She Says… Food Allergies x2

Remember the months I spent entrenched in The Great Allergy Experiment in 2011 trying to figure out what was causing Owen’s eczema cheeks? Sadly we seem to be back there again. Different kid this time, but the cheeks are just the same. And Emmett has some little patches of itchy, dry eczema on the insides of his elbows and on the center of his stomach as well.


At least this time around I noticed it THE DAY it started, knew exactly what it was and was prepared to treat it and begin the investigation much earlier than I did with Owen.

Let me back up a minute, though. Because I’m not sure I ever actually wrote the blog post I promised you about Emmett’s possible allergies that led to me having to stop breastfeeding and starting him on hypoallergenic baby formula. Here’s the very short story.

  • When Emmett was between 2 and 3 months I began to realized that his poop was super mucus-y. In the very beginning I couldn’t tell the difference between “normal for a newborn” and “troublesome mucus”, so I waited with a watchful eye. Around 3 months I googled for some pictures (yes, of other peoples’ baby poop… don’t judge) and was slammed with pictures that looked EXACTLY like Emmett’s (stringy, mucus-filled, watery, abnormally green/dark before starting solids, etc.) and every one linked to a website about identifying food allergies, specifically cow’s milk protein allergy.
  • At his 3 month doctor’s visit I showed our pedi. He immediately confirmed that was “not normal” and that I should go on a strict milk and soy-free diet. He also indicated that Emmett was dropping in the weight charts and didn’t seem to be gaining weight appropriately. I had already started this diet per my own research, but I tightened up and eliminated anything that could even possibly include milk/soy and did not “cheat”. I saw little improvements here and there.
  • A couple weeks later when I hadn’t seen any real improvement overall, I also eliminated chocolate (I had been having some dairy-free chocolate, but some breastfeeding mothers noted on discussion boards that chocolate upset their babies’ tummies, so I figured it was worth a shot).
  • A  week after that, shortly before his 4 months appointment, I also eliminated eggs (as one of the top 8 allergens and also something I noticed flare-ups after eating). No dairy, soy, chocolate or eggs for 8 weeks — it’s no wonder I found it so easy to return to my pre-pregnancy weight!
  • Given that our family has had a lot of experience with celiac disease and maintaining a STRICTLY gluten free lifestyle for Benjamin and Owen, I am quite good at the “are you sure you’re REALLY eliminating these things entirely” game. I asked my doctor if I should also avoid wheat/gluten, given the family history, but he assured me (and some other research has supported this) that gluten does not pass through breastmilk and this isn’t necessary. Especially given that I had already eliminated so many foods, I think he was also trying to help me from going crazy. In retrospect I question this decision, but hindsight is always 20/20, eh?
  • At Emmett’s 4 month doctor’s visit I asked the doctor to test his mucus-filled diaper for blood. Test immediately turned positive. I also noted that he had started arching, crying and fussing more while eating, and I was seeing a lot more spit-up than previously. Ahem. ALL THE SAME THINGS I saw with Owen at the exact same age. Doctor noted that Emmett had actually lost weight since his 3 month appointment. I always told myself that with Baby #2 I would not pressure myself about breastfeeding like I did with Owen, and the minute the child stops gaining weight appropriately I would do whatever it takes to get them eating again.
  • We decided to take breastmilk out of the equation, despite my elimination diet, and do a test of 5 days of hypoallergenic formula (Nutramigen) only. I pumped during this time thinking I was still going to return to breastfeeding once we figured out the culprit.
  • By Day 3 on the formula I saw a huge improvement in his attitude and stomach comfort. By Day 5 his poop had NEW, VISIBLE BLOOD (!!!), but no more mucus. (We have since confirmed that the visible blood was the tail end of the allergens getting out of his system, but that shit is scary!). On Day 6, relieved and able to see the light at the end of the long tunnel, I stopped breastfeeding. Tummy discomfort went away, poop became normal, Emmett seemed happier and more full. He started gaining steadily, hence the deliciously chubby cheeks you see today.

Oh… you wanted the short story? Sorry. Once I started I figured that I might as well get this out there so others who are in the midst of this hell hole can learn from my experiences.

So all was well after we started the hypoallergenic formula at 4 months. Until we started solid food.

Started with avocado. Then added homemade sweet potato. Green beans. Peas. Apples. After his 3rd or 4th time eating apples with a smidgen of rice cereal (WHEAT FREE rice cereal), though, I noticed a little bit of prickly red dots on his cheeks. Just like with Owen, people said to me, “Oh, it’s just from drool.” or “Oh, it’s just the cold”. But I knew better. I could feel it in my gut. I stopped the rice cereal. When it happened again, I stopped the apples. From what I can tell, an apple allergy is pretty rare, and it’s more likely that I’m seeing a reaction to something else, but in the absence of that answer, I’m willing to put apples on hold for the moment.

