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Food challenge: When children outgrow food allergy

SANDRA JORDAN | 10/12/2015, 6:48 a.m.
Starting kindergarten marked new beginnings for Joy Haire and her parents, Will and Lisa Haire. Just before the school year ...
A Food Challenge confirmed that Joy Haire outgrew a dairy allergy that put ice cream, milk, cheese and all food that included dairy products off her menu for the first five years. St. Louis American

(NNPA) – Starting kindergarten marked new beginnings for Joy Haire and her parents, Will and Lisa Haire. Just before the school year started, through a Food Challenge, Joy’s doctor determined she outgrew the serious and potentially life-threatening dairy allergy that surfaced a few weeks before her first birthday.

Food allergy is an immune system response. The body’s immune system identifies a food protein as dangerous and tries to protect itself by creating antibodies against it and releasing histamines and other substances in the blood.

Common food allergies in children include peanuts, milk, eggs, tree nuts, such as pecans, almonds, cashews and walnuts, and soy and wheat. In adults, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish (especially shrimp) are the most common foods that cause food allergy, according to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

In Joy’s case, she was taking one antibiotic for a stubborn double ear infection and was prescribed a stronger antibiotic to clear it up. Thinking back on the incident, Joy’s mother said within 30 minutes after taking the antibiotic and eating Greek yogurt (to prevent stomach upset and diarrhea, as a pharmacist suggested), the allergic reaction began. Joy was a breast-fed baby and had never had dairy products or formula, in addition to taking a new medication.

“She was restless almost immediately after ingesting the two new substances, tossing, turning, hitting and very uncomfortable. All unusual behaviors at the time,” mom Lisa Haire said.

They soon realized they were dealing with much more than a cranky baby.

“God orders things. Will was awake. If the entire house had gone to bed, we might not have caught her reaction for six to eight hours instead of two,” Joy’s mother said. “At two hours, she was not having breathing difficulties and we were able to get her reaction stopped before it progressed further.”

The Haires rushed their daughter to a nearby emergency department.

“When we got to the ER … she was unrecognizable with severe facial swelling, having full body hives, and skin hot to the touch,” she said.

Benadryl and steroids eventually counteracted the frightening reaction. Doctors suspected that baby Joy was allergic to dairy as well as to the antibiotic. Joy’s dairy allergy was not confirmed for several months after her initial reaction.

“We had to wait for the swelling to go down. It took nearly two weeks. She still had facial swelling for her first Christmas. We had follow-up appointments with her pediatrician,” she said. “During her annual lab work, a blood test confirmed the dairy allergy.”

The Haires were referred to a pediatric allergist, who later confirmed her dairy allergy with a skin test. The Haires went to St. Louis allergist and pediatrician Ray Davis, M.D.

A food allergy and anaphylaxis website provided a list of food ingredients containing dairy in it that may not be as obvious to most people. It was copied for grandparents and caregivers. Everyone read food ingredients. Joy’s mom and dad carried an EpiPen (epinephrine injector) wherever they went and each grandparent’s home had an EpiPen, as well as the preschool she attended. Fortunately, they never had to use them. If someone does get an epinephrine injection, seek emergency medical help immediately to prevent the return of the reaction and to stabilize the patient medically.