Every year it becomes more and more difficult for me to approach our annual food allergy testing appointment. Why? Because each year I tell myself that I’m not going to get my hopes up – and yet I do. What does it mean to “get my hopes up?” For me, I envision (more like dream about) an allergy skin test where everything is negative. Beautifully clear backs on my little men and a calendar filled with food challenges. I work 24-hours a day, 365 days a year to keep them reaction free. I read countless articles and studies that suggest that most kids outgrow certain allergies like dairy and egg. So why not my little men? It’s possible right? Of course it is! God is the great healer. He is in control and with Him anything is possible. And that’s how I go from one year’s allergy testing to the next – with climbing hopes and dreams.
Although we’ve seen numbers and testing heading in the right direction (IGE numbers dropping for most allergens), each year has still been met with a great amount of disappointment. Each year I’m convinced that this is going to be THE YEAR! The year that we can add dairy and egg back into our diets. The year that I can cook straight from my favorite cookbooks without substitutions. The year that I can finally trade in my short order chef hat. The year that we can finally go out to eat at some of my favorite restaurants as a family without bringing in my brown bag of “safe” food. As you can see, so much rides on this one 2 hour appointment each year.
This year was no different, maybe a little worse in fact. My youngest, who normally has regular bouts of mystery hives, has been mostly reaction free ALL YEAR! Yes, this is a huge praise! Since we haven’t done anything differently, in fact we’ve allowed him to do more, I allowed my hopes to climb a bit higher this year. It was hard not to. So what were the results of this year’s testing? Here they are…
Skin Test Results:
My oldest was being retested for his egg allergy. So he had 3 pricks on his back.
- Egg White
My youngest was being retested for dairy, egg, peanut, all tree nuts and sesame. So he had 15 pricks on his back.
- Brazil Nut
- Egg White
- Cow Milk
- English Walnut
- Black Walnut
For those who are new to the skin test. For each allergen, they scratch the skin. Once each allergen is complete, a timer is set for 15 minutes. Once the timer goes off, our allergist comes back in to “read” the results. The results can range from 0 (negative) to 4+. Skin tests are not 100% reliable as you can often get false positives and false negatives. So, our allergist doesn’t use only this test to diagnose. He uses a combination of the skin test, blood work (IGE) and the reaction history to diagnose and give his recommendations. However, I will say that in previous years our IGE blood results have always followed our skin test pretty closely.
The first thing I noticed about this year’s skin test was that all of the spots on my little men’s backs were smaller than in years past. So that was promising. I assumed that my oldest would still need to avoid eggs. As for my youngest, I was hoping that we’d get to add dairy back into his diet. But based on the skin test, that didn’t look promising. For him, I thought we’d need to continue to avoid dairy, peanuts, sesame, cashew and pistachio. It appeared that he had outgrown egg, almond, brazil nut, coconut, hazelnut, pecan, and both walnuts. So that was exciting. I was expecting his IGE testing to bring forth similar results that would lead us to an egg challenge and maybe an almond challenge. Although I was disappointed that dairy wasn’t going to be an option yet again, I was excited about gaining egg back. I’ll take what I can get!!
The Blood Test Results:
The last part of our annual food allergy testing was the blood draw. My little men were such troopers. My oldest was most excited about this part (I still have no idea why!). The whole way to the hospital he was explaining how they take the blood out of your arm and wrap your arm in a colored bandaid. It was seriously cracking me up! Of course, when it actually came time for the blood draw, he was singing a bit of a different tune. But he was still a rock star in my opinion. Back in the day when I had my blood drawn frequently as a child, it took multiple nurses to hold me down. LOL!
Following the blood draw, we go home and wait. And wait…and wait…and wait. It generally takes 2-4 weeks before we receive the results. I was running out to the mailbox everyday as if I was waiting for my college acceptance letters to arrive. I don’t know what’s harder, waiting for the skin test to be read or waiting for the IGE results to come in. Both slowly kill me and cause an unwanted growth of gray hair.
I’m excited to announce that our results arrived at the end of last week. The Hubster was out of town and my palms were sweating as I sat at the kitchen counter trying to decide whether or not I really wanted to see the results. This has been a year filled with lots of disappointment and I didn’t know if my heart could handle one more piece of bad news. I took a deep breath and opened the envelope.
My oldest’s results were on top and as I read I slowly allowed the hope, that had been slightly crushed after the skin test appointment, to begin to fill me up again. His egg number had dropped by more than half. He wasn’t quite to the testing threshold where we could schedule a food challenge, but we were definitely heading in the right direction. Next up was my youngest. Keep in mind I was expecting good news for egg and almond.
As I read his letter I began to cry. Not tears of sadness but tears of great joy. All of his IGE numbers had dropped for all of his allergens except for cashew (it went up slightly). But that wasn’t the primary reason for my tears. His almond was undetectable and his dairy and peanut were below the testing threshold. Yes, you heard that right…both DAIRY and PEANUT! His levels are low enough that we can do a dairy challenge and a peanut challenge. I immediately picked up the phone to call the Hubster to give him the good news and could barely get the words out through my sobs. We sat there on the phone, both crying, in awe of the miracle that we had just experienced. The gift that felt so undeserving, yet would change our lives in such a drastic way. I was filled with an immense amount of joy and hope. I had just witnessed God at work in a way that brought me to my knees. It’s been 6 days since I received the news and I’m still crying happy tears when I think about this gift that we’ve been given.
Of course, this isn’t the end of the road for us. We still have to make it through the challenges before we can truly claim it as a victory. With that said, we have our dairy challenge this morning. So please send your thoughts and prayers our way today.
I’m reminded of a verse in the Bible, Romans 12:12…
Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying.
I don’t know if you are gearing up for your annual food allergy testing or if you’ve just come out of it with disappointing news. Take this verse and hide it in your heart. It is good to hope. But ultimately we must never stop praying because God is in control and He can do incredible things.
You can read all about last year’s food allergy testing, here.