Food Challenge: Eggs!

Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

A few months ago, we experienced our first food challenge. Long story short, it did not go well. We brought a wheat roll into the allergy office and it was separated up into 4 different doses for Olivia to eat. The first round went great, the second round went down with ease, but when we hit the third round of wheat, Olivia refused to swallow. She started to sneeze, cough and rub her eyes. Since her reaction to the wheat involved two different body systems, we knew she was in fact still allergic to wheat and was experiencing anaphylaxis. She was given Benedryl and watched very closly to be sure we stopped the food challenge in time and that no other system had been affected. We left that appointment in tears. We were so confident and sure se had outgrown her wheat allergy – more wishful thinking than anything. And when she had such a poor reaction, it really took the wind out of our sails. 

Putting your baby through a food challenge feels like you are going into the doctors office just to feed them poison. I know that may seem a little drastic but at the end of the day, that is what these foods are to kids like Olivia. Wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts or tree nuts COULD kill her if ingested. So going into the office to purposefully give her the food she is allergic to feels unnatural and cruel. Unfortunatly, food challenges are a necessary evil in the world of food allergies. Skin pricks and blood  tests can only tell you so much – you have to actually eat the food before you know for sure if you are still allergic or not. Scary but necessary. 

A few months have passed and our wounds and broken egos have healed from the wheat challenge and Olivia’s latest blood test showed it was time for the next challenge…EGGS!

We talked to Olivia about her food challenge coming up and that she would be able to try eggs and she was so excited! She woke up this morning like a kid on Christmas. Her eyes opened, she called for Dada and her first words were, “Dada cook eggs!” At least one of us was pumped up – Dan and I were a WRECK! It is so stressful that we found ourselves walking around the house aimlessly trying to get ready and out the door. Olivia wouldn’t leave without her Anna dress, Peppa Pig rain boots and ‘Livey baby’ but as soon as she had the essentials, she was ready to go! This time around, we had a much more realistic approach to the food challenge. We were going to take it step by step. 

First: We got to the office and they do a skin prick test to see how her skin reacts to the food. She did show a small reaction to eggs – a small little hive where she had been pricked. This is the part of food allergies that is such a hard science to follow because that small hive could have been her eczema flaring because ya know, someone just pricked her skin and its irritating, rather than a true reaction to the egg The doctor deemed it small enough to proceed. So on to the next step.

Next: round one. Olivia was amped up to try eggs. Don’t worry; we didn’t forget the DipDip (ketchup)! She ate and loved the first dose and it went down with ease. She immediately asked for more and was disappointed when she had to wait 15 minutes before the next dose of eggs. Nothing a little Peppa Pig couldn’t fix.

Round two: this dose was a little bigger than the first but could still be eaten in one bite, covered in ketchup. Still asking for more…15 minutes on the clock…

Round three: This dose was even bigger than the first two. She had to take two bites with this one and by that second bite she was done with eggs. She tried to spit it out but that food had to go right back in! She kept the eggs in her mouth and swallowed, reluctantly. That excitement over eggs had now dissipated and we were left with a toddler who wanted out! To make matters worse, she developed a hive on her chin – AH! The doctor came in to check the hive and just told us to watch it closely. Thankfully, it wasn’t bad enough that we had to stop the challenge – just some extra anxiety for momma and dada.  15 minutes and counting…

Round four: this last dose of eggs came in and it was a doozy. The cup was almost filled to the top with scrambled eggs and Olivia wanted nothing to do with it; but she did want some of her sweet potatoes that we packed for lunch. My friends, I have never been more proud of myself than I am for what I did next. I hid the scrambled eggs in with a spoonful of sweet potatoes and she ate them without complaint. Now, the eggs had to be COMPLETELY hidden. I mean, if you could see any yellow, she would not take a bite. She would only eat the eggs if they were hidden in sweet potatoes and ketchup – but it didn’t matter how she ate them, just as long as she did. I held my breath the entire dose and didn’t relax until that last bite of egg went into her mouth AND was swallowed.  We did it. Four rounds of a food that is essentially poisonous to Olivia, down the hatch! This time we had to wait 45 minutes…

During this 45 minutes, we played with the Doc. McStuffins doctor kit, watched Pepa Pig and 101 Dalmations on the iPad and even read some books – all while watching every little red mark, scratch or sneeze that came from this tiny little kiddo. After the 45 minutes were up, the doctor came in and gave us the good news – Olivia PASSED THE SCRAMBLED EGG CHALLENGE!

Now what does that mean? Well, because her skin still reacted to the egg i.e the scratch test reaction and the small hive on her chin, we should still avoid raw egg. So, we will still avoid Mayo (vegan Mayo is way better anyway!) and some frostings that contain raw egg. This means no over easy eggs or raw cookie dough for Olivia. BUT we can scramble up eggs for breakfast, make pancakes and cupcakes without having to substitute flaxseed or applesauce and she can go to her favorite bakery and order whatever she wants – not just from the egg free section!! For the next two weeks, I have to give Olivia 1 egg a day and watch her like a hawk…I know right? I have an exciting 2 weeks ahead…but once she does that for 2 weeks, we are in the clear and can just give her eggs as she wants them. She has officially outgrown egg and we couldn’t be more excited. So my friends, just keep challenging! Challenge the impossible every day – you never know what you may outgrow!

