Healthy Kids    

My child is dying!

Local mom saves her child with just minutes to spare

The smell of scrambled eggs filled the air as Jen served breakfast to her son. Glancing in the pan, Jennifer realized she’d made more eggs than her son could eat, so she handed them over to her daughter.

Sissy had never tried eggs before, but since she showed no signs of allergic reaction to egg-yolk based baby pasta, Jen reasoned it would be okay to give Sissy the eggs.

Could delaying solid food cause allergies?

The sudden onset

Sissy examined the yellow concoction for a moment then put the unknown substance into her mouth. Within moments, Jennifer became alarmed. As she watched red blotches appear on her daughter’s face and her wrists swell, Jennifer’s medical experience as a first responder and volunteer firefighter kicked in. Sissy’s entire face and both arms were now red and swollen. Jen knew she had approximately 16 minutes before Sissy’s airway could be lost.

Her husband, Luke, stayed with their son while Jennifer rushed Sissy to her pediatrician, Dr. Stuart Tashman of Wurtsboro Medical Associates. Jennifer’s instincts were verified when Dr. Tashman swooped up the baby carrier and ran back towards an exam room, calling, “Follow me, mom” over his shoulder.

A crisis averted
After three epinephrine shots and 4 hours of breathing treatments on a nebulizer, the crisis passed. During the car ride home, Jennifer finally had a chance to process the implications of what had just occurred. Sissy had suffered a severe form of anaphylactic reaction to egg whites. Her daughter had a food allergy that would require diligent monitoring for the rest of her life.      

Are shots the solution to allergies?

Over the coming months, they learned Sissy is allergic to so many foods that Jen had to create a pantry tailored to only foods Sissy could eat. Peanuts, strawberries, watermelon, yeast, corn, wheat, gluten, milk and soy are just a few of the foods that are dangerous to Sissy. Even food made with one of those ingredients could spell disaster for Sissy. The cherished family cat was tearfully given away, as Sissy developed an allergy to cat dander. Life for the Robinholt family all but revolves around protecting Sissy from dangerous allergic reactions, while working to allow as much normalcy in their lives as possible.        

For many people, Sissy’s story seems incredible. But for other families with children suffering from allergies, as well as pediatricians, school nurses and  ENT professionals, this story is a familiar one.

Common food allergies
Dr. Tashman treats not only Sissy Robinholt, but many other patients with allergies and intolerances. The most common food allergies Dr. Tashman sees are for eggs, milk, wheat and dairy. Symptoms of these allergies can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include fatigue, dark circles under the eyes, congestion, hives, abdominal pain, eczema and what is colloquially referred to as, “the allergic salute” — redness and creases around the nose from persistent rubbing.

Testing for allergies
Colleen Zyla, RN and Clinical Research Coordinator at ENT Allergy and Associates in Newburgh, notes that her office has many pediatric patients with suspected allergies. Depending on the suspected allergen and patient history with the allergen, a physician may perform a scratch test and/or a RAST to determine the sensitivity of the patient.
The scratch test involves placing a small amount of allergen on the skin to assess the reaction.

The RAST is a blood test that assesses allergens in panels consisting of a group of suspected allergy-causing substances like weeds, trees or animals. If a milk allergy is suspected, a milk protein specific IGE (immunoglobulin E anti-body) blood test is performed to diagnose the allergy. The test assesses the immunological reaction to milk protein.

Should you send your child to school with food allergies?

When it comes to introducing new foods into an infant’s diet, Dr. Tashman says “It is always recommended to wait at least 4 to 7 days before the new meal and to introduce one new meal at the time. This allows parents to see if any allergic reactions occur like rashes, diarrhea, breathing issues or swelling.”

Tests are worth it.
Paula Vallenga of Otisville understands tests may be expensive, but they are well
worth it. When her daughter, Harley, was in fourth grade, she constantly complained of fatigue. Her child’s ever-present dark bags under her eyes and frequent illnesses prodded Paula to have her tested.        

After time consuming and costly procedures, Harley was found not to be suffering from allergies at all, but was prone to many intolerances that manifested in similar symptoms. Paula and her husband Mike paid about a thousand dollars for all the tests, but consider it money well spent as Harley is virtually symptom-free.

Barbara Allen is the author of the book, “Front Toward Enemy.” She is involved in organizations supporting veterans and is working on her second book.