We discovered that our now 3yo Miss J had a dairy allergy when she was 5 months old. She had a severe reaction to milk powder that was in a fruit squeezie. Up until that day I had made all of her foods, it was the first time I had given her off the shelf food, while we were delayed out shopping.
At each of her skin prick tests (spts) Miss J’s result for her dairy allergy was always quite high, and for the first 2.5 years of her life she would regularly break out in hives when others touched her after consuming dairy, the residue on their hands & lips/faces was a constant cause of hives. The hives have reduced but she has not ingested any dairy.
In mid 2015, following our move from NSW to VIC we found a new allergist, Dr Joanne Smart at the Epworth Hospital in Melbourne. While the Epworth is approx 350km from our home, with no allergists locally, we decided to go with Dr Smart who had been highly recommended.
In July 2015 Miss J had another skin prick test, with her dairy allergy showing a result of 18, which is quite high (her other allergens are egg, peanuts, treenuts, kiwifruit, dustmites). Dr Smart advised that because Miss J had not ingested dairy (since 5 months old), and egg (ever), that she wanted to challenge her in baked challenges.
In mid October 2015 we took Miss J to the Epworth for the baked egg challenge, unfortunately she reacted at the fist taste of the baked egg muffin.
Last Friday, we headed to Melbourne again for Miss J to undertake the baked dairy challenge.
We had spoken to Miss J about the challenge, and she was fine with it, as long as we promised that there would be no egg in the muffins!
Dairy Allergy – Baked Challenge Time!
We arrived at the Epworth for our midday appointment, and we were so happy to see that Carol, the nurse who had looked after us for the egg challenge, was in charge. Immediately Jess took up where she had left off, quizzing Carol about everything under the sun.
After settling in Miss J had the first dose of 1/16th of a muffin without any major issues, she had a couple of sneezes, but she had been sneezing a bit in the 5 days leading into the challenge, where we haven’t been able to give any antihistamines, so it wasn’t a big red flag.
At the next dose of 1/8th, she started to work her tongue around her mouth, and wanted to itch the roof of her mouth (something she had also done at the baked egg challenge). After about 15 mins those symptoms had resolved, so she was given a repeat of the 1/8th dose, after an extra observation period.
With the second 1/8th dose, she did a bit of tongue rolling, but no wanting to itch. After another extended observation wait period she was acting normal again.
The next dose, 1/6th was given and again she rolled her tongue & wanted to itch the roof of her mouth, plus she had a few sneezes, and was quite watery in the eyes and had a bit of drool, and was itchy.
Carol, the head nurse consulted with our allergist Dr Smart, and it was decided to stop the challenge, with a result of inconclusive, she hadn’t had a big reaction, but several minor reactions were enough to decide not to continue.
After about an hour of observation with her being back to normal, playing, being her usual cheeky happy self, the head nurse asked my husband to take Miss J for a walk. So hubby took her for a walk around the hospital, up stairs, down elevators etc.
While they were walking I was given an “inconclusive result” letter for our records.
When she returned the head nurse took her vitals again, and during that exam Miss J got off the chair walking quickly towards hubby, and did a huge projectile vomit.
She vomited twice more, and over the next 30 minutes hives came up all over her body, some on her face, and she was very flushed, itchy and uncomfortable.
On consulting with Dr Smart, advising of the no longer “inconclusive” result, Miss J was given a large dose of antihistamine, and was closely monitored. Luckily the symptoms did not progress to involve the airways, so an Epi-Pen or adrenaline injection was not required.
Within about 15 mins her hives began to reduce, and over the next 2 hours she became less flushed, and itchy and was a lot more comfortable. She was happy enough to eat an icypole and some sandwiches in between playing and annoying the nurses!
So inconclusive quickly became a positive result. All up she consumed just on half of a muffin, equivalent of around 9 grams of baked dairy (100ml milk + 125g of butter, in a batch of 12 muffins).
After 3 hours post vomit observation (6 hours after we initially arrived) Dr Smart cleared us to drive the 1h 15m to my sisters in Ballarat, rather than the 3h drive to our home town.
In this discussion she also gave us some not so great news. That due to Miss J having large reactions to tiny amounts of baked egg & baked dairy that she is less likely to grow out of those allergies, at least in the near future. She wants to to wait at least 2-3 years before any further challenges.
Dr Smart also advised that she has noticed a marked increase in the number of teenagers presenting with a dairy allergy that they have had since infancy. While 75-80% of kids with a dairy and/or egg allergy will outgrow them, there are still 20-25% who will probably not.
Dr Smart is starting to look into dairy immunotherapy , due to the increase in older kids she is managing with a dairy allergy.
So we’ll keep on as is, avoiding all dairy, eggs, nuts, kiwi and stay hopeful that one day she’ll be allergy free, either through her body outgrowing them or a cure for food allergies being found!
I have to add we are so grateful to the staff at the Epworth food allergy challenge clinic for their fantastic manner with the kids they see. Carol the head nurse, spent 10 minutes giving Miss J’s Epworth Teddy George, and her Maremma puppy Tula, a full checkup, with stethoscope, thermometer, full body inspection. When we were leaving Miss J gave both Carol & Dr Smart big cuddles, and they were so lovely with her. They certainly are special people, our kids are lucky to have them in their corner.
While it was very disappointing that she didn’t have a negative reaction to the challenge, and even more so that we were told she may not grow out of the allergy, we feel so blessed to have such a happy, confident, lovely little girl, who is in every way, bar her allergies, as healthy as they come!
It’s easy to get down about food allergies, as navigating our way safely day to day is an ongoing challenge, and believe me I was sad on the drive out of Melbourne, but things could be worse!
The day after the challenge Miss J was back to her normal self, she told everyone how the hospital was good, and that she just had a few big burps (her word for vomit), but that her tummy felt ok after. I overheard her telling her Nanna that Dr Jo was really nice and wore a pretty dress, and that Carol took good care of her all day at hospital. Kids are so resilient, I am continually amazed, and inspired by her view of the world.
With no more food allergy testing for at least 2-3 years, the next adventure is when Miss J starts 3yo Kinder in February, that’s a whole other post to come!
Till next time,
Mel – This Happ-y Mumma