Interview with 'Amazing and Atopic' Blogger Selena Bluntzer
We recently interviewed her to find out how she discovered that her daughter was atopic, what she has learned along the way and what advice she has for other parents.
Your 4-year-old daughter has multiple food allergies, asthma, and eczema. Which diagnosis was made first, and how did this lead to the other two diagnoses?
The eczema diagnosis was made first, when she was about three months old. We were told by a pediatrician that it was probably just the usual "infant eczema" and that it was hardly ever caused by food allergies. They told me that she might have a milk protein allergy, and at the time I had no idea what that meant. I don't think they really did either because they made it sound like it would just give her a rash and some reflux and never once mentioned the possible need for epinephrine, etc.
I asked if I should have her tested for food allergies, and they said she was too young. I now know this is not true, as babies can be tested as early as three months of age. (Some have been tested even earlier in severe cases.) We were referred to a dermatologist, who treated the condition with topical steroids and creams. Those treatments certainly helped treat the eczema, but it just kept returning. The dermatologist also told me that eczema was hardly ever caused by food allergies.
Our daughter showed other signs of a food allergy later on, such as vomiting after eating certain foods. The doctors suggested we try cow's milk again at age one, and she threw it up. I finally got the pediatrician's office to test her for food allergies at 18 months of age, and that's when we discovered that she did, indeed, have food allergies. Her eczema was from the traces of allergenic foods in my breast milk. When we switched her to soy formula, her eczema improved. (I was unable to do an elimination diet due to an underlying health condition.) After finding hemp milk, she improved even more.
Before she was 2, she would have asthma symptoms and upper respiratory infections, and they called it "reactive airway disease." It persisted and she experienced wheezing and other breathing issues outside of viral illnesses past the age of 2, and we realized that she also had asthma. We're now equipped with a nebulizer, a rescue inhaler, and she has recently started taking a daily maintenance medication. She's doing much better, even though that sounds like a lot of medicine to have around.
To which foods is your daughter allergic?
She is allergic to cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, peas, tree nuts, flax seed, wheat, and mustard. We also suspect she is allergic to sesame, but we have not confirmed that yet.
In your blog, you write that you suspected your daughter had food allergies long before she was officially diagnosed. What advice do you have for parents who suspect their child may have food allergies?
If you suspect that your child has a food allergy, make an appointment with a board certified pediatric allergist.
What has been the greatest challenge for you in raising an atopic child?
The greatest challenge is reminding myself to pull my head out of the "atopic" cloud that I get stuck in at times. Having a child with eczema, food allergies, and asthma can be all-consuming sometimes, but that's because I allow it to consume me. I have to take a step back and find the balance that enables me to keep her healthy and protected from very real, very lethal dangers, but I also have to remember that I am trying to keep her alive so that she can LIVE. I need to let her live and be as free as I can manage for her to be, even if I have to wipe the world down a few steps ahead of her as she goes along!
I also think that the challenges change as she grows, and we both have to keep learning and adapting as life goes on. I look forward to a time of greater awareness and compassion from others, as we make our way through this food-covered planet.
In Part II of this article, Selena recounts her first experience using epinephrine, what she learned from it, and what advice she has for carrying, using, and teaching others about epinephrine.