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Sunday, February 8, 2015

allergy testing: piecing together the puzzle

Our kids can be huge puzzles to figure out, can't they? I know we've all gone through this with teething - is that a tooth or not? and with sleep - well, if I just do this warm bath every single night at the same exact time in the same way he'll sleep 5 hours straight, right? We try to figure them out from day one, sometimes we are lucky and get the answers, other times we're left confused.

With allergies, it's the biggest puzzle of all, that's what I've come to learn lately from a small personal experience and then from talking to other moms with children with serious allergies.

My son developed a nasty rash about 10 days before Christmas, lasted more than a week and we had no idea what it was. We figured it was just related to some virus, but also were worried about being allergic to food (we'd only tried new ketchup at the time) or new bubble bath or something. Everyone asked me if we'd changed our laundry detergent at the time, which we hadn't. It was so puzzling... but disturbing, it was huge red welt hives all over him. The nurse at the doctor's office said they were pretty bad... I panicked!

Thankfully I have a good friend who's gone through every type of allergy situation with her children so she steered me in the right direction (Buy Benadryl cream, but buy store brand- they're the same but a lot cheaper!). So the rash went away.

A few weeks later it returned, out of no where.


We signed up for allergy testing just in case. I'd always wondered about seasonal and other types of allergies since he oftentimes had symptoms of clear runny nose, sneezing, and very dark circles under his eyes (which I thought were just related to being Italian like me - I always have those dark circles - or having fair skin). We wanted to rule out any allergy issues.

Before going though, people were telling me horror stories about how bad allergy testing with kids really is. It's awful, they said. You might not want to do it, they told me. I knew in my gut that it was the right thing to do, to see if there was something to these dark eyes and symptoms, if it was an easy fix we could find by avoiding a food or something we wanted to try that.

So I asked the Mommy Stories Facebook group for some ideas about allergy testing. I got TONS of awesome responses. I felt so supported. I didn't realize how nervous I was about doing these tests until it was the day before and we were about to undergo them.

A few things people suggested we try in preparation for the testing:

BEFORE / PREPARING for the testing:
  • Pack toys to distract them
  • Don't talk a ton about it ahead of time, but mention it a little, it will be like a "tickle" on your skin.
  • Incentive/Reward
  • iPad, watch a movie, play a game, etc.
  • Plan for a two hour + appointment. Most of that is waiting, the actual pricking the skin part is about 5 minutes tops. 
  • Try not to show how stressed or worried you personally are about the testing, kids pick up on that and it makes it worse for them. 
  • If an arm scratch test, dress in a shirt that can be raised up. 
  • Make sure you take them to the bathroom beforehand, since you have to sit still so long during the test. 
  

They started out the test by the nurse coming in and writing with pen on my son's arm. These were spots the'd be pricking and testing various allergens. She explained that to us, in child-like terms which helped.

She then got these little tiny pin-looking things out and pricked him very quickly. The whole thing happened so fast, maybe 30 seconds total and she was done. The spots in the picture above that appear red are where a reaction was occurring. (see picture below, too)

He had to sit very still, not bend his arm (which could contaminate one allergen to another) or itch them. My son didn't complain of itching, but she said that was a possibility for some children. He teared up during the pricking, but it was over faster than a shot at the doctor's office. It was not pleasant, but not the worst thing in the world either, that's what I've shared with those who've asked how this went.

I was glad people told me to bring games, books, etc. to the testing, because there is a period of time where you have to sit still, not scratch the itchy areas on their body from the test, and just SIT. These two pictures are what I took of the "just sit and wait 15 minutes" part of the test.

During this part we just read books, played a BINGO travel game where I distracted him, asking him to point to the car, truck, tree, dog, etc. Just talking and distracting him. I kept telling him how great he was doing. It was a LONG 15 minutes... but he made it through just fine.


DURING the testing (waiting game) :
  • Leap Pad games
  • Read books 
  • Pictures on phone
  • Crayons and coloring book
  • Bingo game
  • Telling stories and snuggling 
  • Use a timer so you know how long has gone by
  • Can't have snacks, candy, etc. in the office. Since many people are there for food allergies, they don't allow food inside. Bribe with food after the testing!
  • Build with legos, Duplo kit, etc. 
The worst part for us was that after we waited those looooong 15 minutes after the first set of pricks with teeny tiny pins, the nurse came back in saying that one test wasn't conclusive enough, so they needed to do more testing. She would come back in with two needles, actual needles, that would go one more layer below in his skin. I was not prepared for this. My son was really upset at having to do another round of tests. I was nervous since I didn't know this was even a possibility, I was very caught off guard. I decided to go with what they were suggesting though, knowing we did NOT want to return another time to do this, let's just get it done. For this second test I held my son in my arms and he did cry, he was pretty scared at this part since I'd been telling him it was over after the first part. He did great though, no issues, just pretty sad and wanting to go home after that point. I just held him and told him made up stories, we laughed, talked about ice cream sundaes and read a Transformers book. It ended up fine, but it was not a fun time. 

AFTER the testing: 
  • Use cold packs on the place that was pricked to avoid swelling. 
  • Up and moving quickly, at the playground or out for ice cream- they are usually just fine after the testing. 
  • If your child reacts to a lot of allergens, s/he may need Benadryl after, which could make them sleepy.
After meeting with the doctor to talk about the test results, they sent us home with a handout about the allergy he was diagnosed with to find out more and how to avoid it (mold). I learned that mold is outside in the leaves, under the grass, etc. and comes out a lot during season changes due to people raking, lawn mowing, etc. and moving the mold from underneath the surface to the air. It made sense to me why I kept thinking he had the symptoms related to season changes. 

After testing, we went to Dairy Queen for an ice cream treat. He was laughing, relaxed, totally fine, not in pain. He just wanted to wash off his marks on his arms. We took a bath at home and he slept great that night. No issues. 


Overall, not the most fun afternoon... but not the worst thing I could imagine medically either. It is good to know what was causing his issues, even if they were not life-threatening issues, minor annoyances really. It's still good for us to know what it was so we can treat it or prevent it as possible. It's such a guessing game with our kids though... we still don't know what really caused the rashes he had. We all are leaning toward it was a viral reaction, something working its way through his body. We know he's not allergic to main foods like eggs, dairy, etc. so that's good news. 

This experience, while so minor compared to what many others go through with their kids and allergies, has made me really have compassion for those undergoing allergy testing and just not being clear on what is bothering their children. I hope to raise awareness about childhood allergies and what parents go through in those situations. I'm seeking moms to let me know if they are interested in being featured on my blog, in an effort to help other moms feel less alone in their journeys through allergy testing and diagnoses. Let me know if you want to participate!





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