Allergies seem to run in the family and since I’m adopted my husband and kids can’t pin this one on me. *Yessss*
My daughter Birdie has seasonal allergies. She is also heading into middle school this fall, so she has begun to acquire the well known ‘I can’t’ allergy caused by the ‘I don’t feel like it’ tree. (It just keeps on giving!) Awesome. Good times, good times…
On a more serious note, Birdie is also allergic to latex – deadly allergic. She wasn’t always, but since birth showed symptoms of said allergy. We took her to the doctor for every rash, bump, blister, red patch. Starting just after birth she would turn as red as a cherry to the touch from all the poking and prodding. Our pediatrician came to meet her at the hospital and picked her up so sweetly. He held her like we did – with love. He put her down and her body had two perfect prints from his latex gloves. They wrapped around her tiny little body. With no other symptoms of a problem we all guessed she was just being a new tiny human, sensitive in every way.
She was however a sickly little thing. Which isn’t typical with a baby that nurses.
Around year one we had to avoid bandaids because it was impossible to get them off, and left a little rosie tattoo in its place for weeks, on top of whatever terrible ouchie Birdie had. At around two her little head and face started breaking out in what was eczema and heat rashes…even in December. Again, with no other symptoms I treated her scalp with apricot and olive oil and cool bubble baths for her rash. At three we introduced flip flops. They gave her blisters between her feet (which she had off and on in her mouth since she started sprouting teeth) so I gave them to another little girl who thought they were just so fancy. At five she started losing teeth and as any good mama would I made sure she brushed her wiggly teeth bunches, and they just fell out…two by two – and once by three. By the time she was six she had to see a dentist for an abscess. The dentist said the tooth had to go. We did the deed and her tooth was yanked; and while it was being removed she had trouble breathing which we chalked up to the stress of such a procedure. And then there was H1N1 and then chronic bronchitis, and influenza; all in a three month period, and all too much for her immature immune system to handle while fighting what would later be diagnosed as a latex allergy. In fact, we never would have known she had said allergy if she had not gotten so sick. Her body was fighting an allergy to the world around her. I felt so guilty. I felt terrible for her.
Birdie’s allergy seems to be catching as more tiny humans in the US are diagnosed, and yet so few things are latex free. Birdie has a medical alert bracelet, an IHP at school, an epi-pen, high dose steroid creams and her own latex free first aid kit here, for traveling and at school. She has a special seat cover she takes from class to class and can’t play kick ball because of her allergy. To put the seriousness of her allergy into perspective I have made you a list.
*Her rash on her skin was caused by food allergies from mainly fruits that have proteins resembling latex such as banana, strawberry, kiwi, mango, avocado…basically all that is creamy and/or delicious.
*Her eczema on her scalp was caused by the small latex bubbles on the ends of her hair brush bristles. If she itched her scalp after washing it tore the skin just enough that when I would comb her blonde locks the latex would enter her skin and cause irritated, dry patches.
*Her tooth brushes all had latex containing bristles and with each loose tooth she/I would brush brush brush that latex right into her blood stream. As an immune response her gums would swell and push her teeth out. When she had any dental work done every glove, tube, tool had or was completely made of latex. It is what caused her labored breathing.
*Her flip flops got their bend from latex, so when she would sweat the latex entered into her pores causing dermatitis (a rash that looks like tiny blisters) in between her toes. Most shoes are held together with latex based glue. So, Birdie can’t get her shoes wet or she gets hives, which turn into awful open sores. They bleed and peel, and are extremely painful. Even the carpet in her room had to go, so she got a new room without it. The padding made the bottoms of her feet turn red when they were wet from bathing.
Unlike some people who have a latex allergy Birdie is in more danger if her immune system is compromised. This is when she is at her greatest risk of dying from anaphylactic shock. Her body simply can’t fight off illness and her allergy. If she gets the sniffles she stays home so I can keep an eye on her. The last pair of shoes we bought her were suppose to be latex free…after three days of feeling like she fit in with her super cool/expensive high tops she was in the nurses office then home for four days, unable to handle the wounds on her feet. She was angry with me. She felt I didn’t do my job. (I call every major company of clothing, shoes, the works…before we ever buy something to ensure her safety and the absence of latex. There are some wonderful websites that help out with determining which products do/don’t contain latex, but just because it says so doesn’t always make it true.)
We had to gut our house of anything and everything that was or may possibly have contained latex. Her toys (almost all of them) were put out for the fundraiser sale in our front yard on a Saturday. The local donut shop heard about it and chipped in oodles of donut holes and bottled waters, with all the cash going straight to Birdie. We had to toss a lot of things, all her hair stuff, much of her clothes, kitchen utensils, shoes, really EVERYTHING. She hated us for months. Even after we bought her latex free toys, paint, crafts, the works. She had every right to be mad. The life she knew and loved was sold for pennies on the dollar.
It’s been four years and Birdie has risen to the occasion and is her own best advocate. She even gets to have sleep overs at other peoples houses without me panicking, calling every few hours. And several moms have really gone above and beyond to ensure Birdies safety while she is in their homes, cars, pools.
There will always be some things she can’t have or do like wear the same cheerleader uniforms as her friends, wear air Jordan tennis shoes, use maxi pads or wear socks from the store. But she’s thriving, and that means there’s such an immense sense of hope that one day all things will fall into place for her.
We’ve been blessed that none of our other children have to deal with such a life changing and difficult allergy…until this last Friday…
Tank, our one year old is now covered in a rash from the top of his head to the bottom of his tippy toes. He ate a teensy piece of strawberry. That coupled with his constant tummy aches and difficulty adjusting to new foods (the same on Sarahs list) he will be watched like a hawk, and from this moment on never again will he enjoy the sweet life of strawberries sprinkled with sugar, mixed berry fruit chews, or red candies. Perhaps I should consider buying Benadryl by the case.
(This all started as a quick email to a friend, DLJ, about Tank, but I though to myself why overwhelm just her when I can share with all of you! )