Our family is growing in many ways... Growing in numbers, knowledge, parenting skills, growing in love, in our faith, growing our culinary skills (if you can call it that), growing without gluten (some of us), growing green...........

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Playing Detective... More food allergies!

So, here's the scoop...

We started noticing some hives on Aiden a little over six weeks ago. We first thought we knew exactly what it was, but after taking that away...hives remained, even a week later. Then two weeks later. We made a couple other changes. They still remained. They were small hives...on his chest and back at first, then they started appearing on his face a little bit. Then even more. Sometimes they were small, but they started getting bigger.

(Thinking back now, I remember Ryan commenting that Aiden's back felt kind of bumpy a number of times, but we didn't think much of it at the time. This was back before the hives actually appeared. Now we know this was the beginning of them.)

So, we took dairy out of his diet, since it's a common allergen and can cause eczema, which we've had our fair share of with Aiden. After a week, nothing was changing, and the hives were showing up more and bigger. We were constantly finding them after dinner each night. Then we decided to go a little more drastic. Since we had NO idea what was causing the hives, and they were clearly getting worse, we took him (and me, since Aiden is still nursing) off lots of foods that could be causing the problem...most of the top allergens, any citrus foods, including tomatoes, and just a whole bunch of things. A lot of these foods are Aiden's favorites and many of our staple foods, bu we were starting to feel desperate at this point. We had to find out what was causing these hives that would NOT go away. We have been calling and calling the allergist trying to get in sooner than our already-scheduled follow-up (from last year's egg fiasco) that is at the end of October...too far away.

Well, this past week, the hives continued, despite the special (and not so fun) diet. (Actually, Aiden didn't mind the diet, but it took mama a few days to adjust.) In fact, the hives were just getting worse still. This was starting to get very frustrating. We knew something he was eating was causing this, but we couldn't figure out what in the world it was. We're already so careful with what we feed him, and we haven't given him anything new since the hives began (way too long ago). We kept calling the dr office, to no avail. The dr we see is only in that office so often, and he's at the hospital other days during the week...but he only sees ER patients and current hospital patients when there. BUT a friend of ours works at the hospital, was able to pull some strings to get us an appointment in a week and a half. That's a lot closer than two months!

Of course, right after that, we think we figure it out. One evening, I wondered if it could be cinnamon. He broke out in hives at dinner...a dinner that should be perfectly safe. But I had sprinkled cinnamon on something so he would try it. (He loves cinnamon!) I wasn't sure what else could cause the hives. The next morning, I swiped some cinnamon on his cheek. Nothing. So, moving on... I had also made these super-yummy muffins Ryan's mom had given me the recipe for. Everything was safe for him to eat, and I replaced the eggs with alternatives. Aiden had already eating them with breakfast and after dinner a couple times, and they seemed fine. (But after that dinner, some mystery hives appeared around his mouth.) For snack this day, Aiden ate one or two muffins and nothing else, and then a couple hives appeared on his cheek. He had some muffins the day before with no problems, so I was a bit confused. Swiped some cinnamon on his face again, and his cheek got a little pink. So, maybe something in the muffin was causing the problem after all. The next day, this past Friday, at breakfast, he had another muffin. I also swiped his cheek again with just a little cinnamon. He scratched at it, whined, and said "No cinnamon!" He scratched his tongue a little bit, too. His cheek got really red where the cinnamon touched. But then...the hives.

This is the first time he's had hives anywhere other than the top third of his body. His ENTIRE body had hives. And much bigger and redder than before. I'm very thankful that hives don't irritate Aiden. Any time he's had them, he doesn't really seem to be bothered by or really even aware of them. All this time, the only thing that's bothered him is our constant inspecting.

Now, at first, I kept thinking something else had to be causing the hives, too, b/c we just don't eat a lot of cinnamon. Sometimes when Aiden has sweet potatoes, he asks for cinnamon, but not always - not even most of the time. We don't eat a lot of baked goods, and many of the muffins we make don't have cinnamon. These muffins that really brought out the hives happened to have a lot of cinnamon. BUT after some thinking, it dawned on me....I have been making homemade granola for a while now, at least a couple months. The recipe I make has 1/2 Tbsp of cinnamon, and it makes quite a lot of granola (about two cereal boxes worth). So, not much cinnamon, but he was eating it regularly. He hasn't had it the past week or two because he was eating more of other cereals for some reason - maybe he knew something we didn't; he suddenly hasn't been asking for it! But the granola is likely to be what was causing the smaller hives, with the repeated exposure of even such a small amount of cinnamon.

