This is a series focused on personal journey with eczema while managing a certain aspect of life. Today, we have Kristin Beltaos, whose son has severe food allergies and shares how she manages his allergies via allergy testing. Kristin is a member of the Anaphylaxis & Food Allergy Association of Minnesota’s Speakers’ Bureau and a consultant/licensed trainer and owner of A Gift of Miles.
Marcie Mom: Hi Kristin, thanks for taking time to share with us about allergy testing. Let’s start with you sharing your son’s allergy history – when did he have them and did it show up as rashes on the skin?
Kristin: Hi Marcie, thanks for asking me to participate. My son’s allergies exhibited themselves prior to us leaving the hospital from his birth. He vomited and scream-cried after breastfeeding multiple times a day; physicians and nurses attributed the vomiting to a baby’s underdeveloped digestive tract. At six weeks, his pediatrician decided to have an Upper GI Series to rule out pyloric stenosis, a narrowing of the pylorus, the opening from the stomach into the small intestine that causes severe projectile non-bilious vomiting in the first few months of life. This test came back negative. It was decided that he had severe acid reflux and prescribed Zantac and later Prevacid in order to control his condition.
For the next seven months his vomiting continued, he also had eczema, unexplained hives, did not transition to baby food or table food and was labeled borderline failure to thrive for 18-months.
Two particular instances made us think something more was happening than acid reflux. The first was that I tried to wean a breastfeeding and provided him with a milk-based formula. He literally had one drop on his lips; his head looked like a red, cherry tomato and he scream-cried for over an hour. At first I thought, ok, ok, you’re a breast man and you don’t want a bottle. Then connecting the dots had us questioning…is this a clue for something else?
The second was the straw for my husband and I. I’d describe my son as a happy, but fussy baby. I know that sounds contrary, but he really was happy. One morning, he was fussy and I picked him up and kissed him all over his head to make him laugh. For every kiss that I gave him he had a nickel size hive, there were eight hives for eight kisses. I had cereal that morning, and while my lips weren’t wet with milk, there was residue. Later we found he was allergic to milk by touch and ingestion, along with other allergens.
Lastly, because of missing the window between four and nine months when oral motor skills are developed, he served 18-months in the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics Feeding Clinic to learn how to orally manipulate his food, i.e., chew, transition food from side-to-side, learn how much to chew prior to attempt swallowing and work on food texture issues. Even after he was diagnosed with his food allergies at 11-months, his food challenges haunted him until he was just shy of his fourth birthday.
I have to say all the while this was going on, I always knew something was wrong. I knew the doctors were missing something. So I tell parents, especially mothers, know that you aren’t going crazy and to seek opinions until you find an answer.
Marcie Mom: When was your child’s first allergy test and how did the physician help you to interpret his test results?
Kristin: At 11 months, my son had a Radioallergosorbent Test, commonly known as RAST Test, which is a blood test used to determine to what substances a person is allergic. Our pediatrician broke the news to us that he was allergic to Cow’s Milk (including by touch due to the cereal and kiss episode), Eggs, Peanuts and Tree Nuts. In the summer of 2011 we added Sesame to his list.
After his diagnosis, we moved to a board certified allergist for care.
Marcie Mom: How often is a repeat allergy test required? And did it benefit your family to learn of new/ outgrown allergies?
Kristin: Obviously allergy testing is recommended whenever you have a new and/or unexplained reaction of course. For management of already diagnosed food allergies, the recommendation may vary from allergist to allergist and based upon each patient’s individual allergies and needs. Personally, I have my son’s allergies reviewed on an annual basis.
Coincidentally, we just had his allergen review within the past week. We received good and bad news. His Cow’s Milk numbers have been on the rise in the past two years, very disappointing as you can imagine. In this last test, his numbers more than doubled, placing him in the next Class level, Class 4 that is labeled as a Strong Positive. Our allergist continues to encourage us to stay hopeful, that the big reveal would be closer to when he enters high school as to whether this may be a lifelong allergy. He’s only seven, soon to be eight, so we have some time yet.
His Egg numbers have stayed the same; however, we are able to do a Baked Egg Challenge to see if he might be able to consume Egg in a baked good, i.e., muffins, cupcakes, cake, bread, etc. This is a test done in a supervised medical environment, clinic or hospital, with your board certified allergist or other medical representative present. I should add that this type of Challenge is not something done at home in your own experimentation.
We’re also investigating, via another blood test, whether he might be a candidate for a Baked Milk Challenge. The results remain to be seen on this front.
Peanut is no longer tested for because his numbers are too high. It is believed that peanuts will be a lifelong allergy.
Interestingly enough, his Tree Nut results have come back negative, pointing to outgrowing this allergy. We will investigate with a skin test to confirm and of course orally test him by having him consume Tree Nut(s) that are processed on dedicated lines with no risk of cross contamination with peanuts.
Lastly, his Sesame results came back very low, which may point to him outgrowing this allergy as well. We will pursue a skin test, should he pass, a Sesame Oral Food Challenge would be in the cards for him.
As you can see, testing regularly not only allows you to know the status of a person’s allergies. Moreover, if a child outgrows an allergy or allergens, it permits the reintroduction of food items permitting an expansion in diet. An expanding diet is ALWAYS a good thing. : )
Marcie Mom: One final question – for a mom who has difficultly with figuring out false positives in test results, what would you recommend to do?
Kristin: I honestly do not have any recommendations regarding false positives. What I do recommend is finding and partnering with a board certified allergist that you truly trust. In doing so, you’ll feel confident in the recommendations provided and can go about living life to the fullest with food allergies.
Marcie Mom: Thank you so much for sharing your journey on managing allergies and allergy testing – many eczema families are also ‘figuring’ this out and your sharing will be useful for them!
About Kristin Beltaos, M.A. – Kristin is the owner of A Gift of Miles, offers food allergy one-on-one consulting, national and local trainings, school consulting, and parent/school advocacy; and serves the markets of stress, with subspecialties, and reproductive challenges. She is a Licensed Trainer with the Minnesota Center for Professional Development, teaching food allergy continuing education to early childhood and school age providers and educators, a member of the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota’s (AFAA) Speaker’s Bureau and a former board member. Kristin wrote and drove the implementation of the first food allergy 504 Plan in her child’s school, was influential in creating a new school food policy which eliminated food celebrations (both in classroom and school wide) – a policy that other schools are interested in emulating. Kristin was named a Top 25 Food Allergy Mom, 2012 by Circle of Moms. Stay happy and informed by following Kristin on her Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.