makes it too easy for me.
  • Watermelon.  Easy to chew and also good for the days when E is being stubborn about drinking her water.

I should probably mention that we’ve tried oatmeal…twice…and both times, E hated it so much she sobbed uncontrollably until she was positive I wouldn’t try giving her another bite.

E’s next round of allergy testing is in one month.  We’ll find out if she’s grown out of any of her allergies (FINGERS CROSSED!) and if she hasn’t, we’ll be able to do some bake tests and things to find out if she can tolerate small amounts in recipes.  Until then, we’ll keep experimenting and reading labels and growing this list!