(Disclaimer: Information in this blog post is personal only and not to be taken as medical advice.)
Plus 5 Tips for Your Toddler’s First Allergist Appointment
Today, after months of delaying, I finally took my 1.5-year-old son to the allergist.
He starting getting allergic reactions to food right around 6 months old and his pediatrician referred us to an allergist.
However, I’d heard that it can be difficult to put a baby through allergy testing. For this reason, I decided that I would wait until my son was a bit older. This way, I could explain everything to him and talk him through the appointment better. I was thinking that a good age would be around 3 – 4 years old.
But, a couple of weeks ago I had a horrible nightmare.
In the dream, my aunt fed the kids chickpea snacks. She didn’t know, however, that my son had a suspected chickpea allergy. He had eaten the snacks by the handful. By the time I realized what had happen, he was lying unconscious on the floor. Luckily, he was still breathing, but I was in a panic as I realized that I never went to the allergist and never got an EpiPen. The best I could do was try to get him to the emergency room as fast as I could.
That morning, when I woke up, I made plans to take him to the allergist.
Our First Allergist Appointment-Plus 5 Tips for Toddler Allergy Testing
Tip #1: Bring Your Toddler’s Favorite Snacks or Candy
The WiFi wasn’t working on my phone so when the allergist arrived, she turned on the t.v. in the room and put on a cartoon. Meanwhile, my son found a lollipop that I had stuffed into my fanny pack. I had planned to give him the lollipop after the appointment, but I let him have it while the allergist and I talked.
By the time the appointment was over, my son had gone through three lollipops!
Tip #2: Dress Your Toddler in a Comfortable Shirt that is Easy to Take On and Off
Having a shirt that is easy to take on and off is helpful as a toddler can be nervous before and uncomfortable after the skin prick testing portion of the appointment.
Toddler Allergy Testing – Skin Prick
Since my son was so young, the allergist informed us that they would test for only the suspected allergens and highly related allergens.
Yet, this still required about 20 skin pricks (two of these pricks were controls; histamine was the positive and saline was the negative).
The allergist left and the nurse returned to do the skin pricking.
When it was time for the skin pricking, I took off my son’s shirt and held him on my lap, chest to chest.
The nurse informed me that I needed to keep my son from touching his back, so I grabbed my son’s hand and held them firmly next to me.
The nurse started by cleaning off my son’s back with alcohol on a cotton ball. She then proceeded to mark my son’s back with numbers. Next, she began quickly pricking him with the allergens.
Tip #3: Be Prepared for Potentially a Lot of Crying, Squirming, and Screaming.
After about the fifth prick, my son started to cry and fuss.
He was very unhappy and was wriggling to get free. But I continued to hold him tightly in place and keep his hands by my sides.
I felt really bad for him and kept telling him “I’m sorry, buddy.” It was no fun.
Once the nurse was done, she again reminded me that I needed to make sure he didn’t touch his back.
She let me know that we would need to wait 15 minutes before measuring his reaction.
My son had finished his first lollipop, so I asked the nurse to grab another one from my diaper bag.
She handed him the lollipop then left the room.
The next 15 minutes were the longest ever!
He was definitely developing allergic reactions and kept trying to scratch his back.
To keep my son distracted, I ran around the room and spun around in circles while holding his other hand (he held a lollipop with the opposite hand). When he calmed down a bit, I walked up to the t.v. and excitedly pointed at the different movie characters.
Still, he fussed and squirmed and cried and screamed.
Finally, I heard the timer go off and the nurse returned.
The nurse measured the reactions on his back with a small card that had a hole in it.
After getting all the measurements, she wiped off his back with a cotton ball and alcohol. She asked if I wanted her to put some hydrocortisone cream on the welts and I said “yes”.
After putting the cream on my son, I put his shirt back on and we waited to speak to the allergist about the results.
Tip #4: Prepare Questions Ahead of Time for the Allergist
It can be hard to think of all the different things you want to ask the allergist when you’re in the office. My husband and I came up with several questions beforehand.
These were my top 3 questions for the allergist as well as her answers.
I’ve heard of many cross-reactive allergens. Is there a safe way for me to test those allergens at home?
No. It’s best to avoid any suspected allergens until they can be safely tested in the clinic. If a clinic test is negative, then it is okay to carefully introduce the food to your son.
What are the chances that my son will outgrow his allergies?
The chances of a child outgrowing certain food allergies are 15 – 18%. So it does happen, but the chances are low.
Is it safe for me to give my son oils made from the foods that he’s allergic to?
No. He may be able to tolerate the oils better because some of the allergy-causing protein may have been removed, but it is best to just avoid the food and anything made from it.
Tip #5: Ask Your Allergist if You Can Bring Suspected Allergens for Testing to the First Appointment
There were two foods that the allergist didn’t have on hand because they stock only the most common allergens. Because of this, we have to return for additional skin prick testing.
The allergist informed us to boil or cook the food if necessary.
I wished I had known beforehand that I could bring food in for testing to save us the extra trip.
Taking Allergies Seriously
At the end of the appointment, the nurse came by to educate us on what to do if our son eats something he’s allergic to.
She told us that if he eats one of the things that he’s allergic to and we see any kind of a reaction, even as mild as hives or lip swelling, we are to administer the EpiPen and go to the ER.
I told her that that seemed extreme but she explained that it was important to get ahead of an anaphylactic reaction.
When I got home, I reviewed the results with my husband, Paul, and informed him that I would be tossing out everything that my son was allergic to.
Of course, Paul thought I was being extreme. Especially, since he loves many of the foods that my son is allergic to.
But, I told Paul that I wasn’t going to take any chances.
Overall, Paul and I felt like the appointment was a success. I was nervous about the skin pricking, but it was necessary for us to find out what our son is allergic to.
Furthermore, I’m glad to have an Epipen on hand. I hope we never have to use it, but I feel better knowing that we have it just in case.
Growing up in Hmong culture, we commonly discussed our dreams with friends and family. Thus, I have a habit of paying close attention to and remembering my dreams. Read more about how my dreams have affected my life in these two posts: Dreaming of Divorce and Finding Love Part 1.