Then we added broccoli. Butternut squash. Pears. After eating pears for 2 days I noticed the same red cheeks. No more pears until I figure this out.

I’m currently investigating a “Birch Pollen Allergy”. This is interesting because Benjamin has oral allergy syndrome, which means his mouth gets itchy when he eats apples. It’s not anaphylactic and isn’t something that gets worse the more times you challenge it, so he just eats apples rarely and deals with a little itchiness. I know peeling and cooking foods in the birch pollen allergy family can help, but both the apples and the pears that Emmett ate were organic, and peeled and steamed at home.

So I don’t know. I’m trying not to let it overwhelm me. We’re going slowly now adding new foods and I’m keeping notes of what is eaten when so I can maybe shed some light onto the issue. Going to discuss in depth with our pedi on Monday.

Two days ago at school his teacher called me and said that, all of a sudden in the middle of the afternoon, Emmett’s face blew up with a red rash. She said it didn’t seem to bother him, and seemed to happen without warning. He hadn’t eaten solid food since the morning, he’d only had his normal bottles. I asked if maybe someone had a new perfume or ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch or anything, but she really couldn’t think of what could have caused it. She sent me this picture.


An hour later when I picked him up, it was mostly gone. I put some lotion on at bedtime and by morning his skin was clear again.

Has anyone had this happen or know what this might be? I hesitate to think food-related because it came on suddenly outside of anything he had eaten… but I really don’t know.

Welcome to The Great Allergy Experiment x2.



18 responses to “She Says… Food Allergies x2

  1. I’m one of the rare people with an apple allergy! I throw up when I eat them. Certain organic frozen veggies are sprayed with apple juice. I have a 4 month old and hope she doesn’t have one.

  2. @Elisa, Interesting! Thank you for commenting — I’ve never heard of that before.

  3. My baby has the same eczema cheek patch, but only on one side. We’re pretty sure it’s from her dairy allergy (intolerance?) but I’m not sure that’s everything. Are you going to do blood testing for allergies? I hear mixed things about that, but I just wish there was a better way than playing mad scientist at home with my own baby. “Will THIS make her react? Let’s try it! MWAHAHAHA” Well, maybe less maniacal laughing and more pleading with God for the food to not mess up her sleep.

  4. I am a long time reader but have never commented. My daughter has a severe tree nut allergy and that red rash on his cheeks looks like her after she has had nut exposure. I would think someone touched his skin that had nut proteins on it. If they are not properly washed just touching it can cause severe redness. I would have an allergist test him for the top 8 allergies! Best of luck to you! Having a child with allergies can be so hard and frustrating.

  5. Could he have a fructose intolerance? I had never heard of it, but a friend was recently diagnosed. She had previously been diagnosed with IBS. Apples and pears are both high in fructose. Here’s a wikipedia entry about it:

  6. @Kara, I know. I do feel like a mad scientist. I also agree that there’s more going on with E than milk protein allergy, which is the “official” diagnosis at this point.

    @Kim, Scary. I eat peanut butter and almond butter ALL THE TIME at home and rarely wash my hands, so I didn’t suspect this at first, but anything is possible. Good to know, thank you.

    @Jenny B., This is a definite possibility! I know about this because some celiacs struggle with this as a secondary problem, so I’ve read about it in that context. Given that he may very well have celiac (though we don’t know), this is a very real thing that I should investigate. I’m interested to see that there is a breath test that can be done to diagnose it — I’ve never heard of that!

  7. It’s sooooo hard not to get obsessed. We had visible blood (small amounts) in my son’s diaper from about 4 weeks or so, plus head-to-toe eczema. I cut out all dairy, even hidden dairy, plus so many other possible culprits (plus I already have a somewhat limited diet for personal reasons). We saw a pediatric gastro specialist who examined him when the eczema was under control but there were still specks of blood in his diaper, and he actually alleviated my fears, saying that it was a protein sensitivity, but we may never know to what and since I was exclusively bf and he was otherwise totally healthy and acted happy (once I cut out dairy), my health was also important. He had a larger amount of blood one time after I ate a few pieces of buttered popcorn accidentally, so that confirmed it a bit more and I reintroduced other foods into my diet until, at 11 months, milk in my diet did not seem to affect him. He was able to consume milk without reactions at about 14 months (he was a little suspicious about it). Now, at 17 months, he loves mac and cheese.

  8. I’m obviously not a doctor, but that looks like an allergic reaction to me. He must have touched or eaten something he is allergic to or been touched by something. You’ll figure it out, but hopefully your daycare has an action plan should it happen again. It doesn’t hurt to meet with a pediatric allergist.

