Tracking Down Allergens

detectiveOne of the more frustrating parts of dealing with food allergies in children is trying – with varying degrees of success – to work out what is causing a reaction. Our son Gabriel has, in recent weeks, been dealing with a new bunch of skin rash issues, mostly behind his knees and on his belly. We know from past experience that this can be caused by a variety of things, and aggravated by others. Heat or sweat, for example, can aggravate a reaction. Over-exertion or emotional stress can actually cause one.

Our house is not allergen-free. We have never gone quite that far. While I was still nursing him, which I did for the first two years of his life, I limited my diet to exclude all of his food allergies (banana, barley, dairy products, wheat, eggs, sesame, flax, and any other food that I suspected, until it had been ruled out). Once he weaned completely, I re-introduced these things back into my diet, although we have always been careful about things like cross-contamination.

Recently my husband, who is a vegan, has been using a lot of tumeric in his cooking. One day when I was cooking potatoes for my son in what I thought was a clean pan, I found that they had turned yellow. This led me to thinking that if tumeric residues were being left in a pan after washing, then other residues might be doing the same.

We are now carefully preparing and cooking his foods on surfaces (cutting boards) and pans that are “his” alone. We also wash his dishes separately, or at least before the rest of the dishes – and always in detergent-free soaps.

I give some credence to the idea that trace exposures to some allergens may aid or speed his body’s chance to “outgrow” the allergen. With some allergens we have learned from experience that we cannot permit even traces to reach him for fear of a serious reaction. It’s a tricky little balancing act, and far from an exact science, but we remain vigilant, ready with his epi should the need ever arise, and aside from some restrictions and precautions, try to keep our lives as “normal” as possible.

We are now pretty sure that tumeric is an allergen for him. Possibly not a
“serious” one, but definitely an irritant. Either way, it was a good eye-opener for us. We know that if we take these food preparation precautions for another week or more and find that his allergic responses are fewer, we may be a step closer to pinning down a cause – specifically cross-contaminations. What the suspect substance is, we may never know for sure…

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