This is a series focused on personal journey with eczema while managing a certain aspect of life. Today, we have Janice, whose son has allergies and daughter has eczema, and shares how she juggles her time managing both children’s allergic conditions and work. Janice is a working mom, read more about her here.
Marcie Mom: Hi Janice, it’s good to have you share in this series! Let’s start with you sharing a little of your children’s condition, what are both of their triggers?
Janice: Hi Mei, thanks for having me on your series. My daughter has had eczema since she was a baby and was prescribed hydrocortisone ointment at 6 months old. Her eczema usually occurs in the crooks of her arms and flares up with stress or other environmental conditions (chlorine from swimming pools, dry weather). I suspected she may have had food allergies as well. An Allergist confirmed when she was 2.5 years old that she was allergic to fish, ingestion and contact. She avoids fish and fish products. Our dry climate and long winters also cause itchy skin. So we try to keep hers and our own skin hydrated via drinking more water and slathering on lots of moisturizing cream. We still use hydrocortisone on her skin if the eczema episode is too itchy and causing discomfort.
My son has multiple food allergies and we suspected this when he started eating solid foods at 6 months old. He would have redness and small hives around his mouth after he ate his baby cereals and diaper rashes. Our Allergist confirmed he was allergic to dairy, egg, peanut, and tree nuts. Ingesting a small amount of any of these allergens causes hives, itching, swelling, and vomiting. Without immediate attention he will experience difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis. He is also contact sensitive, meaning if any of his allergens come in contact with his skin hives, itching and swelling occurs. Since diagnosis of his multiple food allergies everywhere my son goes, he or one of his parents will carry epinephrine auto injectors (Epi-pen or Allerject) and liquid antihistamine (Benadryl or Reactine) for immediate treatment. We try our best to ensure my son’s food do not contain any of his allergens to avoid any reactions.
Marcie Mom: Was it hard juggling both children’s conditions or did one get better and offer some time for you to take care of the next?
Janice: My daughter’s eczema is much easier to manage than my son’s multiple food allergies. Eczema flare ups are not life threatening for my daughter. Normally her eczema clears ups and we manage and monitor until the next episode. As for her fish allergies, she doesn’t eat it and we ensure no fish or fish products are in her food.
There is a 2.5 year gap between my children. My daughter was becoming more independent and self-sufficient to allow us time to learn how to manage our son’s food allergies when our Allergist confirmed which allergens. We were also lucky to have other family members and friends to help us with their own personal experiences on managing food allergies. My best friend’s daughter was allergic to the same food allergens as my son. We had immediate help and support with navigating grocery shopping and answers to questions. It was overwhelming at first, but small steps and changes to how we shopped and what we ate helped keep my son safe. If we didn’t have the immediate support, I did find other food allergy information and resources available online and at our public library. I also talked to your Allergist and other health professionals for additional support.
Managing our son’s food allergies, to be honest is stressful and time consuming. Every meal has to be planned. Every grocery shopping trip requires due diligence. Dining out is a hassle. Vacation planning starts with research into dining options and where the nearest hospital or medical facility is located in the event he has an allergic reaction. Until my son is old enough to help manage his food allergies, his parents are his first line of defense to keeping him safe.
Marcie Mom: What measures do you have to take now – for the allergy mainly?
Janice: My husband and I are constantly monitoring my son’s food and surroundings to keep him safe. We try to avoid his food allergens with different measures to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction or incident. Yet we are realistic and we cannot shelter and protect our son from all life experiences and environments.
We spend a lot of time researching and educating ourselves on food ingredients and products. We buy local and organic foods where possible. We eat whole food meals at home and we do like to dine out. To dine out, we contact restaurants to confirm allergen free and safe meals are available for my son. We have taught our son to manage his food allergies, to the best of his abilities and age. He knows not to accept food from others and even confirms with us if the food he will eat is safe.
We provide family members, friends, our son’s teachers and schools food allergy information to raise awareness and educate them of our son’s allergens to help all of us keep him safe. If our son is not at preschool, we have a sitter take care of him at our home. This measure keeps our son safe, as we felt sending him to a daycare even if it was nut free facility the possibility of a dairy or egg allergy incident was still high. Though there is also a possibility an allergic reaction may occur at home, the probability is reduced with his one-on-one care versus being at a daycare or day-home. With all of these measures, we try to keep our son safe and reduce the risk of exposure to his food allergens.
Marcie Mom: One final question – what advice would you give to a mom who has 2 children with allergic conditions?
Janice: Firstly they are not alone and there is a “food allergy army” available either in their community or online who can help and provide support. Secondly I would recommend they build a tool-kit, to help them navigate and manage their children’s food allergies. My tool-kit is filled with
- reference materials from online and print resources on food safety, product ingredients, recipes, and other parents experiences with managing food allergies
- contact numbers of friends, family and medical professionals who I can call on when I need help and support
- my kids’ medication and action plan
- safe food and snacks
Marcie Mom: Thank you Janice for your sharing especially your precious tip on the tool-kit! Many moms can identify with having more than one child with eczema/allergy.