Then we introduced the larger amount via the muffins, which is how we discovered this was the allergen. We're viewing them as a blessing in disguise since the cinnamon was strong enough that it made the reaction very obvious for us. He ate dinner a few nights not long ago and broke out in hives, too. Looking back, we know he had A1 steak sauce one evening (barely any, but it contains "spices"...not sure if there is cinnamon, but he did break out in hives after eating). Another night, he had some mustard and a little bit of hot dog and ended dinner with more hives. Both have "spices." So, we're not sure, but we suspect they all have cinnamon in them. That or there is another allergy.

So, we know at least cinnamon is an allergen for him. This will not be a fun one. We thought eggs were hard enough... Now I think God was easing us in! The problem with cinnamon? Well, for one, it's not one of the top 8 allergens, which are required by law to be clearly labeled on products...meaning cinnamon is NOT required to be labeled. Cinnamon is often used with other spices, and you will more often see the label "spices" or "natural flavorings" listed in ingredients, rather than the specific spices, such as cinnamon! Another thing...it is in SO much! Not just baked goods. The other day someone was talking to us about the allergy, and they said, "Oh, well that's not a bad one to have. Maybe even a good one!" meaning it would keep someone from eating a lot of baked goods. Um, no. Not the case. Plenty of savory foods contain cinnamon, such as spaghetti sauce and pizza...even ketchup and other common sauces. Oh, this will be fun, right? HA. I've read it's not a very uncommon allergy, actually. But it also seems like for most, the problem is contact dermatitis, so it's mainly a problem if someone has it touch them, and they'll get a little red and irritated where it touched their skin, even in their mouth maybe. For Aiden, it's clear this is way more than that. After consuming the one muffin, the hives covered his entire body. I've also read this is an allergen that easily gets worse over time, not better. We've already seen Aiden's reactions get worse with repeated exposure, but I know it could be much worse, and hopefully that won't happen.

A friend recently asked what about the fact that he's had cinnamon before? Well, up until this summer, he really hasn't had much. We haven't been avoiding it on purpose, he just simply hasn't had much. Blame some of the other allergy stuff and special diets he's been on...with already having eggs out of the picture and then going on a gluten-free diet for however many months, we really didn't bake. When you throw in us not letting him eat many sugary foods, there went any baked goods he might have had. He has had it some on oatmeal or sweet potatoes, but he really doesn't use the spice that often even with those foods. So...his exposure really has been minimal until we started making this granola. And then he was exposed regularly, even if it was just a tiny bit at a time.

We will still be going for testing, of course. We still wonder if he has other food allergies, due to random hives that have appeared over the last year. And we want to be sure we are correct about this allergy. Plus, we're not sure if he's allergic just to cinnamon or if he has tree allergies, in general (cinnamon would be included under that umbrella).

We're learning how many things actually have this spice in them, and we've already spent a good amount of time calling or emailing companies. I have a feeling we're going to be learning how to make a lot more things from scratch. I didn't think that was too possible, but apparently it is. Homemade ketchup anyone?

Aiden's still had some hives pop up over the weekend and this week. Saturday wasn't unexpected, since it was the day after the big reaction, but even today there are still red hives appearing, disappearing, reappearing, etc. The other day, I went to swipe something else on his cheek, and when Aiden saw my finger coming at his face, he screamed, "NO Cinnamon!!" I think he's already terrified of the stuff. :( Maybe that's a good thing? Not fun, though. We'll see what happens with his appointment soon. Until then, we're going to try to relax a little about it all, avoiding cinnamon, of course.


Becky said...

I think Colin may have some skin contact issues with cinnamon. I use it in our yogurt on occasion (apple and cinnamon in plain yogurt is yummy) and once or twice he came away with a pretty pink face. It never went beyond that so I didn't think to much of it until you mentioned it. To be honest, I think it started after I bought the Trader Joe's cinnamon but not with traditional.. I'll have to do a skin test I guess.

Daisy and Ryan said...

Does he seem to have a problem when it's in baked goods - or is it just when the raw cinnamon touches him? From what I've read, contact dermatitis from cinnamon really isn't all that uncommon, so that might be what he has. Hopefully that's all it is.

It really hurt Aiden when I put it on his face. The other day I went to touch something else to his skin, and before he knew what it was or before I actually swiped it on him, he started screaming "NO CINNAMON!!" Poor boy is already terrified of the stuff. Guess that's a good thing, though...

Meaghan said...

good to know. my son has a lot of skin/allergy problems too!

Becky said...

Where did you go? Have you figured anything out yet?