Since she was teeny tiny, Birdy has struggled with her skin. Her eczema, which once smothered her arms, legs, scalp and face, has now thankfully receded to the usual places - wrists, creases, behind knees and, unfortunately, still on her face but only her cheeks. It has improved partly because we have finally hit on the right combination of creams and lotions and partly because of various anti-scratch strategies. I also suspect that there might be some level of dairy intolerance, the effect of which has lessened as she has been weaned and dairy has ceased to be the majority of her diet.
We have also recently been referred to the asthma clinic after several incidents, including two hospital visits. She's too young for an official diagnosis of asthma, but the prescriptions for Atrovent, Salbutamol and Monteleukast tell their own story really.
And then this week we all went over to the immunology department at the local children's hospital for allergy skin testing. I didn't know what to expect from the appointment really, although if I had suspected we would be there as long as we were, I'd have brought more entertainment with me for the kids! The doctors were wonderful, and very thorough.
Long story short, Birdy has severe allergies to peanuts, several other nuts (basically, avoid all nuts!) and egg. The peanuts I knew about. In fact when I described 'the peanut butter sandwich incident' to the immunologist he told me that she had experienced full anaphylaxis and I should really have called an ambulance. Presumably prompted by the stricken look on my face, he then said brightly, "Not to worry. It was all fine in the end!"
The egg allergy was more of a surprise, and also something of a relief. Birdy has experienced allergic reactions to a seemingly unconnected range of foods at different times, ranging from red cheeks and watery eyes, to full on wheezing, coughing, swelling and hives. Now I know the culprit: eggs, hidden and unheeded in so many foods.
After a few months, we can try an 'egg challenge'. Egg-containing foods are listed on a visual 'egg ladder'. Basically, over the course of a day I give her tiny but increasing amounts of something on the next rung of the ladder and watch for reaction. If there is a reaction, we stop. If not, we keep going until she eats a child's portion of the food. If there's still no reaction, we can then include that food in her diet. After a few months, we try something from the next rung of the ladder and so on.
As for the nuts, well, apparently when she's about four, they will bring her in to hospital as a day patient and give her a tiny crumb of peanut to eat and "see what happens". I have been instructed not to try this at home!
So, we will be entering the unfamiliar world of the epipen (not yet, but before she starts nursery), and reading the bold words on the ingredients lists, and storing the nutty foods away from the un-nutty ones. I weep for the massive jar of peanut butter languishing in the fridge.
Oh, and a final thought . . . in preparation for becoming a parent, I decided to learn to bake cakes, which I thought a suitable earth-mummy type activity. Now I have one that doesn't really like cake, and one that can't really eat it! I need new skills!