    My mouth gets itchy when I eat certain apples, pears, and stone fruits (peaches, apricots). I still eat them and deal with the itchiness. Oddly enough I’ve never gotten itchy from these fruits consumed in Jordan or Italy or from a home garden – only a fruit purchased in a store (even organic). So I have the conspiracy theory that I’m allergic to a type of Monsanto seed. Ha.

    Good luck figuring it all out. Allergies are scary and annoying at the same time.

  9. Hi Kate – I am wondering what lotion you use? I’m using some natural soap and lotion on my son, but he still sometimes gets a rash around his mouth (which I am wondering is from teething and also just being a super sensitive area (he is 15 months old). Cut out milk and it didn’t do a thing!!!! Good luck!

  10. Hey Kate! Chloe used to get that at daycare and it turned out that they would wash the crib sheets and blankets randomly and the detergent they used upset her skin. Not sure if that’s happening for you guys but her face looked a lot like that much of the time.

  11. @Nellie, We LOVE Hydrolatum. It is over the counter but available only at the pharmacy counter (for some weird reason). It’s not medicated at all, just moisturizer, but I’ve found it’s the best thing for rashes of all kinds. It’s all we use on the rashy babies since I found it.

  12. I’m a long time reader and I feel like I’ve practically had both my babies with you. My 19 month old used to break out with red cheeks and a red mouth when she was around 10 months to 14 months. We linked it to squash and pumpkin. It seemed worse when it was butternut squash. Now she eats it (when I can get her to eat it) with no reaction.

  13. @Amy, That is a good thought. I bring his nap stuff in every week and wash it myself, but they wash all of the toys, and once in a while he uses their extra clothes when ours run out, so maybe that is the culprit! I’ll check that out.

    @Sam, Very interesting. He was eating butternut squash periodically over the last few weeks. He may have even had it for breakfast that day. Since it wasn’t an immediate reaction it threw me for a loop, but that is a very possible cause. Thank you! (I’m also SO glad to hear that your daughter grew out of it).

  14. I also have OAS, and am allergic to most fruits and veggies (but only if they are raw). Apples give me the worst reaction, and have made my cheeks flush and my lips tingle before. I’ve actually tried organic apples (honeycrisp) to see if my reaction would be any better but it was WAY worse. I have no idea why that would be the case… so now I just have to eat my apples cooked (and I have to be extra sure they are cooked all the way through). I’ve also noticed canned apples are always safe for me.

    My brother and I both had terrible eczema growing up, and he especially would have flare-ups all over his face. I remember our flare-ups were directly related to when/where we got sweaty- behind the knees, inside our elbows, between our fingers, etc. But my brother’s face used to get sweaty and so he would have terrible eczema there. Oddly enough it used to happen in the winter a lot. I guess because you would get all bundled up in scarves and big puffy jackets and then go outside to play. I grew out of the eczema mid teens, but my brother still has it (and he is 22).

    Anyway- just another person’s experience. I hope you figure out what is causing Emmet’s rashes!

  15. Within a few hours after eating butternut squash, my daughter’s cheeks would turn bright red and feel rough. It would progress through the day and be mostly gone by the next day. We discovered it because I baked/pureed/froze a whole batch of squash and was giving it to her pretty frequently. It also happened after giving her some frozen butternut squash from Trader Joe’s. I never mentioned it to the doctor though. Sorry I don’t have more reliable info to pass on. I found a few garden blog posts about the butternut squash reaction, but can’t find anything scholarly. Wikipedia has a very brief paragraph at the end of an entry on contact dermatitis, but the references in the paragraph are sketchy at best.

  16. @Kristen, Very interesting! The apple thing is particularly intriguing to me. It would be helpful if he could just TELL me what he’s feeling 🙂 Also very interesting to hear about your brother. We are an eczema-prone family too, I’m afraid.

    @Sam, Good to know! I actually just re-tested butternut squash over the last 2 days on my doctor’s suggestion and he had no reaction. In fact, his skin looks better than it has in weeks. So something is causing the eczema, but in our case it isn’t squash. One thing to knock off the “do not eat” list! Thanks for sharing.

  17. You can’t catch a break with this stuff, can you?? It’s a weird coincidence but I just had a play date with a boy from Ryan’s school this week and the mom was telling me that her older boy is allergic to apples. I’d never heard of that before. She said he doesn’t vomit or get a rash but he gets REALLY hyper. Like insanely hyper. It’s crazy how everyone’s body can react so differently to the same things. I hope you figure it out soon.

  18. @Meg, Strange! That’s one I’ve definitely never heard. Bodies are so crazy.

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