Our First Allergy Food Challenge

Food Allergies, Our Latest Adventures

When we first found out Olivia was born with life threatening food allergies, she was only tested for peanuts and tree nuts. At the next appointment, following some negative reactions to certain foods, we added an allergy to eggs and dairy and at the third and final test, we added wheat. At each appointment we got more bad news piled on us. And despite the fact that these diagnoses were all unfavorable, it was nice to have answers. Our experience giving Olivia her first foods was unpleasant – she didn’t “like” anything we gave her – spaghetti, bread, and of course peanut butter – all did not go over well! So to find out that the reason she didn’t “like” the food was that they made her sick was a double edge sword – well, at least we had answers.

At our last appointment, Olivia had to get yet another skin test. The skin test involves a prick that is dipped in the allergen, and that prick is then pushed into her skin. We then wait 15 minutes to see if her skin reacts to the allergen. This time around, wheat and egg came back as being smaller than they were before which prompted the allergist to suggest we do a food challenge. A food challenge is when you are in the office surrounded by doctors and nurses and you give the allergic person the allergy to see what they can tolerate. Our hope was that because the skin test came back smaller than before (which means she is still technically allergic) she may be able to tolerate some wheat and egg! This would calm some of the anxiety we have on going out to eat or in public places in regards to cross contamination and touch reactions. We chose to do the wheat food challenge because if she passed this test, our world would open up! Bread? Toast? Crackers? YAY!

When you do a food challenge, the person being tested must not have any allergy medicine 5 days prior to test day. I also wish we would have known – don’t fill that kid up on lunch! They have to eat a lot of their allergen to pass the challenge – for Olivia, she would have to eat an entire roll and a half! If you know Olivia, that will make you laugh – which we totally did – at the nurse. She barely eats that much food in a day! Let alone in one sitting of a food she’s never had! But we were optimistic. At the beginning of the appointment they confirmed that Olivia wasn’t sick with any runny nose, cough or congestion. Then, she was skin pricked again to be sure wheat was still st the same levels as before. She was then cleared to be challenged!

The nurse prepared 5 doses of the allergen for the child to digest. We were armed with benedryl, 2 Epipens and water just in case we needed it! In the worst case scenario, Olivia could have gone into anaphylactic shock right there in front of us from us deliberately giving her what she’s allergic to – needless to say, my husband and I were nauseous and white faced the entire time. The first does went amazing! Olivia ate it in under 30 seconds! She seemed to love the flavor – of course she would – she is my daughter and bread is a carb. She got down on the floor and played wirh her books and puppies between every dose. The second dose was as easy as the first. The third dose is where we saw Olivia really slow down. She barely got through this dose which was a quarter roll. We thought maybe she was just getting full, until we started seeing more ominous symptoms…

After her third dose, Olivia started to sneeze every couple minutes. I remember looking into Dan’s eyes and its like we spoke to each other with no words. We knew sneezing was a symptom of anaphylaxis. Her sneezing seemed to subside so we moved forward. Her fourth dose was a giant one. We sat together and I held the first bite up to Olivia and she refused. We tried to hard to get her to eat more bread – we were so close to the end! She only needed to finish five doses to pass – but it wasn’t happening. So we knew she was all done. All of a sudden she started to sneeze again but this time, it was paired with coughing and a runny nose. We knew her body was fighting the wheat and it was time to call it. The doctor came in to check her out and assess if we needed to give her the Epi Pen. Her symptoms were mild and only required Benadryl for the time being. We waited in the office for an additional 60 minutes to be sure she was safe and would not go into anaphalixis. After we were cleared to leave, the doctor confirmed what we already knew – Olivia had failed her wheat challenge. Failing a food challenge meant she would need to continue to avoid foods containing wheat, that may contain wheat or foods that are made on shared lines with wheat. This was something we were already doing so we were used to this scenario but we were very disappointed the results did not turn out better. On a positive note, since Olivia was able to tolerate some wheat, the doctor was optimistic that she may not be contact reactive to wheat, rather is only allergic if she ingests wheat.

We left the office feeling defeated and uneasy. Olivia was irritable and exhausted – her nose continued to run but her other symptoms subsided with the Benedryl. That night we watched her closely, fearing a biphasic reaction to the wheat – this is a secondary anaphylactic reaction that can occur hours after the initial exposure to the allergen. We held her close all night and luckily, she was back to her old self in the morning.

In the days that followed, Dan and I thought about whether we felt that challenging wheat was worth it. Despite being terrified in the office and the failed results, we ultimately think it was 100% worth doing. We learned that if Olivia were to touch a loaf of bread and put her hands in her mouth on accident – she would probably be okay! Her body was able to tolerate a small dose meaning if she comes into contact with wheat, she should be able to handle the allergen. And we learned that she is indeed allergic to ingesting wheat – something Dan and I weren’t totally sure of before the challenge. We are hopeful she will outgrow her wheat allergy – being that nearly 80% of kids outgrow their allergy to wheat by age 5! So, even though food challenges are completely terrifying, they gave us a lot of information and we feel it’s a necessary part of Olivias food allergy adventure.

In the months to come, we will have a baked egg challenge! This challenge requires us to bake a delicious egg muffin for her to eat! If she passes this challenge, we can start baking her items with egg in them which will have added calories and protein! I will keep you all updated when that challenge is! In the meantime, just keep advocating!