Diary of Isabella’s Food Allergies – Part 1

I have been meaning to write this for some time. Partially so I don’t forget (I’m sure I have forgotten some details already), partially for those who are going through the same stuff, to know you are not alone and, most importantly, so that Isabella has a record of what she endured as a kid.Isabella was born on the 8th of June ’99. The pregnancy and birth were reasonably uneventful, although she was very overdue and I ended up having an emergency C-section after a long enduced labour.

Isabella would not attach to the breast during her first few days and my milk did not come in. She was given supplementary feeds using cows milk formula during those first few days, with no apparent ill effect. I persevered with the breastfeeding and after about 3 weeks, my milk finally arrived. From then on Bella was completely breastfed.

When Bella was about 6 weeks old she began to develop excema. At first she appeared to have the “six week spots” that babies often develop as a reaction to the hormonal changes in the mothers body and hence milk. It soon became pretty evident that it was eczema and so off I trotted tot he GP to have her checked out. My GP was not concerned. She gave me some mild cortisone cream to clear up her face and sent us home.

The cream seemed to help a little, but no sooner did I stop the cream that the excema would re-appear. I went back to the GP, who was still unconcerned and I went home reassured that I was not doing anything wrong. This cycle continued for sometime. Each time Bella’s excema was getting worse and worse. I look back at some home video footage of her at about four-five months and I find it quite heartbreaking to see her poor skin.

Her face and body were covered in excema by this time. I was concerned about the cortisone use in terms of the effects on her little body and also the possibility of her face scaring. We went back to the GP. This time she prescribed an oral steroid. This did an amazing job. Bella’s face cleared up brilliantly and very quickly. I kept up with the moisturisers and was always careful what I used to wash her and her clothes.

The treatment cleared her face beautifully for our trip to Tassie. Peter and I were attending the wedding of our good friends Jon and Sue, and decided to make a weekend of it. At the wedding I ate all the wonderful wedding food, smoked salmon, rich cakes, cheese, yum yum – all the things that it turns out Bella is allergic to.

The day after the wedding I breast-fed Bella as usual. As I watched her feed, I swear I could see the excema reappearing on her face. The words of my mother were echoing in my head, “Maybe it’s what you are eating that’s affecting Bella”. My GP had debunked this theory… but here I was seeing virtual evidence before my eyes… or was it my imagination?? I sent Peter off to get formula, bottles and a breast-pump and set about giving Bella something other than my seemingly poisonous breast-milk.

I popped the bottle filled with cows-milk formula into her mouth and she started to feed. No sooner had she done this than she spat the bottle out of her mouth and started to howl. Really scream. It was awful. I mopped up the milk she spat out as it dribbled down her neck. As I mopped I noticed the redness, welts and swelling developing on her neck. I called to Peter – I didn’t like to look of it at all. She threw up very violently. I insisted something was wrong and we grabbed her baby capsule and ran down to the foyer of the hotel to ask for directions to the nearest hospital.

We dashed to the hospital, which fortunately was close, and since we were in Hobart on a Sunday – so there was virtually no traffic. There was no-one waiting in emergency and we were seen straight away.

By this stage Bella was starting to get a blue tinge around her mouth. They whisked her off while I paced the floor. I couldn’t bring myself to be in the emergency room, I couldn’t bear to watch what happened. I must admit that the experience was all a bit of a blur, I’m not the best performer in stressful situations.

Of course, fortunately for us, this story has a happy ending. She was fine and is fine. We were transferred to the children’s section of the Hobart Hospital. I sat with Bella through the night and all was good, except she wouldn’t sleep!! We were in a ward with kids who were really, really sick, and it made me appreciate how lucky we were to have such a manageable health issue.

After that little episode, we saw an allergy specialist, although not without a considerable wait. During the wait we were not allowed to used any sort of anti-histamines or cortisone creams and her excema got incredibly bad (see the photos). The weather was heating up for summer and she scratched all night – so we tried splints on her little arms. She used the splints to scratch her face. It was awful. I found her with blood all over the splints… she has a little scar on her cheek from that event. I thought she would be horrendously scarred forever! But as you can see from her recent photos – that is in no way the case!! After the failed splints, I slept on the couch with Bella. Her scratching would wake me so I could sooth her and stop her form making her face worse than it already was.

When we finally saw the specialist, Isabella was diagnosed with food allergies to Milk, Eggs and Wheat. I was placed on a very restricted diet and we were prescribed some very effective creams for her face and body. Bella looked better within days, and, in terms of her excema, we haven’t looked back since.

We’ve subsequently had a couple of dramas with her allergies and trips to emergency due to undiagnosed allergies… but I’ll leave those stories for another “part”.

Pictures below (Click on them to make them larger):

Left: Isabella aged approx 6 months. This picture was taken at the allergy specialist. The nurse advised me to take a photo. She assured me I would not remember the extent of Bella’s excema in time, which I could not believe, but took a photo anyway. The photos stayed tucked away for a year or two, and sure enough, when I pulled them out I was shocked at how awful it was!

Right: Isabella aged 6.5. This picture was taken just before Christmas 2005. Excema and scar free!! Well, she actually has one small (unnoticeable) scar on her cheek which is the result of the splints we tried (mentioned above). 



5 responses to “Diary of Isabella’s Food Allergies – Part 1

  • Anna


    I was searching the net for food allergies and I came across your blog. I am 24 and have had food allergies since I can remember. My “stay away from” foods are avocados, shrimp, bananas, tomatoes, onions, corn and so many more. My symptoms usually include itchy excema behind my elbows, behind my knees, around my eyes and around my mouth. The worst it got was a about a year ago when my eyes would get swollen and red. This was a very hard time for me because it was hard explaining to people why my eyes looked like this. After reflecting back on that time, the only thing I was doing different was not sleeping as much due to my new job at a hospital working “hospital hours”.

