Freedom Allergy, Pediatric Allergist, Peachtree City, Marietta, Georgia, Peanut Oral Immunotherapy, Eczema
Being able to live a safer and fuller life, thanks to OIT
Written by Carri P.
Dealing with a peanut allergy and eczema has been a way of life for our family since Chloe was a baby. The eczema came first and probably should have been a warning sign that food allergies were a possibility. Having no prior experience with food allergies or eczema, we didn’t know much about either. Unfortunately, I also didn’t know the severity of the situation when she had her initial reaction at 16 months old to an amount of less than a teaspoon of peanut butter. We were told to give her Benadryl and that was that. Looking back, I am so thankful that the reaction didn’t progress. A few days later, we were given a prescription for an EpiPen, and told to avoid all nuts by our pediatrician.
The next several years for Chloe were not exactly normal, as most food allergy parents would understand. It didn’t take long for us to acquire a wealth of both knowledge and anxiety. Our family had all been conditioned to check food labels and life revolved around keeping our little girl safe from accidental exposure. We were lucky to not have any further reactions from peanuts since her initial exposure. I say lucky, because at some point, no matter how careful a parent is – mistakes can and do happen. We sought out a peanut free preschool and learned that we had to educate parents on what that truly meant. We then had to decide about elementary school and were lucky to find a peanut free private school. Chloe was extremely saddened when it closed at the end of her first grade year. That left us with no peanut free options and we were not prepared to have her in a public school setting even with precautions.
Eczema continued to be ongoing struggle. Summer humidity, time spent in the sun and sunscreen all seemed to be culprits that aggravated Chloe’s eczema. She would scratch until she made bloody sores. The most noticeable eczema would appear on her eyelids and below her eyes. The eczema was something that Chloe suffered with, but in comparison to the worry over accidental ingestion of peanuts, it wasn’t high on my list to seek a doctor’s opinion.
In the fall of 2015 Chloe was attending an online public school, which equated to homeschooling in her mind. The situation was less than ideal to her after being happy in her peanut free school the previous year. I was at all time low emotionally struggling about what the right path was for her. It was then that I first heard about OIT. I was immediately intrigued and also frightened. It took me a few months to make the call to Dr. Agrawal’s office to set up a consultation for OIT. At our first appointment in January of 2016, we discussed her food allergies and eczema. The decision to begin OIT was immediately clear once I had met Dr. Agrawal. He explained the protocol and informed us about the use of a good probiotic with specific strains that help with eczema. Chloe did an oral challenge for all tree nuts, except pecan and walnut. She passed that and we decided to address pecan and walnut after she reached maintenance for peanut. For the first time in Chloe’s life, we had someone on our team to help us overcome the struggles and isolation of allergic living. We were excited so to get started at the end of January of 2016.
Chloe’s experience with OIT was a relatively smooth journey. She didn’t have any problems other than her skin. The amazing thing is that her eczema improved dramatically throughout her up dosing phase, even during the summer months. Applying cortisone cream was a daily occurrence prior to OIT. During OIT, she had a few mild flares that I think were related to up dosing and also the summer humidity. The main issue we had with her skin was the occurrence of a random, small hive appearing usually on her arms or hands. These never progressed and would always subside within half an hour. These were quite alarming at first until we learned that it was just a sign that her body was learning to accept the allergen. At some points along the way, she would experience this several times a day and other days nothing would appear. It just became our normal to notice it and then make sure that it didn’t progress. During OIT, we had to learn to let go of some of the fear when we were cleared for cross contamination. Sometimes the mind has to catch up to the body. The daily dosing and observation period became routine. When we had questions or concerns, we knew Dr. Agrawal was only a text or phone call away.
Before we knew it, Chloe was nearing maintenance. She had been taking her probiotics daily, just like her peanut dose. Her eczema had become practically nonexistent. We had slowly begun to enjoy the freedom that OIT brings. We had sheltered Chloe in almost every way possible to keep her safe. She had not had play dates at friend’s houses, but always at her own home. She had only been to peanut free schools. We had never had ice cream scoops at a parlor. She was always the one at the sports banquet who couldn’t enjoy the cake like the rest of the team. We tended to frequent the same restaurants that made us feel safe for her to eat. Imagine a nine year old’s delight to finally go to friends’ homes, go along with other families to a movie theatre and be able to eat the birthday cake that everyone else is having. These are the small freedoms that mean so much!
Chloe reached maintenance at the end of November 2016. Overall, it took about 10 months, which would have been less without some scheduling issues on our part. Maintenance has been going well for two months. Chloe has passed an oral challenge for pecans and walnuts so tree nuts are no longer a concern. She has continued the probiotics to keep her skin healthy. She has not experienced any eczema or random hives since reaching maintenance. We have continued to enjoy new freedoms and Chloe has tried several new foods that were off limits in the past due to cross contamination. What we don’t do anymore is check labels and live in fear. The biggest change planned for this August, is that Chloe will start 4th grade at public school. I cannot thank Dr. Agrawal enough for providing the means to allow Chloe to have a safer, fuller life without the fear of peanuts holding her back.
Please visit www.smashingpeanuts.blogspot.com to read about Chloe’s experience with OIT in greater detail.