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).