    I have tried everything from antihistamines to daily shots (which were horrible). Lately I have been taking low doses of cortisone when I feel a reaction coming, but I’m scared because of the adverse effects I hear of it. I guess it has just become a part of my life which I hope soon will go away.

    While reading your post, coincidentally, I noticed something very interesting which I just found out from my mom. Weeks after I was born my mom was having a very hard time breastfeeding, not only was she having problems but I was also not cooperating. This seems to be the major source of how allergies are formed.

    Well I wish Bella the best, family support is the best way to get through this. Fortunately my family is aware of my allergies and they help me as much as possible. My fiance has also helped me incredibly by understanding what I have and encouraging me to not eat the foods I am allergic to (which is extremely hard) and reminding me to put my creams like elidel and protopic every night.

    Good luck!


  • kylie

    Hey Anna,

    Thanks for your post.

    Interesting you had a similar breastfeeding incident to us… I’ve been keen to gather some data to see if there is a link greater coincidence. So if you are interested, I’d be greatful if you’d complete a survey for me??
    Let me know

  • Libby

    Hi Kylie, I have also stumbled on your great blog and have a number of spooky similarities. I have a son Jack (June 30 1999) who is anaphylactic to tree nuts. I too had a v difficult long, induced and painful labour and sunsequently an emergency c-section. At the time I didn’t feel scarred by the birth, just grateful, but my milk didn’t come in and after 4 weeks of pumping and supplementing through those horrid tubes they tape to your nipples (I felt like a cow), I gave up and he was given formula. At three he was diagnosed with fish, shellfish and treenut anaphylaxis and has since outgrown fish and shellfish. We have few reactions because we are mega thorough and don’t allow any of our kids to eat traces. I like to think it is my diligence anyway 🙂 The most recent reaction was not anaphylactic but a generalised allergic reaction which had us in hospital with eye hanging out…after he got blue gluestick in his eye! My co-worker is anaphylactic and has also had a reaction to this glue…go figure!!
    I guess you are in a similar place to us. With 7 year olds the really scary stuff may still be around the corner and we are still able to supervise most of our childs life! I certainly feel like this!
    Anything we can do to increase awareness of anaphylaxis, food labelling, community tolerance etc is very welcome. Please feel free to contact me if you like.

  • Leslie

    Thanks for sharing Isabella’s story. We have a very similar story with our son Preston. He was diagnosed with food allergies to egg, dairy and peanuts when he was 7 months old. He was exclusively breast fed and at five and a half months he had a very severe reaction to a cow-milk formula. We also went through a horrible time with excema. We made large sheets designed to keep him bundled tightly (especially at night) to prevent him from scratching at night. Our pediatrician didn’t connect the severe excema to food allergies (and neither did I). During one of our many trips to the dermatologist an off handed comment made by the doctor stuck in my head and may have saved our son’s life. He mentioned that my son would “probably have problems with milk”. I immediatly bought a bottle of benadryl and carried it around with me. When Preston was five and a half month old I took him and my daughter to my parents house. The plan was to stay for a few days, get my mom and kids settled and then my husband would meet up with me. Then my husband and I would go away, just the two of us, for a couple of days. I pumped plenty of breast milk and froze it but I wanted to have back-up formula “just in case”. I decided to give Preston a bit of formula in some cereal to see how he would do. Of course he had a severe reaction with vomiting and hives. I immediatly gave him benadryl, which as I mentioned I had been carrying around. His symptoms disappeared after about ten minutes. Of course, now we know so much more about food allergies and anaphylaxis and it such a big part of our life. Well thanks for letting us share our story and we wish you the best of luck in the future.

    Preston will turn 3 in November

  • Heidi

    These stories/comments sound all to familiar to me too. I endured 2 day induction with my first child and had a c-section and had a healthy 9 lb. baby boy. All seemed fine, developed eczema early on…I was reassured by his pediatrician that it was baby acne, or just dry skin, as it was winter. We were instructed to use hydrocortisone cream, the OTC along with a RX when it got really bad along with frequent baths along with using vaseline and crisco for the greasing afterwards. This seemed to keep things “under control a bit”. It was when he was 6 months old we started to notice that he was having more frequent break outs. It was when I decided to introcduce formula (I was breast feeding at the time) that we had a full blown reaction. We had supplemented with forumula in his early days too, as my milk had not come in, and that is the only way he would be content. To later find out he was allergic to milk and other things, I felt HORRIBLE to know that I was giving him milk based formula and I could see his face turn flaming red. I didn’t know this at the time of course. We finally were referred to a pediatric allergist after 2 month wait and were told to avoid milk products (formula) but were not told he had an allergy (by his regular dr.). It was after the extensive testing that we found out what his allergies are.

    I have often wondered if there was an allergy link to the pitocin used for inducing me, the c-section and the anesthesia, or just coincidence.

    He is now 2 1/2 years old and I have a 1 month old now too. We are “hoping” his brother will not have the same issues and we are cautious. If formula is needed, we were told to use only soy based formulas and not to mess around with milk based. If we notice his skin is starting to look like eczema, we would need to see the allergist.

    We’ve adjusted to life with avoiding dairy/eggs/nuts for our son. We still have those items in our house and I limit what I eat of them. He knows what things “make him sick”. His understanding of those foods are “make you sick, go to doctor”. I feel bad that he may never be able to have real kid experiences like going to a birthday party and not having to pack a lunch or bring along his own cake. For his 2nd birthday, I got a local bakery (who had dairy/egg/nut free frosting) to agree to decorate a cake that I had made at home, so he could have a cute Elmo cake. He LOVED it. I hope they will continue to do that for me.

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