Exercise, Day 17: The Allergy Revolution

January 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm 2 comments

I’m proud to say that it’s 10:30 am, and I’m walking.  So, back to a semi-normal schedule now that the kids’ schoolwork is done for last semester and we’re starting out fresh.  The little ones (the younger two, anyway) are contently playing with GeoTrax while the older boys are working on their new schedule of schoolwork.  I’m wishing it was easier to teach while walking, but I really shouldn’t gripe. 😉

Anyway… So.  I was talking with Pangie this morning and was reminded of something from a few years ago.  As most of you probably know, Noah suffered from unusually bad eczema when he was a baby.  It started with a really bad case of cradle cap and it spread downward to cover his entire body.  He stayed that way until he was about three or four, and because it was so bad (the rashes typically covered his entire body save his face and his diaper region) we really ran the gamut of diagnosis and treatment efforts.  At one point we tried to do an SPT on him, but it was nigh on impossible just because there was nowhere on him the skin wasn’t already red and irritated.

At any rate, he was diagnosed with a battery of allergies, including everything from corn and milk and nuts to white potatoes.  We spent about a year and a half trying to cut his exposure to all of it, which meant cutting out everything corn-related (goodbye HCFS), everything potato related, everything milk-related, etc.  The poor kid lived on green beans, boiled chicken and rice for at least a year.  It was terrible, and it didn’t do any good.  In the end, his allergist told us to forget it and just treat his rashes.  Happily, he’s now six years old and breaks out only seasonally as long as we keep a humidifier going in his room.  The rashes respond to Protopic, so we’re at manageable status.

Luke suffers from the same affliction, but to a far lesser degree.  I swear, if you actually ran the DNA for the two of them they’d be twins except for a few minor strands.  The genetic lottery is funny.  But anyway…

Sometime either during or before we dealt with this mess with Noah, Andy and I spent a stint being big fans of The Drew Carey Show.   There was an episode at some point in the show’s run in which Drew is set up on a date with a rich woman named Lindsey Mercer (played by Julia Duffy).  For whatever reason, they hit it off famously and even begin talking about getting married.  Drew, however, worries that Lindsey will not be able to handle giving up her rich lifestyle, since marrying him would mean giving up her sizeable alimony income from her previous marriage.   She insists she can handle it, so he invites her to spend a week living with him so she can find out what she’d be in for.

After only a week of living with Drew, eating macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, etc., Lindsey looks TERRIBLE.  She’s broken out in rashes all over her body and her hair is falling out.   She tells Drew, “I love you.  I just hate your life.” and ends it.

Obviously, this is a sitcom, not a documentary.  My first reaction was, of course, “Ha ha, yeah right.”, of course.  Extremes are funny, after all, which is the whole point.   As we got into the whole POFAK thing with Noah, though (POFAK stands for Parents of Food Allergic Kids, BTW), I found myself ruminating over that episode a lot, though.

Allergies are, to say the least, not well understood.  They do seem to be a lot more prevalent and the reactions, when they happen, seem to be much more serious now than they were in the past.  But there’s always the eternal question: is the incidence/severity really higher, or does it only seem that way because we can diagnose more accurately now?  I don’t know.. But parents of kids dealing with serious allergies will tell you that the more medical science discovers about allergies, the less we seem to understand them.  They don’t appear to follow any particular pattern, for example… they are not necessarily genetic, they are not communicable, they are not dependable in any way.   They just seem to happen out of nowhere, and there is no clear way to avoid or cure them.  Individual allergies don’t even follow a set pattern.   It’s not as if every child who has a peanut allergy reacts the same way.  Some react once and never again.  Some outgrow them as kids.  Some develop them out of nowhere as adults. Some react every single time they eat a peanut.  Some react if a peanut has been in the room where they are standing anytime within the past year.  It’s crazy.

In fact, it’s often hard to nail down exactly what it is that’s causing the reaction, or even if the reaction IS an allergy as opposed to something else.  SPTs are generally assumed to be the most accurate, but they’re rife with false positives.  RASTs and IgG and IgE tests are even less accurate with respect to false positives.  Most allergists use them as a guideline — a sort of ‘well, try avoiding this and see if the problem goes away’ thing — but we have not yet nailed down how to identify a cause with any real degree of certainty.

This being the case, the POFAK crowd often borders on fervor that would put any religious zealot to shame.  Since so much is up in the air, parents are left to interpret the world however they see fit, and diagnose allergy sources based mainly on observation.   They do a lot of freaking out over things, which is understandable — the only thing worse than enduring an anaphylactic reaction yourself is to stand by and watch your own child go through one.   Parental instincts therefore naturally drive POFAKs to react to every potential hazard as they strive to keep their children breathing and comfortable.  Considering we’re told such scariness as ‘the proteins that your child is reacting to may be airborne’, the world suddenly looks like this big, scary place full of invisible protein spectres riding the wind and seeking your baby’s air passages in an effort to do their nefarious dirty work.

Understandably, the culture against all food additives, processing and preservatives is alive and well in POFAK-land.   I joined the support group to find a sympathetic ear and found that within a week I had been inundated with enough ‘The Food Industry Is Killing Us’ literature and such that the idea of moving out into the woods and starting up a self-sustaining commune was sounding better than ever. I’ve always sort of leaned that way anyway, but Food Allergies will make you feel like it’s a do-it-or-die-tomorrow situation.

And this brought to mind poor, fictional Lindsey Mercer.  If you actually HAD grown up eating the best of everything — the most natural, homegrown foods prepared absolutely fresh, nothing processed, no preservatives, no additives — maybe you WOULD have a health breakdown when you suddenly pumped your body full of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Yeesh.

I don’t know.  But one thing I’m really trying to do is wend down the amount of crap the kids are eating now.  If Andy wants to junk it up, that’s fine… he’s an adult.  He can make those decisions for himself.  But wherever I can now I’m making the kids eat vegetables and whole grain stuff now, and I feel better about the whole thing.  I don’t know that it’s improving the boys’ eczema, since we also got a new humidfier for Noah’s and Luke’s room over Christmas, and I’m sure that is what improving their skin as opposed to their diet.  But at least maybe I can persuade them not to dismiss the good stuff as easily as I have done for so long.

Today they’re having Mac-and-Cheese, but it’s ANNIE’S. 😉  I’m not sure how much better that really is, but it’s got to be an improvement, right?  I mean, the stuff costs $2-something a box!

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Entry filed under: Exercise, Successes. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments

  • 1. Wendy  |  January 14, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Interesting though, I had an allergic reaction to my favorite wool sweater after I had my first child. I was also diagnosed with Asthma as an adult, ADD, rosacea and I am sure I have psoriasis and have delt minutely with eczema on my hands. Most of these have manifest as an adult, I also have had sinus allergies that I have delt with since a child….none of mine have been to the extreme of life threatening at this point. Thank goodnes!

    I so relate with moving to the woods on my own!! 😉

  • 2. Jennifer  |  January 14, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I loved the article this snagged in the PRPs:

    http://cleanerplateclub.wordpress.com/2008/01/17/food-allergy-link/


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